Fred (Whitey) Severson was known as one of the finest players to grace a lacrosse floor. The Victoria Shamrocks legend died Monday at 91.
Severson played for the Shamrocks from 1951 to 1963 and was three-time Western Lacrosse Association scoring champion, finishing with 1,107 career points. He was the first player to reach the 500-game and 1,000-point plateaus in Senior A lacrosse history.
Only three Shamrocks jerseys are retired and hang from the rafters of The Q Centre. As a sign that many consider him the greatest Shamrock, Severson’s No. 8 was the first retired in 2016 by the club, followed by Ranjit Dillon’s No. 5 and Kevin Alexander’s No. 26.
Along with the late Archie Browning, Severson was half of the Shamrocks’ Gold Dust Twins, with the play-maker Severson dishing astonishing no-look passes that sniper Browning converted to goals. They were so dubbed because they had blond hair and would weave and deke to create magic on the lacrosse floor in the pre-helmet era.
Severson recalled the helmet-less days of lacrosse in a 1988 interview: “Now you need a program. That old familiarity between the man and the people is gone.”
The Shamrocks in summer, and Lester Patrick’s pro Western Hockey League Victoria Cougars in winter, used to pack the old Memorial Arena on Blanshard Street in the 1950s in the era before the mass broadcasting of sports events on TV.
“There were few bars, few pubs, not much theatre, simply not much else to do,” Severson said, of the era when fans used to sleep overnight in front of the Memorial Arena box office to snap up tickets to big games.
Severson won two Mann Cup national Senior A championships with the Shamrocks in 1955 and as player-coach in 1957. Including time with Lower Mainland and Ontario teams, Severson played in six Mann Cup national finals and won three. Severson also refereed in the WLA following his playing career. He is a rarity to have played, coached and refereed in the Mann Cup.
Severson is enshrined in both the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame and Victoria Sports Hall of Fame.
Severson was also highly active off the lacrosse floor. He was elected as a councillor in both Victoria and Saanich. His career with the Victoria Fire Department ran from 1953 to 1985 when he retired as deputy chief. Severson was also head of the union during his firefighting career. In business, as an original co-owner of the Monkey Tree in Saanich, Severson helped trail-blaze the notion in B.C. of cozy neighbourhood pubs as opposed to the expansive and terry-clothed old beer parlours that dominated the provincial drinking scene back then.
Severson was also an instrumental member of the bid committee that landed Victoria the 1994 Commonwealth Games.
“Sometimes, I look back and am overwhelmed by all my dad did,” said daughter Cherlynn McArthur.
“He was a real character and a lot of fun. He lived life to its fullest.”
Both on and off the lacrosse floor.
A celebration of life is planned for April.
Severson was predeceased by his wife Betty-May Severson and is survived by daughter Cherlynn, son-in-law Rob McArthur and grandchildren Erik and Hayley McArthur.