Dawson, Paul

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                                   PAUL DAWSON
                                 By Doug Underhill

Call him Mr. Softball! Miramichi was saddened Sunday to hear of the death of Paul Dawson at the age of 60. Dawson was a doer who was instrumental to putting Nelson on the Softball Map of Canada.

Paul Dawson played softball for Nowlanville in 1969 and helped to organize a four-team rural league. He brought Nelson to the Canadian softball stage by hosting several national tournaments. He was acknowledged for his efforts by being inducted into the Builder category in the Softball New Brunswick Hall of Fame on June 18, 1994. On November 9, 2002, he was inducted into the Canadian Softball Hall of Fame, also in the Builder Category. He went into the Labatt Softball New Brunswick Hall of Fame a second time in July 2003 as a member of the Nelson Softball Association, again in the Builder Category.

Dawson was born on June 30, 1944, in Nowlanville. He grew up there and attended Nelson Rural High, graduating in 1962. After receiving his teaching degree in 1968, Dawson taught at Croft Elementary in Newcastle until he entered provincial politics, winning a seat in the legislature. Between 1982-87, Dawson served as Minister of Commerce and Development in the Richard Hatfield government.

Dawson’s first foray into local government was in 1978 when he served on the Newcastle Town Council, rising to the position of Deputy Mayor. He returned to municipal politics after his stint in Fredericton and was elected as councillor-at-large for the City of Miramichi.

Dawson said that growing up in a small area like Nowlanville, it was just natural to have a love of sports. “There was just a group of us who played hockey in the winter and ball in the summer,” he recalled.

It was in softball that he was to leave his mark. Dawson and Gerald King were the prime movers in starting a rural league in 1969 with Nelson, Nowlanville, Craigville, and the Plywood Mill teams. “We had nothing else to do after supper, so we put together a rural league to provide some recreation and to get some exercise,” he said. The league fired interest in the community and eventually the Nelson Softball Association was formed.

Dawson was also involved in helping Wendell Gregan with his softball program at Croft Elementary in Newcastle. He also helped out in Loggieville, where he was manager of the Loggieville Schooners, with Pete McLean as coach.

In 1974, Softball Canada decided to have a Junior Men’s Championship in Ottawa. It was then that Dawson and McLean formed a team in Nelson that defeated the Saint John Alpines for the right to represent New Brunswick. Saint John won the first game there, but Nelson rebounded with two wins at the Gerald King Memorial Field in Nelson to send the team to Ottawa. Subsequently, Terry Keating got the only mound win for Nelson at the Ottawa tournament, but it was a big step for the softball program. On Labour Day of the same year, Dawson and McLean’s boys won the provincial junior title, giving Nelson its first provincial championship, with Mike Daley pitching the winning game.

Then it was on to serving the provincial softball scene and for the next six years, Dawson was treasurer and president of the N.B. Softball Association.

In 1975, Dawson travelled to Calgary and was successful in procuring the 1976 Canadian Junior Men’s Championship for Nelson. Not only was Dawson successful in winning the bid to host, but he also was instrumental in helping the Nelson Softball Association rebuild the Gerald King memorial Field to bring it to a national level and to secure the Labatts as the major sponsor. Dawson then chaired the tournament, throwing the first ceremonial pitch with the New Brunswick Premier Richard Hatfield and Softball Canada’s President Bob Van Impe.

In 1978, he and Jim Keane co-chaired the National Junior Women’s tournament in Nelson. Dawson was also part of the delegation that travelled to Thunder Bay, Ontario, in 1981 for the Canada Summer Games.

Next Dawson turned his hand to coaching and led the Newcastle Midget All-Stars to a silver medal at the National Championships in 1980. From there Dawson moved into the national picture, serving on the executive of the Softball Canada Association for five years, moving from fourth vice president to first, and then serving on the board of directors his fifth year.

Dawson worked at organizing minor softball programs in the junior division down, before moving up to the senior level. He helped introduce a Canadian Midget Boys’ Championship category and helped in the establishment of the National Coaching Certification Program.

In the early 1980s, he was selected to supervise the North American Women’s Championship in Sun City, Arizona. He helped pick the National Women’s Canadian team that participated in the Pan Am Games in Caracas, Venezuela.

In 1989, Dawson was back with Tim McCarthy, acting as co-chair of the Canadian Men’s Junior Nationals hosted by Nelson.

It was not just in softball that Dawson left his mark in working with the national tournaments. He chaired the National Senior Men’s Baseball Championship in the 1970’s and also the National Junior Men’s in Newcastle n 1991, where the Newcastle Junior A&B Cardinals won a bronze medal.

Tim McCarthy was often at Dawson’s side during the peak of softball in Nelson, and McCarthy has nothing but praise for Dawson. “He’s the godfather of Softball in Nelson. It was his idea to start the after-supper league, his idea to build fields and his idea to get the first Junior National tournament. He was instrumental in a lot of things being organized. He chaired three national tournaments. You name it and he has done it. A lot of people don’t know the actual time and effort he put into softball not only in Nelson, but in the Miramichi, the province, and across Canada,” said McCarthy.

Ronnie Butler played hockey with Dawson in the Newcastle Industrial League and worked with him on many projects. “Paul was a great lad to get something off the ground and get it going. He had a real knack at organizing things. Then he would get others involved until the project was done…He was a great builder,” said Butler.

Paul, you will be greatly missed by all of your family and friends. Paul Dawson – a doer.

Source: Miramichi Leader – April 5, 2005

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