Canadian Rowing Community mourns the loss of Jack Nicholson (1932 – 2014)


Canadian Rowing has lost one of the greats. Jack Nicholson, coach, mentor and friend, passed the finish line of life in the evening of December 1st.

For the last 60 years, Jack Nicholson has been coach to all levels of rowing in Canada.

Jack was a National Team coach in the 80’s, winning gold at the 1985 World Rowing Championships in Belgium with Doug Hamilton, Robert Mills, Paul Douma and Melvin Laforme in the men’s quad. That same combination also won bronze at the 1986 and 1987 World Rowing Championships.

But he will perhaps be most fondly remembered for his decades coaching at the grassroots level in St. Catharines.

Speaking to the St. Catharines Standard earlier this year, Doug Hamilton commented on Jack’s ability to develop young athletes. “It’s rare to find a coach that relates well to teenagers as well as athletes who are already on the (national) team,” said Hamilton.

And since 1972 the teenagers of Ridley College have been the focus of Jack’s world-class coaching. With a motto of Terar dum prosim (May I be consumed by service), Ridley College has been the perfect fit for Jack.

“Jack is a guy who has dedicated his time mentoring our students since 1972, simply because Jack thought it was the right thing to do,” said Jay Tredway, Director of Athletics of Ridley College. “Jack’s level of selflessness and spirit, I can’t think of anyone else in the same stratosphere. He’s a giant here despite his tendency to work in the background. I don’t think we’ll realize what we’re missing until we enter the next rowing season. This loss – it’s a big blow.”

It was his stamina that was always so impressive. This last season, Jack, at 82 years of age, was doing three coaching sessions a day. And it is his passion for coaching that Jack wished to ensure lives on.

The Jack Nicholson Memorial Fund has been created at the request of Jack Nicholson and his family, to support the development of rowing coaches in Canada.

Jack did so much for this great sport that the family recognized the need to continue helping. On behalf of Jack’s family, those wishing to express their condolences are asked to do so through the Jack Nicholson Memorial Fund.

A private service will be held in St. Catharines this week with a Celebration of Life service held in the New Year to allow the many friends from across Canada to come together and share their stories of Jack.

Earlier this year, Jack was inducted to the St. Catharines’ Hall of Fame and commented, “you never remember the races, you remember the people.”

Jack was a father to many, rowing coach to many more and a legend in the sport. He will be remembered. 

Scott Harrigan
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