Where are they now? - Manitoba Bantam “BB” hockey champions 1960-61



This feature by local author and sports historian Rick Sparling attempts to locate and catch up with the teams featured in Sparling’s most recent book, Amateur Hockey in Neepawa: A Scrapbook.


By Rick Sparling

The Neepawa Press

Homer Gill managed the 1956-57 Tom Thumb team and won two Provincial Bantam BB titles with 1957-58 and the 1960-61 teams. Homer's career was mostly teaching. He was responsible for keeping the school hockey program going after the departure of Mr. McAmmond and Ruth Faryon. Homer was involved in the insurance and real estate business. He married Wilma Steppler and had one child. Homer passed away in 2014.

Norman Martin played two years Junior hockey with the St. James Braves after graduating from NACI before taking up work with Canada Packers for a couple of years. Norm applied for the city of Winnipeg Police Dept. And while waiting travelled to Europe for a while before joining the force in 1971. He retired 31 years later in 2001. Norman married Dianne DeGagne and they spend time traveling the world. While in Onanole,Manitoba, their summer residence, Norm keeps busy hunting, fishing and golfing.

Brian Curtis graduated from NACI in 1965 and from the University of Manitoba in 1972. He began teaching in 1972 and ended in 1995. He married Myra in 1982 and inherited three kids; Tanya, Jay and Aysa. That ended in 1994. Brian and Linda were married in Kuaii in 2003 and they live in Winnipeg and are busy volunteering and traveling.

Fred Kosmolak married his high school sweetheart, Norma Lindsay, after receiving his PhD from the University of Manitoba. They lived in Winnipeg and Fred went to work as a cereal chemist on the University campus for Agriculture Canada. In his early 30s Fred was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and died from complications of this disease in November of 1984. The joys of Freds’ life were his two adopted sons, Shea and Hagen, his never-ending love of hockey and playing chess by mail 

Dennis Foley left Neepawa and the chicken business to start up Trapper John's Restaurant in the Polo Park area of Winnipeg. Dennis was involved in a few businesses before winding down 14 years at Rogers Video in management there. He retired in 2009. He married Linda Ostapovitch and they have three children and four grandchildren. Dennis' hobbies include golf, coin collecting and antiques. He currently resides in Winnipeg and they venture out to Mexico for part of each winter.

Jim Schmall originally from Plumas, Manitoba, came into Neepawa to teach at Viscount Collegiate from 1958-64, then onto Eden High School for two years and into the Neepawa High School from 1967-68 and became the principal at Hazel M kellington School until he left to form a partnership with Homer Gill in Gill & Schmall Agencies in 1976. Jim married Donna Steppler in 1959 and has four children; Don, Valerie, Jan and Corrine and they have nine grandkids, eight of them being girls. Jim still goes into the office a couple of times a week and still carries his real estate licence and his hobbies include curling and golfing. They are retired in Neepawa

Danny Sieffert left Neepawa to attend University of Manitoba, graduating from Dentistry. He practiced in Neepawa and Thompson before settling on Vancouver Island in Nanaimo. He married Michele Dubiel and had one child and has three grandchildren and have lived “off the grid” in Maple Bay near Victoria on a small farm caring for llamas, cats and dogs since retiring in 2006. Danny enjoys flying, sailing, skiing, old timer's hockey, woodwork and travel; including trips back to Neepawa to visit friends and family.

Harvey Martin went from high school to Bristol Aerospace and worked there 30 years finishing his career as a Senior Buyer. He married Shirley Speiss in 1968 and had two boys and two grandchildren. Harvey kept busy with sports with his sons then refereed high school hockey. Travelled with the family across Canada and the USA, then later with Shirley to Africa, South America, Europe, China and Australia. Harvey passed away in 2008 in Winnipeg.

Ken Hall left Neepawa in 1966 and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. He took training in Radar air, got married in 1968 and had two children in 1969 and 1970. He was employed by MTS in Winnipeg for six years and in leaf Rapids for two years before joining AGT, where he lived in Medicine Hat, AB and Sherwood Park and moved along to Ottawa with Telecom Canada. He divorced and moved to Slave Lake where he was hired on by Telus there for 10 years. Ken retired from Telus and returned to Manitoba and purchased a golf course at Ashern and operated it for 20 years. In 2015, he closed the golf course down; retired and has been traveling with Diana. The current journey has been interrupted to deal with some health issues.

