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Ella Willson’s consistency in regional tennis remains unmatched to this day. She arrived in Fort William in 1920, leaving her native England with new husband Walter Thomas Willson, who had been a soldier in the First World War. Soon after her immigration, she began to compete in local and later regional tennis championships, where her dominance on the courts would continue for over 40 years.

Willson’s first title came in 1926, when she won in ladies’ singles at the Fort William Tennis Club Championships. She won again in 1929, and in 1931 she went on to take regional honours at the New Ontario Tennis Championships. Over the course of her career, Willson would take 50 titles in these two tournaments. On 5 occasions, she won every event for which she was eligible; the last time she accomplished this feat was in 1964, when she was 65 years old. She won her last title in 1970, pairing with Sandra Catarello to upset the defending champions at the age of 71.

Willson also passed on her athletic qualities to her son Dick, with whom she often competed later in her career. The mother-son team won the mixed doubles event at the New Ontario Tennis Championships 7 times between 1950 and 1958. Dick also won many men’s singles and doubles titles from these years forward, continuing the Willson tennis legacy to the next generation.

Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 27, 1986

Ella Willson

Fort William
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