The Brock University community is mourning the loss of retired longtime swim coach and aquatics manager Herb de Bray, who passed away on Saturday, Sept. 16 at the age of 77.
For almost three decades, de Bray played a pivotal role in growing the institution’s aquatics programs and facilities, exemplifying coaching excellence, tireless dedication to the sport and unwavering commitment to the community.
de Bray joined Brock in 1980 and under his guidance the University’s $3.1-million swimming complex became a reality, providing opportunities for Brock students and the broader Niagara community to participate in aquatic activities.
His son, Benjamin de Bray (BA ’00, BA ’01, BEd ’05), was one of his athletes and an assistant coach at Brock. He said he was fortunate enough to witness the impact his father had on so many swimmers and teammates every day on campus.
“The Brock community and the Badgers gave my dad and our entire family a sense of belonging that still resonates with us today,” he said. “We are deeply grieved by the passing of such an incredible father, coach and colleague; however, we feel some solace from the outpouring of support from the extended Brock community that Herb was so proud to be a part of for so many years.”
de Bray received the prestigious Petro-Canada Award for Coaching Excellence, awarded by the Coaching Association of Canada, a testament to his guidance of athletes to the World Record level.
A tireless advocate for the growth and development of swimming in Canada, de Bray served as the Vice-President of the Canadian Amateur Swimming Association, where he spearheaded initiatives aimed at attracting more individuals to the sport.
His extraordinary contributions to the world of swimming were recognized when he was inducted into the Swim Ontario Hall of Fame as a builder in 2015. Beyond coaching, de Bray also served as the Director of Sport for the Ontario Games for the Physically Disabled, highlighting his commitment to inclusivity and community engagement.
“Herb laid the foundation and served as the inaugural coach of Badgers swimming. To Herb, coaching transcended mere performance; it was a profound journey of personal growth,” said Peter Bradstreet, who succeeded de Bray as coach of the Brock swimming program. “Countless athletes who were fortunate to be under his guidance emerged as better individuals. While Herb’s passing leaves a void that many of them mourn, his legacy lives on through the enduring spirit of Badger swimming.”
A Celebration of Life is taking place on Sunday, Sept. 24 at noon at George Darte Funeral Home in St. Catharines.