Two more sporting legends now grace the walls of the A.J. LaRue Arena in Haliburton.
On June 18, Taly Williams, Lesley Tashlin and their families attended a community unveiling of murals depicting the siblings’ sporting accomplishments.
Students who first proposed the brother and sister join the wall of local sports stars ran through bands of paper reading “Her Track: Finish Line” alongside Tashlin and “His Field: Goal Line” with Williams before covers masking the murals fluttered to the ground. A crowd of more than 50 people looked on.
A group of grade 7/8 J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School students were the driving force behind the Lesley Tashlin and Taly Williams murals. Helped by teacher Marina Thomazo, they wrote a letter to mayor Andrea Roberts in the spring of 2021, outlining why Williams and Tashlin deserved a spot on the wall alongside the town’s other sporting heroes.
“We wanted this town to celebrate their impressive accomplishments with us and we made it our mission,” class member Ella Gervais told the crowd. “Today, our dream comes true. But we did not do it alone. Our community and beyond carried us there.”
Williams spoke to the crowd, saying he has always been proud to be from Haliburton but he wasn’t sure if the town was proud of him.
“I felt unaccepted in many places. I felt stared at a lot. I felt that people were nervous when I came into a store. I felt watched. At school, there was good and there was bad. We were one of only a couple Black families in town,” he said. Williams thanked families in the community such as the Littles, Rydmans, Madills, and Whittakers who he said made him feel welcome.
He went on to describe how the kids’ efforts taught him his accomplishments and history in the area mattered to them, and might inspire other kids from poorer backgrounds or racial minorities in the area to pursue sports or similar careers.
“They need and deserve to see others like us, women and minorities who achieved these things, being celebrated by their community,” he said.
Both Williams and Tashlin said the mural project represents a new and equal approach to recognizing local talent in the world of sports.
Tashlin said she was surprised by the students’ enthusiasm for the project. “The response is overwhelming,” she said.
The siblings’ former coach, Paul Morisette, explained to the crowd how the pair’s work ethic and attitude, as well as their academic dedication, set them apart.
The murals are vibrant depictions of Tashlin and Williams’ range of achievements, with Williams shown in CFL football garb and sporting his Talynt hat, a tribute to his renowned golf swing assist invention used by multiple PGA professionals. Artist Annie Hamel also depicted Tashlin’s feats in relay and hurdle in front of an aerial view of the HHSS track where she broke records and garnered early acclaim. Hamel, from Montreal, was hired to complete the project thanks to $35,000 worth of community donations raised since July 2021.
“To have something come as an idea to actually being completed in less than a year and a half… it was really thrilling to see that happen today,” said Roberts.
Jim Blake, chair of Dysart’s cultural resources committee, said the day was “surreal.” He applauded the students’ efforts and the work of the subsequent subcommittees which brought the mural project into being.
“In terms of causing social change or anything in your community, you’ve got to do the work, you have to do the research,” he said.
Gervais said the murals will serve as inspiration to future Highlanders. “It demonstrates that greatness starts here in Haliburton,” she said. “Now let the combination of grace, strength, and brilliance mesmerize the passerby and inspire many young people to trust their own talent.”