John dedicated over 35 years of his life to the enhancement and promotion of athletics in northwestern Ontario, with much of that time being spent providing sporting opportunities for the youth of his community.
Shortly after his arrival in Fort William in the late 1940s, John built an outdoor rink at his company's location on Syndicate Avenue for local children to utilize for winter activities.
An avid curler, John not only participated successfully in the game for close to 30 years, but contributed greatly to the sport's development as a coach an organizer as well. A strong supporter of young people's curling, he served as a coach for Schoolboy's Curling. In 1971 his hard work and coaching expertise led Fort William Collegiate's Doug Smith Rink to the Northwestern Ontario and Northern Ontario Schoolboy Championship titles. The Smith Rink, consisting of Smith, Tom Wiegand, Warren Buttars and Rick Lang went on to place 2nd at the Canadian Schoolboy's Championships held in Kamloops, British Columbia later that year. Two of John's protégés, Rick Lang and Bob Nicol, went on to become world championship curlers.
It was also in 1971 that John helped pioneer the Grand Prix of Curling at the Port Arthur Curling Club, an event he was involved with until his passing in 1983, and which is still carried on today.
In 1981, John's volunteer efforts and financial support through the Airlane Motor Hotel helped raise $10,000 for the Jeux Canada Games held in Thunder Bay.
For his outstanding contribution to sports in northwestern Ontario John was named Man of the Year at the Grand Prix of Curling in 1982 and received the Posthumous Citizen's Award from the City of Thunder Bay in 1983. Since 1983 the John French Memorial Award has been presented annually at the Heart to Heart Bonspiel and in 1984 the Northwestern Ontario Curling Association Mixed Curling Trophy was presented in memory of this outstanding builder of sports.
Inducted into the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame, September 17, 1988