Mary Collinson knew there were going to be tears of joy and sadness. She never expected the kind of response she received from family and friends.
After spending 35 years in Greater Sudbury, with 32 as a teacher and coach, Collinson said her goodbyes to the place she has called home for more than half her life.
Collinson moved to Cambridge to start a new chapter in her life and to be closer to her 81-year-old mother, Maggie, and other family. On July 10, Collinson hit the community with the news officially with an announcement on Facebook.
In no time at all, people began commenting and giving out likes. Within a week, more than 100 people liked the status and there were more than 75 comments, with people pouring out emotional goodbyes, well wishes and fond memories.
It was overwhelming for Collinson. She read them and cried uncontrollably. It hurt to make the decision to leave the Nickel City. The kind words filled her heart with happiness and helped ease the pain.
“It is the biggest compliment I have ever received as a person. Ever,” Collinson said about the outpouring of comments. “In your job, you hope you touch people in a positive way. I believe I’ve done this. It was the best goodbye gift I could ever have. It is reinforcement that the last 35 years, I’ve done a good job.”
It is hard to measure the true impact Collinson had on Sudbury, but it is undeniable. She began teaching at Sudbury Secondary School in 1979 when she was 21. She taught at Lasalle Secondary School from 1989 to her retirement three years ago.
Collinson was known for being one of the best basketball coaches in town. Plain and simple. Her teams piled up medals, championship banners and top finishes at the city, regional and provincial levels.
But it wasn’t only athletes Collinson impacted in profound ways. Students from all walks of life were inspired by her in one way or another.
Collinson just had a way with people.
“Mary was, and still is, a great coach and mentor of mine,” former player and student Trish Taylor said. “She can still be seen in the stands at Cambrian or Laurentian, cheering on Lasalle alumni. Not many coaches can build that kind of relationship with their athletes, but Mary has perfected it.
“She has always been there to guide you in the right direction, or kick you in the butt when you needed it.”
Collinson figures she has taught and coached more than 6,000 young people during her time in Sudbury.
“The beauty for me is when I see kids who blossomed into caring, passionate and confident people,” she said. “I wanted the best for everyone and to have them reach their potential. I taught and coached them that hard work will take them places.”
Collinson’s students and athletes were listening.
“I can guarantee each athlete who was coached by Mary is a better person to this day because of it — myself included,” former student and athlete Katie Andrighetti said. “She is a great person, with a huge heart, and always wanted nothing more than for her kids, students, and athletes to succeed.”
Collinson’s peers were also taking notes and pointers on how to be leaders for young people.
“Mary's passion for sports always came through and her drive to do your best was present as well,” Lasalle Secondary coach and teacher Denis Gauthier said. “Her athletes caught that drive and passion from Mary in practice and in games”
Although she is retired from teaching and moving away, Collinson plans on staying involved in coaching youth. She will also make trips back to Sudbury.
“I have a lot of places I can stay in Sudbury,” she said with a laugh. “A piece of me will always be here.”