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"DUF" 2002 Obituary


DUFF o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2002-12-17 published
Beloved priest's life comes full circle
Last respects paid at hockey arena where it all began
Kate HARRIES Ontario Reporter
Timmins--He was loud and plain-spoken and larger than life.
He was a man's man who could face down the most combative miner in this rough northern community.
And he was a priest who drew on a bottomless well of compassion and tenderness to comfort the disadvantaged and oppressed.
Yesterday, with tears and laughter, 2,000 people said farewell to Reverend Les COSTELLO in a mass celebrated at the local hockey arena.
It was full circle for the former Toronto Maple Leaf, who skated away from fame to join the priesthood and found fame of a different sort when he co-founded the madcap Flying Fathers hockey team that toured the continent and raised more than $4 million for charity.
"There's an irony in how this whole thing happened, you know the game got him going in life and it was the game that brought him down," his brother Murray, also a former Maple Leaf and ex-president of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association, told the crowd.
COSTELLO died a week ago today from a head injury suffered in a fall during a pre-game warmup in Kincardine on November 30. He played again in Peterborough but felt unwell and was taken to St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto. He was 74.
The venerable McIntyre arena, the scene of yesterday's funeral service, was the focus of much of his life. It was just down the road from his parents' home in the South Porcupine area of Timmins and a stone's throw from St. Alphonsus Church in the Schumacher neighbourhood, where he served as parish priest for 23 years.
This is where his hockey career started when, as a lanky 16-year-old with the Holman Pluggers, he helped win an Ontario juvenile trophy. This is where he skated almost every week to the end of his life.
Some 20 members of the Flying Fathers -- both priests and lay players -- travelled north from all over Ontario to pay their respects. A dozen of them sat in a row behind the coffin.
Rev. Donald " Swede" MacLEAN of Aurora celebrated the mass and Rev. Tim SHAY/SHEA of Kingston gave the eulogy.
Arden ARMSTRONG of the St. Alphonsus choir played "What a friend we have in Jesus" on his trumpet. "Father Les loved the trumpet in church," ARMSTRONG confided afterwards.
When it was over and they all filed out, Reverend Vaughan QUINN, madcap goalie for 26 years, gave the coffin a farewell knock in the same way Costello used to encourage Friends and parishioners with a cheerful pat on the back.
"Please be joyful," Quinn had said the night before, during visitation at St. Alphonsus, where Costello lay in an open coffin for two nights, flanked by an Ontario Provincial Police guard of honour. "(Les) is the last person to want a bunch of moping faces looking back at him."
Hockey greats like former Maple Leafs Dickie DUFF and Gus MORTSON, and Pete BABANDO, once of the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings, showed up, as did religious luminaries like Monsignor John MURPHY of the archdiocese of Toronto, and Timmins Bishop Pat MARCHAND.
After the mass, there were drinks and sandwiches upstairs, where Friends reminisced.
How long was the drive from Kingston, Shea was asked. "One thousand memories long," he replied, as two vanloads of people from eastern Ontario spent the long hours on the road regaling each other with oft-told tales that lost none of their appeal -- like the time at an audience in Rome, they presented a hockey stick to Pope Paul 6th and Costello tried to show His Holiness how to hold it, "or they'll think you're stirring spaghetti."
Others had stories to share.
Costello is an Irish name, and his cousin, Reverend Jack COSTELLO of Sacred Heart parish in Windsor, fondly recalled trips the two made to Ireland. "You could truly tell it was Father Les's ancestral home because he fit right in wherever he went. He loved to talk and the Irish love to talk."
As family and Friends gathered for a quiet prayer at St. Alphonsus yesterday morning, before a procession to the arena, Reverend Bill SCANLAN of Richmond Hill, one of the mainstays of the Flying Fathers, said, "Costy was a gift to Lord knows how many people.
"We realize that more now than when he was around because he bugged us sometimes," SCANLAN said, looking down at the open coffin.
"God bless. It's the first time I've seen him quiet."

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DUFF o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.toronto_star 2002-12-22 published
BLACK, Dr. James Gilbert (Bert) -- Peacefully on Friday, December 20, 2002 at the York Central Hospital on his 89th birthday. Bert, beloved husband of Helen (née BELLAMY.) Loving father of Michael and his wife Lucy. Cherished grandfather of Andrew. Dear uncle of Dallas and Marilyn BLACK, Elaine and Rod DUFF, Les and Irma BLACK, and Claire and Michael SHORTT. Survived by sisters-in-law Ethel (Frank SHORTT) and Eleanor BLACK. Predeceased by his brother John. Friends will be received at the Carruthers and Davidson Funeral Home, 7313 Highway 26 (Main Street), Stayner 1-866-428-2637, from 2-5 p.m. Sunday, December 22, 2002. A Funeral Service will be held in the Chapel on Monday, December 23, 2002 at 1 o'clock. Interment Stayner Union Cemetery. Remembrances to the Yonge Street Mission, 270 Gerrard St. E., Toronto, Ontario M5A 2G4, would be appreciated by Bert's family. Sign the on-line guest book at

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