Toronto Olympic Club Mourns the Loss of Beloved Coach and Founder, Paul Poce
September 19, 1924 – May 22, 2023
Toronto Olympic Club is saddened to announce the passing of our founder, Executive Director and Head Coach Paul Poce. As the founder and head coach for close to 70 years, Paul Poce made an indelible impact on the lives of countless individuals. His dedication, leadership, and passion for runners inspired and shaped generations. Through his unwavering passion for the sport, Paul Poce created a lasting impact on the running community, leaving a remarkable imprint on the hearts and minds of all those fortunate enough to have crossed paths with him.
Paul Poce passed away at Trillium Health Partners Credit Valley Hospital on May 22, 2023, in his 99th year. He was the beloved husband of Edith Lorraine (nee Watt) for 43 years but friends for 50 years. He was the son of Francesco and Catherina Poce. A cherished brother of Mary Prior, Annette Wall, brother-in-law of May Poce, Elsie Biegler, Lynda Watt Wellman, and a brother of the late Elmo, Angelo, Ben & Frank. He will be missed by his many nieces and nephews in Canada, and the USA, and his fur baby – Margherita.
As a young teenager, he began working after-school weekends at local stores in little Italy and worked summers on farms in Niagara. After graduating from high school he worked at the Inglis Plant making Bren guns until he entered the war.
In 1943 he began his service as a WAG (wireless, air gunner, navigator) Flying Officer. He flew Convoy Duty in Nova Scotia (11 BR) and then relocated to Tofino in BC in early ‘45. Although he boxed for a couple of years after High School he changed to running in the RCAF. He won many races and competed with the Army and Navy runners in Vancouver before the war ended.
Afterward, he worked for GE on the DEW line, then Charles Tennant, John Gordon, and Sons and Penmans. He also worked under Lloyd Percival & his Sports College. He and 2 others founded the Toronto Olympic Club in 1954. He coached all the distance events and other track disciplines.
In the 70’s he was made National Distance Coordinator. He was the Director of many Races in Toronto i.e. Labatt’s Marathon, Pru at the Zoo, Silver Relays, and the Club helped at every race held locally. The Club supported and helped the Legion meets every year & recently was a member of RCL Branch 82.
He was named to many Olympic Teams from 1972 to 1992. Also Commonwealth, Pan American, World Cup, Cross Country, and Ekiden Relays.
He was elected to several Halls of Fame including Canadian Olympic, Athletics Ontario, and Athletics Canada, served as Meet Director for the Toronto Star Indoor Games, Toronto Sun Indoor Games and Race Director for many area races, and Head Coach of TOC for 69 years and he ran for 65 years. Athletics was his life and he hoped to help everyone attain their goals even just by a few seconds.
He loved jazz music but also classical and loved to read books from an early age having a great interest in History and could remember World events and dates. He knew hundreds of his runners’ phone numbers (before cell phones) and Athletes’ times by memory even coaching these last few weeks by computer. He never wanted to retire.
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made in the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead” – Nelson Mandela
Friends may call at the Turner and Porter Neweduk- Erin Mills Chapel, 1981 Dundas Street West, Mississauga on Thursday, June 1st from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m.
A Service of Remembrance will be held in the Chapel on Friday, June 2nd at 3 p.m. after a visitation from 2-3 p.m.
A larger celebration of Paul’s life will be held later this summer.
Donations in Paul’s memory can be made to the Toronto Star’s Fresh Air Fund or Santa Claus Fund for those who wish. He benefited from both of these funds as a child.