By Lawrence King, 2018 Sportsperson of the Year
On Sunday, August 27, 2023 Douglas Haig Kyle of Calgary, Alberta passed away suddenly at the age of 91.
A celebration of life for Doug will be held at St. Peter’s Anglican Church, 903 – 75 Avenue SW, Calgary on Thursday September 21, 2023 at 1:30 p.m. The livestream of the service may be accessed through this link.
Doug Kyle had a major impact and influence on my life for 64 years, which started with me as a high school student joining the Calgary Track & Field Club in 1959 which he and his wife Carol started the year before. At the time, it was the only track & field club in Alberta and was the inspiration for the Edmonton and Lethbridge Track Clubs to follow a year or two later.
Doug was an awesome coach and spent countless hours training us, organizing meets, and always looking after our travel arrangements, filling out forms and developing us to the best of our abilities. What is really amazing is that Doug still had time to train us while he spent hours looking after himself as Canada’s best distance runner in the 1950’s and early 1960’s. At one point in time, he owned every Canadian distance record, so we were blessed to have such a famous man as our coach.
Doug & his wife Carol on several occasions organized the halftime entertainment at the Calgary Stampeder football home games. They would have mini track meets with a special flavour. One time Doug had a horse race against one of our sprinters in a 60 yard dash. Another time he had a half mile race with sprinters, distance runners, and field event people all taking part with each individual receiving a staggered start, depending on their ability to run that distance. Another time he brought in Bill Crouthers and Bruce Kid from the East York Track Club in Toronto to run against members of our track club in two handicap races. Bill was the Canadian champion and record holder in the half mile who went on to win a silver medal in the Olympic Games for Canada. Bruce Kidd was the Canadian champion and record holder in the two & three miles.
Doug also organized road relay team events between the Calgary, Edmonton, and Lethbridge track clubs. There were seven members on each team with each team member running a different length in the two mile relay race. Doug was a great promoter so we often did it outside shopping malls, where there was a crowd and it was a great attraction for the people.
In 1963, US President John Kennedy started the President’s Fitness Council and said every healthy young American should be able to walk or run twenty-five miles. Doug decided that Canadians could do better than that and he organized a fifty mile walk or run for Calgarians from Glenmore Stadium out to Millarville and back. About twenty people started the race and four of us finished, proving it could be done. Doug also wanted to host in 1964 the Canadian Olympic Trials in the 26 mile marathon. He had to prove to the Canadian Olympic Organizing Committee that we could do it, so Doug organized the very first 26 mile marathon to ever be held in Alberta in 1963 with nineteen participants. It was a great success and Doug won the race. Thanks to this successful race, Calgary was awarded the 1964 Marathon Trials and Canadian Championships.
In 1959 at the Pan American Games, Doug won a bronze medal in the 5,000 meters and a silver medal in the 10,000 meters. He also represented Canada in two Olympic Games and twice ran in the Sao Paulo, Brazil New Year’s Eve Road race, which he won. He received a huge bronze statue of a runner that weighed around 10 pounds and said this was one of his favourite races.
In 1969 the Calgary Booster Club honoured Doug by choosing him as the Sportsperson of the Year for his many contributions to Track & Field in Calgary, Alberta, and Canada as a competitor, official, administrator, and long time volunteer. He was also inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame in 1959. This past year at our Booster Club Christmas party, Doug was presented with a cherry wodo plaque for his 53 years of service as our oldest living Sportsperson of the Year.
Doug was responsible for getting me a four year track scholarship to Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho which I will always be grateful for, as it became a very important part of my life experiences. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention his wonderful wife Carol, who stood by his side for 63 years. They were a dynamic duo and brought out the best in each other.
Doug was great at twisting your arm and talking you into something. In 1969 he called me on the telephone and said we are moving to Toronto and I want you to take over the head coaching job for CALTAF. I said: “Doug, I’m in my first year of Teaching Physical Education & English at Central Memorial High School, I’m coaching Cross Country, Basketball, and Track & Field and have no time for anything else.” There was a long pause and then Doug said to me: “You know Lawrence, the Calgary Track & Field Club and Carol & I have done a lot for you over the years. It would be nice for you to pay something back!” Alright I said, I will do it and I ended up being the head coach for 10 years. Doug and I were also Directors in the 55+ Seniors Sport Group. He called me one day and said let’s go for coffee and I knew he had something up his sleeve. He said I need a Snooker Chairman and organizer for the Winter Championships. I said: “I have never played Snooker in my life and don’t have a clue how it works.” He said: “Not to worry! You know how to organize tournaments and I’ll be the authority for the rules and how the game is played.” I felt guilty because he had bought me my coffee and a donut so I said okay and that lasted for eight years.
We have many memorable things my wife Helen & I have done with Carol & Doug over the years. Some of them are: our holiday together in Maui, the mortgage burning party at their home in the late 1970’s, golfing together at Earl Grey and other places, and being the MC at Doug’s 80th birthday celebration.
In closing, Doug has left us in a physical sense, but will never leave us in terms of our wonderful memories of him. We all have a responsibility to keep him alive through the telling of stories and sharing of experiences with family and friends. Yes, he is gone, but never forgotten, as the experiences and lessons of life he taught us will live forever in our hearts and minds. Simply put, Doug was one of the very best. Goodbye for now dear friend and God bless.