By Cecilia Nasmith
The community came together in late December to remember Alex Rutherford upon his passing at the age of 62.
They will remember him again in September, when Colborne’s Memorial Park Ball Diamond will be officially renamed the Rutherflo Fastball Diamond in his honour.
The renaming was approved at a vote of Cramahe Township council, following a presentation by Mary Ainsworth. A kind of foster sister to the family, she grew up alongside the Rutherford kids – Peggy (once known as Tulip), Pat (once known as Snapper) and Alex (known by those closes to him as Curly).
It was a prominent family, with Alex running the ambulance service his father started (before he established Rutherford Financial Services in Cobourg) and his sister running Rutherflo school buses (the name honouring their mother Flo). His brother is with Lynch Rutherford Tozer accountants in Port Hope.
Ainsworth told council how much fastball meant to the whole family – Alex’s mother playing with the late Joan Fawcett on the Colborne Ladies’ Fastball team, and the Men’s Fastball team the family sponsored (featuring, of course, Curly and Snapper).
And they took an active part in the fundraising that goes along with that to raise money for diamond maintenance, backstop repair, improvements like new bleachers and dugouts. Ainsworth recalled years of tournaments, dances and helping out at events like the old Blue Grass music festival (a big community event back in those pre-Apple Blossom Festival days).
Fastball just kept growing, and Curly was one of the key players in helping create the two diamonds on the donated land beside the old arena.
The inevitable few years followed when everyone got older and began focusing a little more on careers and families. But Curly stepped up when there was talk of turning that beloved fastball diamond into a splashpad, and he enlisted his friends’ help in engineering a rebirth of Colborne Men’s Fastball – six teams, two nights a week.
“During the next 20 years, Curly was exhausting!” Ainsworth declared.
“He gathered Trillium grants, volunteer groups, school kids for community hours, clean-up crews etc.”
Among the results: a new canteen building with bar area, locker room and equipment storage, a new clay infield with scorebooth and speakers, centrefield bleachers, a new higher backstop, picnic tables, improved park maintenance and more.
“Many of the Cobourg players’ parents asked if they could get diamond practice and game time here,” she recalled.
“Many Rock N Roll tournaments were held yearly, which Curly encouraged the local businesses to get involved in, and made sure that the teams were always invited to visit the downtown core.”
For Cramahe Township Mayor Mandy Martin, the renaming is a welcome tribute to the friend she remembers as Curly.
“He was a big proponent of fastball in the early days – and sports and community. He was always a big booster of community,” Martin recalled.
“When I came into office, he changed his slogan to Cramahe Strong, and he had shirts made up and distributed all over the place.
“He had a real passion for Cramahe as a community, and an active community. He was very generous with his support of activities, and lots of silent support for ball and sports. He had a vision that was beyond the size that we are.
“He saw the potential of Cramahe and our community approach to things – when we get into trouble in this area, you help one another. That’s what we do, and he was one of those helpers,” she stated.
And Curly always seemed to go about helping in a solid but silent under-the-radar way.
“It wasn’t about him, it was about what he saw the community being,” she said.
“And he was enthusiastic. He was fun. He was always laughing. And he always had a compliment for people. He would make them feel good about their potential and about what was ahead.
“He was a good guy,” Martin declared.
“On the other side of that, sometimes people will wonder about someone like that – what are you up to? He was the real deal.”
Ainsworth’s vision is a plaque attached to the backstop, or perhaps a stone at the southwest corner of the backstop, engraved as follows:
Rutherflo Fastball Diamond
In memory of Alex “Curly” Rutherford
#27 ‘Rock n Roll’
She would like to see it unveiled by the mayor or a town councillor at one of those one-day Rock n Roll “fun fastball” tournaments that Curly loved – COVID permitting.
“It has to be a fastball tournament to honour Curly, as his line was always “Rock n Roll” Fastball is the only game!” Ainsworth said.
“I have spoken to the rest of the family and they have all agreed that this is a great idea and would feel honoured to play and attend.”