Toronto Nomads elder statesman Stan Woodburn passed away peacefully in his sleep early Wednesday, aged 91.
A Nomads member since 1954, Stan was very well-known at Fletcher’s Fields as the long-time groundskeeper as well.
In accordance with his wishes he is being cremated and a celebration of his life will be held in the spring at Fletcher’s Fields the ground he loved and took great care of for much of his life.
Below is an obituary for Stan from Robert Jenkins, president of Fletcher’s Fields, where Stan was so influential over these past 40 years.
Dear Fletcher’s Fields Patrons and Supporters:
It is with much great sadness I inform you that Stan Woodburn, an ardent and founding supporter of Fletcher’s Fields and Ontario rugby, passed away peacefully, Tuesday, February 27, 2013.
Stan was born in Aldershot, England in 1921. True to family tradition, Stan joined the British Army in 1936, following in the footsteps of his father. He trained with the Royal Artillery at the regimental barracks in Woolwich and became an ordinance artificer skilled in gun repair. Following the outbreak of WW II, he was sent to India and his regiment, which was attached to an Indian Army Division, because as he said “they did not have the heavy artillery that we did”. He was posted to the tribal area of the Khyber Pass, now part of Pakistan. In early 1942, following the outbreak of WW II with Japan, his regiment was transferred to Burma where he spent the rest of the war with “the forgotten” British 14th Army.
Stan, always unassuming, did not speak much of his time in India, Burma or the battles in which he fought but enjoyed sharing the story of his chance meeting of a few hours with his brother while passing through the Suez Canal on his way back to England after the war. He had not seen his brother, an engine room artificer in the Royal Navy, since being shipped to India. They were literally two ships passing through the night in opposite directions. As Stan said, “what are the chances?” On returning to Britain, Stan decided he had had enough of army life, including four years in the jungles of Burma, and immigrated to Canada arriving in Toronto in 1954. It was not long afterwards that he met an old army buddy, Peter Griffiths, on the streetcar. Peter was playing for the Nomads at the time and so, it was no surprise that Stan soon joined the club.
Shortly after arriving in Toronto Stan met his wife Mary and they married in 1956. Mary had four children whom Stan adopted. In 1964, Stan moved to St. Catharines and his connection with the Nomads waned until he returned to Toronto in 1970.
Stan was elected as president of the Nomads in 1963. He was a good friend of the late Stan Armitage who was a long-time president of the Nomads and Fletcher’s Fields in the 1960s and 1970s. He was also good friends with the late Vic McCormick another Nomad.
Together they were part of the group that was instrumental in the purchase Fletcher’s in 1963 as well as adding the second-floor extension in 1972.
Stan represented the ORU as a Fletcher’s board director for many years, taking over from Vic McCormick in 1975 and was also president of Fletcher’s from 1983-1988. He assumed the unenviable task of volunteer groundsman. a job he continued to do until he was 85. He faithfully and meticulously looked after the grounds and associated duties to ensure the fields were the best they could be. His wise counsel on running the operational side of Fletcher’s was always sought.
It might be said that, other than attending Woodbine Racetrack, his favourite past time was driving the tractor at Fletcher’s. His other passion was to attend international matches at Twickenham, which he continued to do until just a few years ago. As token of thanks for all his loyal service to Fletcher’s, the member clubs sent Stan to the RWC in 1999. As six degrees of separation would have it, my sister and niece, who happened to be in the next seats, started chatting with him. Realizing there was a connection with Toronto, my sister asked if he had been to Fletcher’s Fields. Stan, always understating his commitment, replied, “oh yes, I’ve been there once or twice”.
In 2011, many of us were delighted to help Stan celebrate his 90th birthday at Fletcher’s with many relatives and rugby friends in attendance. Stan enjoyed the day and was also delighted with the photos taking him down memory lane.
Stan was predeceased by his wife Mary and one of his daughters, also named Mary. He is survived by his children Meg, Ian, Mia and Susan, four grandchildren and two great grandchildren, the second of whom was born in November.
Rugby and Fletcher’s Fields have lost a truly great friend. In recognition of Stan’s enormous contribution to rugby and Fletcher’s Fields, his name lives on in the Woodburn Cup, generously donated by Roger Best.
Stan has been cremated and there will be a celebration of Stan’s life for family and friends at Fletcher’s Fields in the spring and we will keep you posted as to the details.
It has been a personal privilege for me to have known Stan for so many years as both a friend and client.