Alphonse and Phoebe Marchand loved to have family and friends visit their Tilbury-area farm, and a big draw was their shuffleboard courts.
The couple, who were snowbirds, gained a passion for the game while wintering in Florida.
In 1966, they built the first of four shuffleboard courts that would be located at their home, which led to the creation of a local shuffleboard club.
The memory of the couple and their contribution to the game was formally recognized Thursday at the Thames Horizon Shuffleboard Club on Longwoods Road, just outside of Chatham. The Marchands were recognized being hosts for the first Canadian Open shuffleboard tournament in 1980 on their farm.
Glen Peltier, who was president when the club started on the Marchand farm, said his friend Alfie “just loved (shuffleboard) before we hardly new about it.”
He said it wasn’t unusual for a Canadian snowbird to build a shuffleboard court at home, but the Marchands built four so they could hold tournaments.
Players from Windsor, Sarnia and London came to play, both pros and amateurs, said Peltier.
A large number of Marchand family members attended Thursday’s ceremony, where the couple were recognized by the Canadian National Shuffleboard Association. A plaque, recognizing the Marchands’ contribution to the sport, will be hung in the Tilbury public library.
John Carson, a grandson of the Marchands, said the original shuffleboard court provided a fun gathering spot for family.
“There were six brothers and sisters and all kinds of grandkids, it was a great place to go,” he said.
Carson said his grandfather was “passionate about sports, in general, so if you knew him and how he was passionate about baseball and hockey, there would be no question he’d pick up a passion for a sport like shuffleboard and bring it home.”
When asked how happy his grandparents were to host the first Canadian Open, Carson said: “That was a pretty impressive day for them; that was the ultimate credit for all of their efforts.”
He doesn’t think his grandparents ever expected to host such an event.
“They just wanted something for their friends and family,” he said.
“They would be very proud and rightly so. It was very well deserved.”
Peltier said shuffleboard continues to grow in the area, noting a 16-court club has opened in Blenheim.
“It’s grown to a point where we have to have more courts,” he said.