Growing up in Fort William Orval Penner developed outstanding athletic skills which saw him compete successfully for over six decades, in no less than ten different sports including hockey, basketball, softball, track and field, handball, golf, wrestling, football, swimming and diving.
It did not take long for Orval's name to be appearing in the headlines of the local paper, but it was by the name that he would come to be known by his legion of fans - Bo-Bo. His remarkable athletic career began as a hockey netminder for three championship minor league teams. Attending Fort William Vocational and Fort William Collegiate during the 1940s, Bo-Bo was truly a stand-out. On the basketball court, he contributed to victories for his high school teams as well as in the city league. In track and field, he was a top pole vaulter establishing a local high school record.
On the football field he contributed to high school titles at both the junior and senior level. A brilliant backfield star it was not uncommon for him to average 20 points a game. Newspaper accounts at that time noted that "he was as fleet-footed as a deer and strong as an Ox and his elusive broken-field running made him a hard target to hit." Bo-Bo captained the FWCI senior squad to the district title and was awarded that school’s senior athletic award.
Moving on to Queen's University, Bo-Bo lettered in wrestling and competed on the basketball court. With the varsity football team for three years, his talents were noticed by Carl Voyles, coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats who signed him with the CFL club in February of 1951. Unfortunately, an injury suffered while defending his university handball title in 1951 resulted in the loss of sight in his eye which dashed all hopes of his CFL career.
Returning to Thunder Bay, Bo-Bo continued his involvement in sports, enjoying a successful career as a high school physical education teacher and coach at Fort William Vocational School and Port Arthur Collegiate and with the Marlins Swim Club - passing on his talents to thousands of young athletes and continuing the legacy of excellence that began years before.
Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 27, 1997