An end of an era came to the East Chop Tennis Club at the annual August meeting on August 9. After 16 years as club manager, Ned Fennessy is retiring at the end of this season. A retirement party followed the annual meeting.
Tennis has played a central role in Ned’s life from an early age. In an interview with him last week, I learned he came from an impressive tennis family. His father played in the national doubles championship at Longwood Cricket Club in the 1920s. That same father put a racquet in Ned’s hand when he was seven years old.
Ned came to us with a wealth of experience. He created a tennis club in Holliston, Mass., in 1972. In 1991 he became the boys’ tennis coach at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. During his 23 years as coach, he had 290 wins in addition to several state championships. The administration of the school acknowledged his remarkable tenure as coach by naming the tennis courts for him.
President Ken Blacklow spoke for many at the annual meeting when he thanked Ned for his long, steady hand at the job. The courts were well maintained, the equipment updated and mechanized, the kids’ program energized and the staff was always well trained. Ned provided us with excellent day-to-day management and an unparalleled knowledge of clay courts. He will be a tough act to follow.
The board honored Ned with a plaque and an emeritus membership in the club. At the dinner following the annual meeting, former club presidents during Ned’s 16-year tenure serenaded him to an adapted version of the old Ringo Starr song, You’re Sixteen, You’re Beautiful, and You’re Mine. The lyrics were recreated to honor Ned by Elizabeth Hight. The song added a fun, festive tone to the party. We will miss him!
On Sunday, the day after the annual meeting, I did something a little different for me. Following long encouragement from Polly Patterson, I attended church services at Union Chapel. It was an amazing experience.
The service was conducted by the Reverend Dr. Otis Moss 3rd, the senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. Rev. Otis’s sermon was funny, informative and inspirational. It was perhaps the best sermon I have ever heard.
I was also inspired by the number of East Choppers who volunteer and support Union Chapel. Richard Taylor is vice president of the board of trustees and Polly Patterson is board secretary. Additional trustee members include Kim Patterson, Skip Hunziker, Joann Kidd, Jeanna Shepard, Debbie Lewis and Andy Skeen. Each of these trustees chairs a committee involved in running the chapel. Chuck Sanders was a longtime trustee until his recent death last month.
Union Chapel is an impressive place. If you are free next Sunday, Bishop Robert Wright, the Episcopal bishop of Atlanta, Ga., is speaking. You won’t want to miss him.
Finally, some very sad news. Leigh Ivison, East Chop’s Profile in Courage, lost her four-year battle with pancreatic cancer on August 10. She died in the loving embrace of husband Skip and their two sons Will and Andy. We will never forget Leigh’s optimism, her incredible grit, her grace under fire, and her electric smile that jumped out from her face and communicated all was right with the world.
I, for one, will also never forget the depth of Skip’s compassion during this long ordeal. Two summers ago I stopped by the tennis club, and Leigh was playing tennis on court 5. Skip was there, watching. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he had come to make sure Leigh was alright. “It’s been a while since she has done anything like this, Rick. I just thought I’d better be here.”
Sometimes the little things we do speak volumes for who we are. Skip is a class act, and his wife inspired every one of us. Our hearts go out to this wonderful family. Leigh, you will always be with us!
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