Benvon Parfrey quietly had a big impact on rugby community locally and nationally

John Browne
Published on January 5, 2015
In this Sept. 28, 2014 file photo, Dr. Benvon (Cramer) Parfrey accepts the Rugby Canada’s Chairman’s Award from CEO Graham Brown (far left), Newfoundland and Canadian rugby great Rod Snow (second from right), and former national team captain Al Charron (far right). Parfrey, who was Eastern Health's chief of radiology and a well-known rugby volunteer, died Friday. She was 64.
— Submitted photo

Dr. Benvon (Cramer) Parfrey of St. John’s, who received the prestigious Chairman’s Award from Rugby Canada three months ago, passed away Friday of breast cancer. She was 64.

The Chairman’s Award is given to a volunteer recipient who, as a result of many years of contribution to the growth of the game, has made a significant difference to the ideals and objectives of Rugby Canada in grass-roots player support. This award is unique as it is not necessarily given annually, and is only given to the highest quality of support and contribution.

Newfoundland Rugby Union (NRU) president John Cowan said Sunday night, “As long as I have been part of rugby, there is no way to truly measure Benvon’s contribution to the sport and to the community in general.”

Cowan said Parfrey was a tireless volunteer and advocate of the sport, and that the level of admiration and respect for her is unparalleled.

“She was a presence always at the field and a truly remarkable woman,” he said.

Cowan said rugby is a very tight community and the sport has been blessed with “wonderful people.”

He said with the passing of Mrs. Parfrey, “We have lost one of those wonderful people. Not only in Newfoundland and Labrador, but across Canada she is well known and well loved and will be missed beyond any words,” Cowan added.

Newfoundland’s greatest rugby player, Rod Snow, said he’s known Mrs. Parfrey since he picked up the game in 1986.

“I have so much respect for her,” said Snow. “We have a lot of big, boisterous personalities in rugby who also have influence on the game. But she managed to have influence without that sort of personality. She had the big, bright mind. She was very supportive of everything we did, but she didn’t make the same noise as some of the other characters in the game,” Snow pointed out.

“Benvon was considered a part of our team that won the first Rugby Canada Super League (RCSL) championship in Regina in 2005,” noted Snow.

“She was the only female allowed in our dressing room when we celebrated that championship.

“That’s the sort of respect we had for her.”

Gareth Rees, Canada’s 1999 Rugby World Cup captain and current Canada men’s program director said, “Benvon Parfrey was a great support to many, many young rugby players as they chased their Canadian dreams.

“I have very fond memories of my time being hosted at her home in Newfoundland and at the 1999 rugby World Cup. She was a credit to the rugby community and I know she remained very proud of her family and their achievements in the game.”

Former national team captain Al Charron said Mrs. Parfrey was rugby “through and through and the sport does not develop and progress in St. Johns without the likes of her.”

“Over the past few decades, rugby has grown incredibly in Newfoundland and Benvon Parfrey has been a major contributor to its growth.”

He noted the huge role she played in the organizing and successful fundraising that has become a staple of rugby in Newfoundland, by saying “her fingerprints are all over that.”

She was considered matriarch of the first family of Canadian rugby that saw her husband Pat, an Order of Canada recipient, serve as Rugby Canada’s national team coach and union president as well as Newfoundland’s director of coaching. Sons Kevin and Patrick have been capped for Canada. They, along with brothers Brendan and Owen, play or have played for The Rock.

Visitation from Caul’s Funeral Home, LeMarchant Road today from 2 p.m.–5 p.m., and 6 p.m.–9 p.m. A private funeral service will be held from Caul’s Chapel on Tuesday morning. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Newfoundland and Labrador Sports Centre for Benvon’s Room and the Active Start Program.

Donations can be made by cheque payable to NLSC Fundraising-Benvon's Room, and mailed to the following address:

NL Sports Centre

C/O Sport NL

1296A Kenmount Road

P.O. Box 8700

St. John's, NL

A1B 4J6

For more information on donating to Benvon's Room at the the NL Sports Centre, contact Rod Snow, at or by telephone at 709-729-6580.


This is a corrected version.