Amateur sports has lost one of its champion boosters. Former Canada Games chairman Jack Pelech, a fixture in sports and the legal community, died on Friday, losing his year-long battle with cancer.
“We all fondly remember Jack as the heart and soul of the Canada Games movement for over 30 years,” says Sue Hylland, president and CEO of the Canada Games Council. “He was greatly admired and respected for his contribution to sport, and we know his passing will leave a great void in the lives of the many members of the Canada Games family that he touched.”
Pelech was in his 75th year. His great loves were the law and sports, and he pursued both with passion and joy. From athlete to builder, Pelech has contributed at all levels of Canada’s sport system and his greatest legacy to Canadian sport will always remain with the Canada Games. He retired in 2001 as Chair of the Canada Games Council, a position he held for over 30 years.
“In those 30 years as chairman of the Canada Games Council Board of Directors, he never missed a formal meeting, that’s just one example of his commitment,” says Larry Smith, chairman of the Canada Games Council. “He gave up countless hours of his time every year for the Games, board meetings, site evaluations, sponsor pitches, awards nights, meetings with the federal Minister responsible for Sport and other politicians or public officials, media conferences, and many other activities – all on his volunteer time, because the Games were so close to his heart.”
In February 2007, the inaugural induction into the Canada Games Hall of Honour took place at a ceremony in Whitehorse Yukon as part of that year’s Canada Winter Games. The induction celebrated Pelech for his years of volunteer support and countless contributions. No other individual could have been so deserving for the award’s inaugural induction.
“He was very gracious in his encouragement and support for the 2007 Canada Winter Games,” says Piers McDonald, president of the 2007 Canada Games Host Society. “The Canada Games organizing committees cherished the leadership Jack showed to the Canada Games movement and were inspired through his example and by his hard work.
Pelech lived an active life. He attended Cathedral Boys’ High School and McMaster University where he showed his mettle on the football field and basketball court. He graduated from Osgoode Hall in 1959 and practiced law with the firm of Pelech, Otto and Powell until the very end.
In addition to his tireless dedication to the Canada Games, a proud Hamiltonian, he led the city’s bids for the Pan-American Games in 1983 and 1991, and the Commonwealth Games in 1994 and was also actively involved with numerous community groups including the Hamilton YMCA, the McMaster Alumni Fund, the National Advisory Council on Fitness and Amateur Sport, ParticipACTION, Board of Directors; and the Tiger Cat Trust Fund for Amateur Sports.
Over the years he was blessed with many special honours, including Hamilton Citizen of the Year 1987, McMaster Sports Hall of Fame 1987, Governor General’s Commemorative Medal 1992, Governor General’s Golden Jubilee Medal 2002, and the Order of Canada 2007.
Dearly loved and forever missed by his wife Joan, and sister Dorothy Mullin, Jack is survived by daughters Julia (Rob), Marnie (Ni) and Donna (Steven), and grandchildren Chloe, Paige, Alec, Jack and Lachlan.
Visitation will be held at the Marlatt Funeral Home and cremation centre in Hamilton on Monday, June 16 from 7-9 p.m. and Tuesday, June 17 from 2-4 and 7-9 p.m. Funeral service at St. Augustine Church in Hamilton on Wednesday, June 18 at 10:30 a.m. Memorial donations to “the Athletics and Recreation Centre and Stadium Campaign” On-line tributes may be made at www.mem.com
The Canada Games Movement has lost a great friend.