A Toronto police officer is hoping to inspire young people to follow their dreams, after penning a book about one of his own heroes: his father.
Constable Shawn Geris wrote Buried in the Maple Leaves: The Untold Story of North American Wrestling Legend Harry Geris, to show how determination is a key element to success.
“I wanted to do something for my kids, the youngsters at York University and other youths that I coach and the many young people that I encounter while on the job with Toronto Police,” said Geris, who coaches wrestling after being an amateur competitor for many years.
The elder Geris, a three-time Olympian and 10-time national champion, won bronze medals at the Pan Am and Commonwealth Games and the World Cup and was inducted into the Canadian Amateur Wrestling Hall of Fame in 1984.
Seven years ago, Geris succumbed to a heart attack behind a London school, while delivering wrestling mats for an upcoming tournament. He was 60.
“Dad was a very quiet man,” said Geris, who joined the Service in 2002, serving at 31 Division and is now an instructor at the Toronto Police College. “We knew he was an Olympian, but he didn’t tell us much about his career. At his funeral, several of his teammates showed up and it was only then that we learned the full extent of his accomplishments and the rough road he travelled to achieve his goals.”
One of eight siblings, the elder Geris migrated from The Netherlands at age eight and was raised in London, Ontario. After graduating from high school, where he captured the first of his 10 national titles, he received a scholarship to attend Oklahoma State University.
“Sports have offered us countless heroes to look up to,” said Geris. “…The pity is so many unsung heroes slip through the cracks. These are men and women who have stories of triumph and trial, heartache and jubilation and who have conquered obstacles that few would dare to take on. Harry Geris is one of those unsung heroes.”
He said his father’s story will strike a chord with many people facing adversity.
“My father faced a lot of roadblocks and could have easily given up. He didn’t. That’s what I tell young people when I talk to them. Life was never meant to be easy. Once you work hard and push on despite obstacles, you are more than likely to succeed.”