Written by Kathy Newman
Fondly remembered as the “granddaddy of wheelchair sports,” Stan Stronge was instrumental in the growth of wheelchair sports across Canada and within his home province of British Columbia. Born on December 10, 1910, Stan Stronge fashioned a career as a top competitive long distance swimmer, winning many races held in Burrard Inlet, BC. As a young adult he was also a highly successful soccer player, and arguably the best goaltender in the Vancouver league. In 1936, he and the New Westminster Royals won the Canadian National Championships, and he was even asked to try out for an English 1st Division Team.
A potential career playing professional soccer in Europe ended suddenly in 1939, when 29 year old Stan was injured driving to work after a large Douglas fir crashed down on the driver’s side of his vehicle during a thunderstorm. Prior to World War II, the life expectancy of a paraplegic was less than four years, and the idea of one day having a job, playing sports, or even having social life was hard to imagine for some. However, Stan had his own ideas of what his changed future would entail.
Stan went on to become a player, mentor, and motivator to others, inspiring players like Gene Reimer, Kevin Earl, Peter Colistro, Jeff Standfield, Reg McClellan, and Rick Hansen to become involved both on and off the court. In 1950, he and Doug Mowat teamed up with other athletes to form the first wheelchair basketball team in British Columbia: the Dueck Powerglides. Fifteen years after his accident, Stan became British Columbia’s first rehabilitation counsellor.
Throughout this time Stan also remained the ultimate athlete. He continued to swim and took up wheelchair basketball. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Canadian Wheelchair Sports Association and dedicated countless hours to organizing British Columbia’s involvement in Para Pan Am Games until his retirement. He also set his sights on coaching, and continued his involvement well into the 60s, 70s, and 80s as a swim coach, basketball manager, and CWSA rules chairman.
Even after being inducted into the BC Hall of Fame in 1980 as both an athlete and a builder, Stan founded the Maple Leafe Wheelchair Basketball Society, and was active in basketball until his death on August 26, 1991.
In recognition for his volunteer efforts and contributions to wheelchair sport, Stan has received the Order of Canada, was awarded the keys to the city of Vancouver, and has a pool named after him at the George Pearson Centre. The quintessential wheelchair sports volunteer, Stan was named CWSA-BC Volunteer of the Year so many times that the award was eventually named after him.
Today Stan is not only remembered as a star athlete and performer, but a passionate builder of wheelchair sports whose legacy continues to this day.