Doug Orr was born in Parry Sound on January 15, 1925. He attended Victory School where he excelled as a gifted athlete. He particularly liked hockey and played on the 1937 Victory School Hockey Team. In high school hockey, fastball and track & field were his sports of choice.
As a highly skilled hockey player, it was not surprising that he caught the attention of the Boston Bruins. They liked what they saw, and invited him to play in their organization in the United States. Instead, he gave up a promising pro hockey career and enlisted in the Royal Canadian Navy. He left Parry Sound for his assignment with the Navy on February 5, 1943, the day after he married Arva Steele. Needless to say, it was a short honeymoon.
He served in the Royal Canadian Navy from 1943 to 1945 on a Corvette, the Frontenac 335. The Frontenac crew developed a bond of loyalty which lasted a lifetime. Doug was very proud of his military Service. After he was honorably discharged form the Navy in 1945, he joined the Royal Canadian Legion and served sixty-one consecutive years as member of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 117 Parry Sound.
Following the war Doug returned to Parry Sound and worked at the CIL munitions plant in Nobel. He was a very dedicated employee, working for twenty consecutive years without missing a day. Although busy with shift work, raising a young family Doug found time to play industrial hockey and captained the Parry Sound Shamrocks. In addition, he played softball with MacLaim Construction. They were perennial winners in the industrial league and won several tournaments. Doug played 3rd base. He had quick hands and with his exceptional hand eye coordination, he was a threat at the plate.
After leaving CIL in, he worked for a number of years as salesman for McGuinness Distillery. While working for McGuinness he made to decision to quit drinking. True to his word, he did not drink alcohol for the next thirty years. He won many awards as a top salesman. He also worked twenty-two years in the Parry Sound Court House as a Court Services Officer providing service to the lawyers, public and jurors. His easy pleasant efficient manner was appreciated in a sometimes-tense atmosphere. No matter where he worked, he was a dedicated employee and took the responsibilities of his job very seriously.
Doug was very proud when Bobby signed with the Boston Bruins of the NHL, the team that scouted him some twenty-five years earlier. He supported Bobby and the Boston Bruins, attending many games and fund raising events. Hockey now took on a new personal dimension for him.
Doug was always interested in all sports and particularly enjoyed watching the younger boys and girls play hockey. The children looked forward to seeing him. He would offer polite encouragement but would never interfere with their team. .He enjoyed being around the Bobby Orr Community Centre, meeting and talking to people and players regardless of which team they were on. He was always in demand to drop the puck to start a playoff game or a tournament. It was a duty he thoroughly enjoyed. Everyone appreciated his easy pleasant manner.
In addition to his interest hockey, Doug was an avid angler and hunter. It was serious business for him. He enjoyed landing a big one almost as much as he enjoyed the camaraderie of his friends. He always had a fishing story. Neil Clairmont recalls one of Doug’s fishing stories, “Doug’s good friend Forby Duncan apparently knew of a fishing hole with some big walleye. He asked Doug if he would borrow some dynamite from CIL and they would go for some walleye. They get into a rowboat, row out and Forby goes to Doug, “Okay Doug, here’s the spot, light her up, throw ‘er in.” Doug lights the dynamite, throws dynamite, Forby starts rowing, oars not touching the water, dynamite goes off almost blows the back off the boat and pop, pop, pop, the fish come floating to the top.” Such fishing practices ceased when CIL closed. His fishing and hunting buddies were very special to him and he looked forward to being with them outdoors, whether it was winter or summer.
In 1980 as Terry Fox was running through Parry Sound on his way across Canada, Doug took Terry home and offered Terry anything he wanted. It was a very special meeting for Doug when he said, “I’m not one for making speeches, so I want to present you on behalf of Bobby and myself, with Bobby’s Canada Cup 1976 sweater. This has been a very special memento for me, but I can’t think of anyone more deserving”. Terry was moved and speechless when his hockey idol’s Dad presented him the sweater. This gesture was vintage Doug Orr, who whose generosity of deed and spirit could be so overwhelming
Doug never missed a Rotary Skate-A-Thon for Easter Seals and was always eager to bring in celebrities to assist with the fund rising for Easter Seal children.
He was a frequent visitor to Room 4, the Bobby Orr Classroom, Victory School where he shared stories with the students about what it was like growing up in Parry Sound and attending Victory School in the 1930’s.
He was proud to lend his support to community events and fund raising activities, such as the Canadian Cancer Society, The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, and all service clubs on Parry Sound. He was one of the Coaches for the first OMHA Pond Hockey Tournament held in Parry Sound. Doug did not golf, but he attended and supported every Bobby Orr Celebrity Golf Tournament. He did not consider himself a celebrity, but invited celebrities would seek him out for a conversation and a photograph.
Doug was diagnosed with diabetes in 1992. As part of his diabetes management, he would go for his daily walk down Gibson street and over to the Rotary Algonguin Regiment Fitness trail. He never made good time as he would stop and share a story many he met on the trail. Dr Dave Wright, also a diabetic and close friend of Doug’s admired him for his shining example of excellent diabetes management and promoting good health and a good life style.
One of Doug’s proudest moments, was the opening of the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame in 2003. However, he was saddened that Arva was not there to celebrate the moment with him, as she was such a big part of the Orr family. He now had a place to send people when they called or wrote letters to him asking for formation on Bobby. It was a special place for him. As the unofficial ambassador, he greeted visitors, took pictures with them, signed autographs, listened to their favourite Bobby Orr story, and shared many of his own stories, some laced with locker room humour. Sometimes he would hop on bus full of tourists and ask the bus driver to take them around town where he would provide a guided tour. He had a natural ability to tell a good story. His laugh was contagious which endeared him to others.
His family and many friends fondly remember Doug for his for friendship, his sense of humour, his many unselfish contributions to the public and his genuine caring for others.
He served his community with pride, grace and dignity.
Dour Orr’s induction into the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame is a testament to his generosity and goodwill. It is a well-deserved honour that he would have been so proud to receive.
Nominated by: Brian Bannerman, Dr. Dan Daley, Brandi Hutchings and Dr. Dave Wright.