By ALAN SHACKLETON
Beach resident Paul Myers is being remembered as a force in the sport of rugby across Canada, a long-serving Toronto police officer and man who had a profound impact on the lives of many.
Myers died on May 20 at the age of 60 from cancer.
A member of the Balmy Beach Rugby Club since moving to the Beach in the 1990s, Myers was known for his love of both playing the sport and coaching and developing the skills of young players.
He was also development co-ordinator of the Toronto Inner City Rugby Foundation which reached out to and helped create opportunities for young athletes in the Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) community who might not have otherwise seen themselves playing rugby. The foundation reduces economic, geographic and cultural barriers to participation in rugby.
“Paul was larger than life. To many, he was a coach, a mentor, and a friend. He’s done so much for this game, community and even more for the young people who were fortunate to be in his orbit or under his leadership,” said the Toronto Inner City Rugby Foundation in a Facebook post about Myers.
“Paul touched so many lives in such a joyously positive way.”
Doug Underwood, who played and coached rugby with Myers at the Balmy Beach Club and at Malvern Collegiate, said Myers was a presence as a coach and a mentor to young players.
“He’s coached with me since 2003 at Malvern and junior rugby at Balmy Beach, and Ontario Under-18 rugby. We became fast friends shortly after we met,” said Underwood.
“He took a lot of pride in his coaching. He was a larger-than-life presence. The kids really respected him and the kids were always responsive to what he said. He had a big presence with the kids.”
Myers and Underwood also coached football at Malvern for many seasons.
Underwood said one the highlights of coaching rugby at the school for Myers was when the team won the silver medal at the Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associaitons (OFSAA) championships in 2015. Myers’ son Mitchell was on that team which made it such a special moment for the family.
Myers was well known in the rugby community across Canada and everybody liked and respected him, said Underwood. “We would go to rugby events together (including university championships) and everybody knew him. You could tell the appreciation they felt for him and all he did for them.”
Much of that came from Myers work with the Toronto Inner City Rugby Foundation. “He got so many kids involved in rugby who would never have been involved without him. That was huge. He made the game available to them, and there are so many kids and players who knew him,” said Underwood.
Among Toronto area rugby players who thrived through the support of Myers and the foundation are Canadian Under-7 National Team player Josiah Morra and Marcello Wainwright of the Toronto Arrows professional team.
Julie Myers said her husband loved coaching, the team camaraderie and helping to develop peoples’ skills. He had the same approach to his career as a police officer in Toronto.
This was especially true when he served with the Emergency Task Force (ETF) tactical unit, the intelligence unit and in recruiting, she said.
“He loved it so much,” said Julie of Myers’ time with those units as there were so many parallels to being part of a sports team.
“You would learn about people and how they thought and worked, and you tried to figure out their next move. He also loved the work ethic and the physical requirements of the ETF and the training,” said Julie.
“In recruiting he really felt it was his calling to identify good candidates to become police officers,” she said. He took that same approach in coaching and mentoring youth athletes. “He always did that.”
Julie and Paul met in 1985, were married in 1993 and moved to the Beach from Oakville that same year.
“I’ll be quite honest, we’d looked at a number of neighbourhoods in Toronto but what sold us was our real estate agent Jillinda Greene. She found us a place that we loved and really felt good about,” said Julie of their decision to call the Beach home.
It didn’t hurt that the Balmy Beach Club, and its famous rugby teams, were in the neighbourhood. “Paul was playing for the Oakville Crusaders at the time and he would have played against Balmy Beach. I’m sure he was a bit of a nemesis to them at that time,” she said.
Shortly after moving to the Beach, Myers began to play rugby with Balmy Beach. And the rest was rugby and sports history in the Beach.
Myers was born in October of 1961 in Birmingham, England.
After a short time living in England, his mother Pearl Dee and brother Desmond moved to Porter’s Mountain, Jamaica and lived there until they moved to Canada and settled in the Streetsville area in Mississauga when Myers was nine years old.
Myers attended Streetsville High School and then did some time with the Army Cadets before joining the then Metropolitan Toronto Police Force in 1982. He retired from the Toronto Police Service in 2014 after a more than 30-year career.
Julie said that while many people know Myers as an athlete, coach and police officer, they may not have known how devoted a son he was to his mother Pearl. “He was brought up by his mother and she passed away a year ago. He was such a great son. He would go and visit her three or four times a week in Mississauga to help her with her appointments and make sure she was eating properly and looking after her,” said Julie
Myers is survived by his son Mitchell, who is in university, his daughter Dayna, who is working as a lawyer in England, and wife Julie.
A celebration of life for Paul Myers will take place at the Balmy Beach Club (360 Lake Front) on Sunday, July 10 from 1 to 5 p.m. “Everyone who knew him is welcome to drop by,” said Julie.