When Kevin Figsby packed his bags to leave Point-St-Charles, he began a journey most children from the working class enclave would never know.
“The Point” had always been a hardscrabble place but by the late 1970s — after massive layoffs at the Northern Electric factory and Redpath sugar refinery — it had become one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Canada. The Irish neighbourhood was notorious for its association with the West End Gang, known more for producing brawlers, boxers and tough-as-nails rail workers than scholars.
So it was a rare thing for someone like Figsby, in 1979, to leave town and attend Bishop’s University in Lennoxville. But when that did happen, the community rallied around Figsby and another young man from The Point.
“The parish priest, Father Willard, gave us both $150 and he said: ‘Here, here’s something to help you on that road,’ ” said Figsby, now the director of Hockey Program Delivery at Hockey Canada. “I said to him: ‘How can I repay that?’ And he said: ‘If you ever get the chance to help another kid, do it.’ ”
After helping raise more than $500,000 in scholarships and programs for children Point-St-Charles youth, it’d be fair to say Figsby held up his end of the bargain.
On Saturday, Figsby joined about 500 people at the Point-St-Charles YMCA for the 13th annual Hall of Recognition ceremony, which honours notable locals and awards scholarships to about 20 youth who live in the area.
The ceremony began, almost by chance, when Figsby heard about plans to close The Point’s YMCA in 2003. After meeting with the YMCA’s director, Figsby devised a way to help save the social programs it promoted while honouring the people who organized youth sports when he was a boy in the south Montreal neighbourhood. More…
©2016 Linda Sullivan-Simpson
The Past Whispers
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