Wed. Aug 17th, 2022

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While all the flashy stuff was happening on the football field, Sterling Bean was always taking care of business behind the scenes.

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Bean spent 41 years as a passionate jack-of-all trades for the powerhouse Ottawa Sooners junior football factory – including a stint as president of the franchise – while also serving as equipment manager for the Ottawa Rough Riders for the better part of two decades.

“Sometimes, people only see the shiny helmet,” said former Sooners and CFL lineman John Foubert, in paying tribute to Bean, who passed away last week at the age of 83.

“There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes. We had a very successful team and as you get older, you realize how much work goes into it. ”

After Foubert’s CFL career ended with the Toronto Argonauts and Montreal Concordes, Foubert served on the Sooners Board of Directors and he jokes about his “simple job” of making hotdogs and hamburgers to help raise some money.

Bean, meanwhile, was doing everything and anything to keep the team afloat, including putting in countless unpaid hours finding ways to cut costs.

Eventually stepping up into the role of team president, Bean was effectively the savior of the team. He used his wide array of contacts, negotiating with equipment suppliers to cut into massive team debts and moved the team into the Quebec junior football circuit to further reduce expenses.

All the while, he was motivated by the passion of the game and the camaraderie of a well-run team.

“He loved the kids,” said his wife, Lana Lackey. “He kept some kids from going off on the wrong track. He stayed involved with Sooners even when he was with the Riders (until 1987). ”

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Bean was born in Shawville, Que., And worked on the family farm.

“He had eight brothers,” said Lackey. “There was no time for organized competitive sports, but they competed against each other. He moved to Ottawa in 1959 and that’s where his love for football started.

“But he was not the kind of guy who wanted recognition. That was from his upbringing. He was a farm boy. He did not expect any kudos. ”

During the day, Bean worked for the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Municipality in the water works department, but he lived for football.

As equipment manager for both the Sooners and Rough Riders, he was on top of it all.

“We never went into a game unprepared, he never forgot anything,” said Foubert. “Everything went so well. We were very well managed. I was lucky to be with the Sooners at that point, just as he was transitioning to the Rough Riders. ”

At times, Bean even did double duty, making sure the Sooners weren’t left shorthanded in any way.

“He always had your back, especially if you played for the Sooners,” said former kicker JT Hay, who played for the Sooners and Rough Riders before moving on to the Calgary Stampeders in 1979.

“He just did so much behind the scenes to help. Even when we had our 40 year reunion (or winning the Little Gray Cup) in 2014, he was instrumental in organizing it all. ”

Hay says Bean was well respected for running the equipment operations in a professional manner. He knew the value of a dollar, extending the life of equipment whenever necessary.

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“Sometimes, he put on the tough act, but he was teddy bear inside,” said Hay. “He had a big heart for the players.”

Bean’s impact on legions of players is evident in the memories that have been expressed on Sooners and CFL Alumni boards since his passing.

Former Riders kicker Gerry Organ jokes about his gruff ride he received at his first training camp as a rookie in 1971, an undrafted player from the University of Guelph.

Over time, though, as Organ became a fixture on the Rough Riders squads and helped win Gray Cup Games in 1973 and 1976, a mutual respect developed.

“I got to know Sterling really well, seeing him every day,” said Organ.

“He was very serious about his task, in charge of everything from the locker room to the fitness room to the supply room. It all functioned so well. And it was absolutely necessary to the success of a team. ”

In general, Organ says the work of people like Bean in setting up pre-game practice and game day rituals, in all sports, is so underrated.

“Sterling’s room was so organized,” he said. “You would come into the game before a game and everything was in place. It gets you going. It was part of the psychological preparation for years. Everything was so pristine.

“It’s a whole procedure that’s unseen (to the fans). It’s not appreciated by those who do not know, but it’s critical. ”

Bean spent his final years in Almonte and is survived by his wife, daughters Suzanne and Connie, as well as grandsons Zachary and Kade.

A service for Bean will be held at St. Thomas Anglican Church in Stittsville on Friday at 11 am

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