The football community is mourning a pioneer of the grid iron on the South Shore.
Gary Linthorne, a founding father of the South Shore Seahawks football program, died May 15 following a brief illness. He was 74.
News of his death was published on social media by the Seahawks Minor Football Club, which posted a tribute to the coach and mentor who had left a lasting legacy through his passion for the game.
"We can not thank you enough for all that you have done. We can't adequately express the sadness that we feel," reads the online message, in part, dated May 16. "Seahawks all over the world have a debt of gratitude that we can never repay.
Through Linthorne's efforts, the Seahawks program established its inaugural season in Bridgewater in 2012. The town paid for the goalposts at the Kinsmen Athletic Field, while the Kinsmen service club paid for the padding of the posts. A major corporate sponsor came on board and the province kicked in a a grant.
Nearly 100 people showed up to watch a practice. The first season began with a team of nine- and 10-year-olds and another of 11- and 12-year-olds. In subsequent years, the program expanded to include high school age players.
"We want to create the type of atmosphere where it's 'Friday Night Lights,'" he told LighthouseNOW in 2012, referring to the popular television show and novel. "The response we've been getting from the people is, 'Finally there's football on the South Shore.'"
Ontario-born Linthorne, who resided in West LaHave, spent a lifetime in football, including many years as a coach, official and administrator. He played for Acadia University in Wolfville. He's also credited for starting associations in the Tri County area, as well as in various Ontario locales.
Sport Nova Scotia bestowed Linthorne with Football Nova Scotia Volunteer of the Year honours in 2013.
"Football is alive and well in Bridgewater thanks to Gary, who has raised money, developed the program and coaches and set up a strong network of volunteers," Sport Nova Scotia said at the time.
Local football was showcased on a national stage in 2013 when the Seahawks submitted a successful nomination to The Sports Network's (TSN) Kraft-sponsored community celebration tour.
Linthorne was president of Football Nova Scotia at the time of his passing. The provincial organization lauded his determination, commitment, and for being a driving force in the sport's development.
"Gary was instrumental in provincial board reform, policy development and a strong promoter of six-a-side football and women's football both provincially and around the Atlantic Region," the provincial organization said in a message posted on social media. "In 2017, Gary was involved in the launch of the U16 Atlantic Bowl, a six-a-side tournament between the four Atlantic provinces."
A published obituary indicated "he recently learned that Football Canada had created a prestigious Diamond Award for those who had given over 60 years to the sport and that he was to be the first recipient."
Linthorne is survived by his wife and two sons. A celebration of life will be held at a later date; donations in his memory can be made to the Seahawks Minor Football Club or to the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore.
Speaking in the early days of Seahawks football, Linthorne talked about the importance of players taking to the field and having fun.
"Winning is not the ultimate end," he emphasized to LighthouseNOW in 2012. "It's teaching the game and the appreciation of the game."