It’s unlikely that many of Abbotsford’s current tennis, gymnastics and judo athletes would recognize Liz Carter’s name.
But they, like thousands of athletes over the past four decades, have been impacted by Carter’s remarkable sports legacy in this city.
Her contributions will be feted on Saturday, as she – along with former Canadian Football League lineman Rob Lazeo – will be inducted into the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame. Carter’s induction is in the community sports builder category.
“I was shocked,” the 78-year-old Carter said with a chuckle, reflecting on the honour.
“There wasn’t a lot of variety in what recreation was going on here when I arrived, and for some reason, I just thought there should be more. And it blossomed from there.”
Carter, who grew up in Liverpool, England, ended up in Abbotsford by accident.
During her mid-20s, she crossed the Atlantic to visit her brother, who was living in Toronto. She and a friend extended the trip to B.C. because they wanted to see the West Coast, and she met her future husband Ralph in Abbotsford.
Carter, a nurse, worked at MSA Hospital, and her local sport involvement began in 1970 after she took tennis lessons through the Matsqui Abbotsford Recreation Commission. The lessons were made possible through a grant, which covered the cost of tennis pros to travel out from Vancouver, and when the grant expired, the pros suggested Carter helm the program.
She did that, and more.
Carter became a regular at Matsqui council meetings and lobbied for a new tennis court to be built next to MSA Arena. Council eventually agreed, but she soon realized that one court wouldn’t be enough. Mayor Douglas Taylor suggested she do some fundraising, and a few months later, she came back with $4,000 which went toward the creation of the four tennis courts which sit adjacent to MSA Arena.
Carter also got involved in teaching gymnastics through the Matsqui rec commission, and when the municipality decided in 1977 to reorganize its programs into non-profit clubs, she spearheaded the creation of Twisters Gymnastics Club. Twisters has since grown to become one of Canada’s top clubs, with three of its gymnasts competing in the Olympics.
Carter also took a hands-on role in fundraising and development for the club’s building at Exhibition Park, which was completed in 1988.
“We all got to go in and help paint – we had to put on four coats to make it look decent,” she said with a smile. “It was funny, me up on that scaffold – I’d never been up that high in my life!”
Later, when her son Paul got involved with the fledgling Abbotsford Judo Club, Carter came alongside to help them through the process of incorporation.
She’s also been involved in countless steering committees over the years, including the 1995 Western Canada Summer Games, and was a founding member of the Valley Concert Society in 1982.
“She was one of the most outstanding volunteers that I worked with in my 30 years in the City of Abbotsford,” said Betty Johnston, the longtime manager of recreation services who nominated Carter for the Sports Hall of Fame. “You always wanted Liz on a committee because she had such a wealth of knowledge, and she was such a hard worker.”
Carter attributes her enthusiasm for volunteerism to her father, Charles Gregory. She describes him as a quieter man, but he had a deep sense of community responsibility.
After World War II ended, he spearheaded a huge outdoor feast in their neighbourhood to celebrate. On another occasion, he asked his daughter for a pair of shoes to give to another needy girl he’d met in his travels as a door-to-door insurance salesman.
“He was a very compassionate person, and I’ve always tried to remember that,” Carter said. “He was always helping somebody, and I think I picked that up.”
• For more information on the Abbotsford Sports Hall of Fame, visit abbysportshalloffame.ca.