A select group of patrons of the Oak Bay Recreation Centre will unveil a plaque tomorrow (Oct. 13) to honor Cal Allen, a man who, by all accounts, epitomized the spirit of the centre’s philosophy of active living.
Allen, who passed away in January at age 97, was a fixture at the rec centre for more than 30 years. Denise Bowles, a long-time staffer there, knew him for most of that time. She remembers him as a man of almost infinite energy and humour.
“In all that time, I can’t remember a single time when he didn’t greet me with a smile,” she said with a chuckle. “He always had a joke to tell. He would hug his friends, brought cookies for other skaters and often brought his own CDs of big-band music to skate by.”
Allen clearly loved skating and was one of a group of adult skaters who continue to arrive at the Oak Bay rink every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 a.m. They skate figures, dance around the ice in pairs or just glide solo to the sounds of their favourite tunes. According to Bowles, Allen never missed a session and was always first to arrive.
And there was another active side to his life, she said.
“He would go dancing three times a week, on the days when he wasn’t skating. His positive energy seemed limitless.”
Perhaps it was that energy, fuelled by humour and an upbeat approach to life, that allowed him to stay active to the end of his days. His last skate happened just two days before his death.
Leslie Cobus, Oak Bay Rec’s sport co-ordinator, said the plaque is more than just a memorial to an amazing man.
“Cal motivated everyone that knew him to be a little more active and positive in their own lives,” she said. “The idea for the plaque wasn’t our idea. It came from his fellow skaters – people who draw inspiration from Cal’s approach to life.”
Apparently that inspiration is working. Cobus revealed that 21 other names appear on the plaque.
They are all active skaters – and all are in their 90s.