Matt Sayliss was a man of his word and when he set his sights on something, he followed through.
His family lived in a house right across the street from a field of grass and Sayliss saw potential in it.
He gathered three of his neighbours, bought a tennis net, some limestone and marked the layout for two tennis courts. That was the seed that grew into what is now the Leaside Tennis Club.
Since then, the club has expanded and adopted the motto ‘Learn, Play, Compete, Socialize,’ which pays homage to the vision Sayliss had.
“Matt would not give up,” said Kathleen Mackenzie, chair of the Leaside Sports Hall of Fame. “The very first court, he managed to persuade them (the city) to let him put down markings on a pile of dirt. That’s how they started.”
And though his contributions to the community were profound, his induction into the Leaside Sports Hall of Fame came almost five years after the committee was formed in 2014. His daughter, Pat Cole, says it was a struggle to get their bid accepted but it was a win for her family and one she was “over the moon with.”
“The first time it didn’t get accepted, I wasn’t going to pursue it in honour of my father,” Cole said, speaking at the 2018 Leaside Sports Hall of Fame Induction ceremony on Nov. 16. “It was like I could hear him say ‘Patsy, don’t do it’”
But Cole says despite the fact that her dad wouldn’t have wanted to put her through the hassle, his granddaughter, Elizabeth Cole, was adamant that they continue to submit their bid.
Sayliss died in 1952 at the age of 41, when Pat was only 18 and 10 years before Elizabeth was born. Despite never having met her grandfather, Elizabeth felt he was a building block for the Leaside community. She sought the help of former mayor of East York and former federal cabinet minister Alan Redway.
Redway not only wrote a letter supporting their bid, but he also helped them present Sayliss’ legacy in a way that was appropriate and pleasing to the selection committee. Elizabeth says he was “instrumental to overcoming an insurmountable hurdle.” She also says the recognition was not just for her grandfather but for her mother as well.
“Make no mistake, the volunteer hours that my mother has put into this community, in terms of her church, local politics and contributions to Sunnybrook Hospital as a volunteer, has also built on his legacy,” Elizabeth said. “She has no idea how much she outweighs the star that she represented tonight.”
Over 30 relatives came out to show their support, travelling from as far as Quebec. Not one of them met Sayliss, but all of them recognized how important the ceremony was to their family.
Other inductees into the Leaside Hall of Fame this year include:
- Mike McEwen: Former NHL hockey player and three-time Stanley Cup winner
- Jan Carwardine: National Level Curler and member of the Leaside Curling Club
- The Lancerettes and Blazerettes 1974, which later became the Toronto Leaside Girls’ Hockey Association.
- The Meraki Synchro Team: The 2018 National Intermediate Synchro Champions
- George Turrell: The first recipient of the George Turrell Lifetime Commitment Award
(Leaside Sports Gallery)