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Noel Marguerite Robertson

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Noel Marguerite Robertson (nee MacDonald). January 23, 1914 – May
13, 2008. It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our mother and grandmother Noel Robertson at the age of 93. She passed away quietly under the excellent care of the staff at Capital Care Lynwood in Edmonton, Alberta, after a lengthy and courageous fight with Alzheimer's. Our family would like to thank all the staff at Capital Care Lynnwood for their compassionate support and unfailing care of Noel over the past several years. There are simply not enough words to thank the caregivers for their heartfelt work. Born Noel MacDonald in Mortlach, Saskatchewan, she is survived by her son Donald in Arizona, her daughter Dale Larsen in Edmonton, her grandsons Jordon Robertson in Toronto and Damion Larsen in Calgary, and her granddaughter Kalia Larsen in Calgary. During her early childhood, Noel excelled in schoolwork and once won the Governor's Gold Medal for scholastic achievement. In high school she began to excel in sports and quickly focused on basketball, a sport that was to take her and her team, the Edmonton Grads, to world dominance and international fame. Noel joined the Grads in 1933, became Captain in 1936, and remained with the team until 1939, the year before it was disbanded because of the war. She played in 135 games scoring a total of 1874 points and was voted Canada's most outstanding woman athlete in 1938. In its history, the Grads played 522 games, losing a mere 20 times (only twice to men's teams) to achieve a record of 96.2% in wins. The Grads never lost a demonstration game in Olympic competition (winning 27 out of 27), highlighted by their win, with Noel as captain, against Hitler's cherished team in the 1936 Berlin Olympics (basketball was not yet accepted as an Olympic sport). In all, the Grads won the title of World Champions 17 times, and held the prestigious Underwood Trophy (something like the World Cup today) for 17 years until they disbanded in 1940. As captain of the Grads, Noel never lost a Canadian series. She continued its singular record of wins, and once held the famous American star, Alberta Williams, to a mere 4 points while scoring 20 herself in a hotly contested Underwood Trophy international match. In 1971 Noel was elected to the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame, and in 1974 she was one of the first three elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame, along with Dr. Naismith (the inventor of basketball), and J. Percy Page (Lieutenant Governor of Alberta and coach of the Grads). In later years, she coached teams in Western Canada while moving with her husband, Harry, to various oil development areas with Imperial Oil. In 1960, she and Harry moved to Libya with Exxon, where she again coached local teams and became a favorite with the local Arab population. At one point she was even invited to a Bedouin Camp and asked to dine with the men, an event that had never occurred in the memory of Libyan Bedouin tribes to that date. She and Harry later moved to Alaska, where Harry assisted in the completion of the Alyeska Pipeline. They then retired to British Columbia and finally to Arizona. Harry predeceased her in 1990, and she continued to live in Sun City West, Arizona, before entering McConnell Place and Capital Care Lynnwood in 2000. Her family will hold a private service and she will then be interred beside her husband, Harry, in the memorial area of Desert Garden United Church, which they helped found in Sun City West, Arizona. In lieu of flowers, those who wish can make a memorial donation directly to the "Go Community Centre" (the Grads' team showcase) in Edmonton or to a charity of personal choice.
Published in The Arizona Republic on May 18, 2008
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