New Park Dedicated To Orillia’s Greatest Athlete

By John Swartz

We picked Walter Henry to take the prestigious final leg of the Orillia portion of the 2015 Pam Am Games Torch Run Five. Two months later Dave Town organized a poll to find out who Orillians thought is Orillia’s Greatest Athlete. In the end, Walter Henry, our famous boxer, sent all other nominees to the mat and emerged with the title.

Last Tuesday, the new park on Orion Drive was officially named for Henry.

“Of all the days for it to be, it was a lovely day. There was quite a crowd there,” Henry said.

Walter Henry on opening day.

The 8.3 acre park has open playing fields, a wood lot, and a playground with a tree fort, tube slide, zipline, pickleball and basketball courts, splash pad, and a toboggan hill. Constructing the park cost $3.2 million. Those things are proving to be a hit because one day later, the park was crawling with kids after school bells rang.

Walter, who still walks for exercise every day, said he might not make much use of the park. “It’s for children really.”

Walter Henry Park

Not many people anywhere receive one recognition from their communities, let alone several.

“I could believe it,” Henry said. “It was the mayor who contacted me and let me know they were thinking about doing it, that I’d been named as the person they were going to name the park after; would I accept that. Of course I gladly accepted. It was overwhelming to tell you the truth.”

Henry represented Canada at the British Empire Games, the Pan American Games, and the Olympic Games. In 1974, he was inducted into the Canadian Boxing Hall of Fame. The recreation advisory committee recommended Henry to council in the naming process.

“I appreciate Mel St. Onge for nominating me and the City of Orillia for the many honours they’ve bestowed on me over the years.”

(Photos by Swartz- SUNonline/Orillia and supplied)


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