Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada
You can’t see ticket taker Dianne Purrier’s smile from under her mask, but you can hear it in her warm greeting.
A tournament volunteer for over 20 years, she’s been able to meet and interact with patrons young and old, from near and far, all brought together at the event through the love of tennis. On a recent shift, Purrier remembers an elderly woman she met who was struggling to pull up her ticket. With patience and good humour, the veteran volunteer helped to get her sorted out. Later that day Purrier saw the woman again, who immediately recognized her and went out of her way to say hello. Purrier believes that even a small act of care for a fellow human can make a big impact on their experience.
“It’s a nice thing to know that obviously you made their day for them to remember you,” said Purrier. “When you make their day, it will make yours.”
It’s a philosophy Purrier lives by. When speaking about her favourite moments from the tournament over the past two decades, her memory is flooded with the special moments she’s had with the fans, staff, players and fellow volunteers over the years. Purrier still recalls when the event was played at the old National Tennis Centre, a stone’s throw from the current Aviva Centre. She’s been able to see all the wonderful transitions over the years but still has fond memories of the days when things were a little less evolved.
At that time, because of the layout of the old stadium, when players entered and exited the court, volunteers had to hold ropes for them to walk between in order to hold back the spectators, Purrier recalls. While she loves the Aviva Centre which opened in 2004 and was built to replace the National Tennis Centre, she’s happy to still have those memories.
“A lot of us from that era had so much fun holding those ropes because of the closeness to the players,” said Purrier. “It’s not quite the same now because of the way the new stadium is structured but we’re going in the right direction.”
Purrier also recalls the day she met Kirk Wilson, one of the event’s most beloved security staff, who died tragically while on vacation in 2017. He had been part of the tournament security team for close to 20 years. She had always seen him with the players and asked him one day about his experiences. Wilson shared about a time he took Rafael Nadal to the airport, and Purrier casually remarked he was her favourite player. That day Purrier was given a gift that continues to be one of her most treasured possessions.
“(Wilson) said, ‘When Nadal got out of the car, he autographed one of his sleeveless shirts to me, would you like it?’” recalled Purrier. “I said, ‘I’d love it.’ And you know he brought it to me. So not only do I remember Kirk fondly but it’s something I also have of Nadal.”
Purrier has worked in various roles throughout her years at the tournament but every one of those positions had her right where she loves to be, close to the people. She started with the stadium court control committee, two years later she became part of the hostess committee looking after the VIPs at the very bottom of the old stadium. In 2004 when the new stadium opened, she moved up to the suite level. In 2019 she transitioned into promoting the Tennis Matters program which she loves.
Through Tennis Matters, when patrons buy tickets for the Tennis Canada 50/50 Raffle presented by National Bank, they are directly supporting community tennis programs such as Girls.Set.Match. – Women and Girls Initiative, Kids Community Programs, Community Facility Improvements, Wheelchair Tennis, Seniors Tennis, and more. Though the program moved online this year due to COVID-19 protocol, Purrier hopes to be a part of it again in the future.
Now retired, Purrier worked for 30 years with Ontario Power Generation and several years in administration with the Peel District School Board. She stays active playing tennis at the White Oaks Tennis Club in Mississauga and hopes to be able to travel again soon.
She is married and has one daughter, theatre actress Alana Retina Randall who lives and works in New York City. Among her many accolades, she’s been a cast member in Motown the musical, Dirty Dancing, the Wizard of Oz and the Pussycat Doll Tribute.
Purrier still remembers when as a youngster, her daughter performed with a dance group at one of the opening ceremonies to the tournament at the old stadium.
Purrier has been on site working the ticketing gate all nine days and wouldn’t have it any other way. After countless hours over the years, she says what she gets in return in friendship and enjoyment is more than what she’s given. As the tournament comes to an end, she looks forward to future events where she hopes to continue to make wonderful memories for herself and for others.
“I think most volunteers would say that it’s a wonderful opportunity where you can give to the sport, meet new people and stay friends with them even outside the week of tennis,” said Purrier. “There are a lot of positives to that. I think the more you give the more you are getting back.”