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Fri, Dec. 06

Howard: Nothing like a visit with old friends to bring back memories and catch up
Column: My Point

Spending five days back in the area (Newark, Ohio) you grew up and seeing old friends jogs the mind, memory and fun days of past.

My dad is reaching his final days, which is a time no one wants to think about until there’s no other choice, but we all would like to reach the age of 94 without too many ailments.

Around the time with my father I got to visit with a person and two of her four children, now adults — that helped get me a good start with my career in tennis, Mary Verdon.

Mary was one of the better tennis players in the Granville, Ohio area. She grew up in Michigan, more specifically Kalamazoo — where tennis is almost more than a sport. At that time a young man by the name of Vic Braden was her tennis coach and mentor that Mary told me she had a major crush on.

To make a long story short, Mary, who was now married and with four children under her belt was also President of the Granville Tennis Club, helped hire me as the assistant pro and a year later head pro at the club.

The beginning of a life-long friendship.

Her kids, Michael, Dan, Julie and David all played tennis; and Mike and Dan worked for the clay court club helping to maintain the courts under my direction; and Julie (who for whatever reason I affectionately called “Moogie”) hung out gave us all grief.

Our office and store house interestingly for the court equipment, a train caboose.

I told Mary at that time my dreams of being getting to a larger arena in the world of tennis and she had a couple really good contacts — the general manager at the 5-star Arizona Biltmore Resort in Phoenix and with Vic Braden, who just opened a new “Tennis College” in Orange County, California.

Her letters opened the doors to a new world of possibilities for this young tennis enthusiast from central Ohio and ended up becoming the spring-board to a dream come true.

Her three son’s all are in the field of journalism, and Julie in the world of art. Michael has been published in TENNIS Magazine more than a few times so Mary’s influence on him and the love of the game evidently ran fairly deep.

Our couple hours at her house was delightful.

We talked about matches played, what’s gone on in our lives over the past 40 plus years, people we all knew, and experiences that took place in each other’s lives that filled a lot of gaps we didn’t know of one-another.

Those two hours were like two minutes to me, it went by much too fast — maybe like life itself.

Mary is unable to play tennis now due to failing eyesight. Her health is great otherwise she would be doing what she has loved for so long — cracking that tennis ball back and forth.

I hated to leave, and we promised to not wait another 40 years to see each other again.

As for my father, he’s hanging in there for now — but once again time is a very precious commodity we all need to cherish.

Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or

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