Cliff Campbell came to Neepawa in 1959 and taught at Viscount School until 1962. During his time there he coached the 1960-61 BBs and the 1961-62 ABs to Provincial championships. While working with Amoco off the east coast of Canada on a summer job on an oil and gas exploration boat, Cliff decided that the oil and gas industry was the career for him.  After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon with a BA and BEd (Maths and Physics majors), he joined Amoco Canada in office, field and research work over a 30 year career, seven of those years in the Tulsa, Oklahoma's research facility. Cliff married Margaret Hulings in 1965, and had four children (div). In 1983 Cliff married Marjorie McNaught who had three children from a previous marriage and together they raised the seven children with the last leaving home just after Cliff's retirement in 1996. Marjorie passed away in 2016 and Cliff stays busy keeping in touch with all of the children and their families.  He gets involved in many of the activities available at his retirement community in Coquitlam, BC. His favourite past-time is playing cards.  Winning, for sure makes it his favourite past-time.

Wayne Cameron worked for the Neepawa Press before heading for Prince George, BC and worked for 42 years for Southam News, Hollinger Inc and Glacier Media. Retired from the newspaper business as National Sales Rep started up WC Marketing where he still does work for Yamaha and Arctic Cat.  Wayne married Shirlee Withiam and have two children and two grandkids. Wayne’s hobbies are skiing, quading and snowmobiling.

Ron Merriman was Vince’s son and many will remember Vince managing the Neepawa Sports Arena in the mid ‘50s. Ron lived in Vernon, B.C. Where he passed away at the age of 65 in 2013  David Walker got his Bachelor of Arts through the University of Manitoba after leaving NACI and then took his Bachelor of Education at Brandon University, before heading out on a teaching career. David had stints in Carberry, Erickson, Minnedosa, Rapid City and Rivers where he wound up his 40 years of teaching in 2007. Dave married Judy Johnston in 1973 and they had two children and have three grandchildren. Judy passed away in 2015 and David has retired in Minnedosa. His hobby is carpentry and he has built a few homes and does smaller projects for friends and family.

Jack Tremain left Neepawa for Brandon to work for Hood Autos, which led him to Red Deer, Alberta. After selling vacuum cleaners door to door, Jack worked in Industrial Supplies and in 1984 worked at Cidco Industrial Supplies and opened his own ‘Pumps and Pressure Inc’ in 1988. Jack married Sandy Roth and had three children and six grandkids. His company has eight branches (140 employees) across western Canada. He was one of three finalists for ‘The Entrepreneur of the Prairies’ in 2015. His hobbies include curling, golf and travel where he has alternated between Mexico and Hawaii in the past few years. He continues on working in Red Deer.

Rick Howden joined the RCMP directly after graduating from NACI in 1966 and after training was posted to Saskatchewan. After retiring from the Force (28 years) he was hired by Corrections Canada and worked as an intelligence officer for seven years in the Prince Albert Penitentiary. He retired to Candle Lake, Sk until 2013, then moved to Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island. Rick winters in Indio, California. Rick has two children who live in Alberta. He enjoys good health, plays golf and tennis and according to him, life is great! Rick played hockey until he was 55, so he’s grateful to all the coaches he had growing up in Neepawa, learning the greatest game in the world.

John Birnie completed a BA and BEd at Brandon University with a major in hockey as a Brandon Bobcat. He taught at Selkirk Secondary School while completing his MEd at U of M.  Moved to Victoria, BC and ran in several marathons including the Boston, Seattle, Victoria and Winnipeg Marathons. While working in the Ministry of Advanced Education in Victoria, he met and married his wife Mary Jo (from Winnipeg). They had four children and have two grandkids with a third on the way. John became VP of Northern Lights College and retired after 19 years there. They now live in Vancouver Island and spend the winters in Palm Desert, California. John’s hobbies are golf, tennis, hiking and kayaking. 

Richard Warnock has mysteriously disappeared. I have tried to locate him and his two brothers, Murray and Mervyn to no avail. If anyone knows the where-a-bouts of Richard (or the brothers) please contact me and I’ll get the information into an up-coming article.

Billy Tremain joined the Royal Canadian Artillery in 1965. He served in Calgary, Shilo, Winnipeg, Petawawa, Lahr, Germany and 2 UN tours in Cyprus, Gagetown and Yarmouth. He was a paratrooper for most of his 24 year career. He achieved the ranking of Chief Warrant Officer at age 37 and retired from the forces in 1989. Bill worked in HR for PCL Construction in Edmonton then in health and Safety and is a health safety and environmental consultant today. He married Michele in 1979 and is winding down into retirement in St. Albert, Alberta. In his down times Bill enjoys skiing, cycling and travel.

Lorne Coulson graduated with a BA from the University of Manitoba after NACI and then took a course through Red River College on advertising art.  Lorne worked at the U of Winnipeg in the media field and became a vocational teacher with photography and media communications at Sturgeon Creek High School for 26 years. He is semi-retired as he does special projects digitizing archive material for the St. Boniface Historical Society and the Association of Manitoba Archivists. Lorne married Nicole Guyot in 1975 and they have three children and two grandsons. His hobbies include outdoor wilderness canoeing, off-road cycling and cross country skiing. Lorne and Nicole reside in Winnipeg.