Quebec man leaves sporting legacy, spawned dynasty

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Adrian Leger as a supportive grandfather (left), and in his early basketball years at St. Patrick's High School (right

Adrian Leger's humbleness meant many of his early sporting exploits were not widely known, even among those he loved. While his family always knew him as a great sportsman, few knew about his captaincy of the Université Laval basketball team until his recent death. Now at least some of his grandchildren know where their great jump shots came from.

Adrian R. Leger was born in Quebec City in 1923 to an Acadian father and an Irish mother. As a skinny boy standing at 5'11", his love for basketball was nourished at St. Patrick's High School.

"His junior team beat the senior team," his son Richard explained.

While studying chemical engineering at Université Laval, Leger continued to play basketball and was named the team's captain in 1939. During his college days, Leger also served as the president of the City Basketball League for three years.

With a chemical engineering diploma in hand, Leger flew to Newfoundland, still a British territory at the time, in 1947. Once there he also helped spread the sport of basketball in Grand Falls, while working at the Anglo Newfoundland Development Company.

Leger's sporting skill was not limited to basketball. As a young bachelor he excelled at a host of sports in the community, winning men's singles tennis tournaments, scoring two holes-in-one on the links, as well as serving as a maskless goaltender for the Grand Falls Hawks.

A blind date with his sister Joan's roommate, Sheila Kennedy, quickly turned into a three-year long-distance love affair. Both women were studying as nurses at the Royal Victoria hospital in Montreal at the time. "I thought he was a nice person. He came up for Christmas that year (1950) and we began writing letters to each other," Kennedy explained.

Three Christmases following that blind date, Leger asked his sweetheart to marry him. The two moved to Newfoundland in 1954. All of their seven children were born on the island before the two moved back to Ste. Foy in 1965.

The Leger family's sporting dynasty took hold once in the capital with the help of a father who was always willing to drive his children to and from practices.

Daughters Valerie and Barbara were promising water polo players, winning the Canadian Nationals with their Ste. Foy team in the 1970s. Sons Robert and Richard, meanwhile, excelled at hockey, the former playing semi-professional hockey in Nova Scotia and the latter packed off to Acadia University on a scholarship.

Talent in basketball would only flower in the next generation, however. Barbara's daughters, Melanie and Natalie Larocque have each left their mark at St. Patrick's High School. Both were nominated team MVPs and both were named athlete of the year at the school. Natalie earned the honour twice, in fact. Meanwhile, Valerie's son Olivier Lefebvre plays AAA basketball for Cegep Ste. Foy.

Melanie went on to play basketball for Concordia University and Natalie is currently playing NCAA Division 2 basketball for Northern Michigan University on a full scholarship. She said her grandfather had a great influence on her as an athlete. "He came to as many games as he could. He always took care of his grandkids."

"It proves to show basketball is in our blood," Larocque added.

Mother Barbara agreed: "The talent came down the line. My husband and I never played basketball, but we always played a lot of sports ... my father was a big smiley supportive person, he never had anything bad to say about anyone. For all of his achievements he was a very humble person."