This 90-year-old New Brunswick curler is in no hurry to give up the game

·3 min read
John Marr, pictured in the middle of a friendly game at the Hampton Curling Club, where he's been playing since 1976. (Julia Wright / CBC - image credit)
John Marr, pictured in the middle of a friendly game at the Hampton Curling Club, where he's been playing since 1976. (Julia Wright / CBC - image credit)

John Marr is local legend among his teammates at the Hampton Curling Club.

He plays three times a week, loves to compete, and "has a knack for pulling a great shot out in the last end or two, and winning," says club secretary Ron Badger.

No surprise there. Marr has had plenty of practice. When he celebrates his 90th birthday on Christmas Day, he will have been curling at the club for more than 45 years.

"It's just a normal thing for me," he said.

Softball in summer, hockey in winter

When Marr was growing up in Gondola Point — now part of the Saint John suburb of Quispamsis — the community hadn't even been incorporated as a village yet.

"It was pretty well a farming area back then," Marr said. "You knew everybody on the road."

He played hockey and field sports at Rothesay Consolidated, a Grade 1-12 school for kids from across Kings County, including Rothesay, Hampton and Sussex.

Submitted by John Marr
Submitted by John Marr

"We were all pretty well involved in sports year-round, really," Marr said. "In the summer back then, you played a little softball, at school you did track and field. Hockey in the winter, soccer in the fall. Growing up on the river, we did a lot of swimming."

After finishing school, he got a job CP Express, the trucking division of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Over his 40 years at CP Express, he played regularly in the company bowling league.

"Way back when I started, all of those couriers that are around now weren't around then. So we had pretty much all the small parcels. We were always busy."

When he's not curling, Marr golfs three times a week — a hobby Margaret, his wife of nearly 70 years, also enjoys.

From corn brooms to reverse osmosis systems

Curling has changed since Marr joined the Hampton Curling Club in 1976.

"Seems to get a little harder now than it used to be," he said.

But other than creaky joints — inevitable, perhaps, when one is pushing 90 — the smoother ice surface made possible by modern water filtration technology is the biggest transformation.

Julia Wright / CBC
Julia Wright / CBC

"The ice has made a big improvement in everything. It's much, much better now."

Ditto the equipment.

Back in the seventies, "we all used the corn brooms, and when you swept the ice afterward you'd be gathering up things from the broom and everything else."

'A wonderful group'

There have been a lot of jokes and friendships forged over his time on the ice, Marr said.

"You make so many friends, meet so many people. They've always been a wonderful group around here."

Also memorable: twice helping a team score an eight-ender, or a perfect score within a single end of curling.

"It's a very rare feat, much more rare than a hole-in-one in golf or a 29-hand in cribbage," Badger said. "John has two of them, and he's the only person I've ever heard of that has scored two."

Submitted by John Marr
Submitted by John Marr

But his exceptional athleticism over the years isn't the only thing Marr's teammates admire.

"John probably doesn't realize this, but he's always been kind of a hero to me," Badger said. "He's a great gentleman and he plays fair, he plays hard, and he's an inspiration to the seniors."

Julia Wright / CBC
Julia Wright / CBC

"I think one of the things that's kept him curling so long is that he's a competitor."

John agrees — it's winning that keeps him going. That, and the cup of tea he drinks every morning.

"I like the competition a little bit,' he says. "Once you start hibernating, you sort of go downhill after that."

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