Bruce Kennedy, Grosse Pointe, Mich.
Bruce was born on July 8, 1926 in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The family moved to Michigan soon after where he spent his youth both in Detroit and on a family farm near Port Hope. His 50 plus years of military and civil service began in the Navy during WWII. After the war, he joined the Detroit Police Department, where over a 20 year period, he rose to the rank of Detective Inspector and held numerous positions including Commander of the Armed Robbery/ Major Theft Bureau, The Juvenile Divisions and Chief of Detectives. Bruce was selected by the FBI to attend the FBI National academy. After graduation, he served as the Detroit Police Department-FBI liaison. Bruce attended Wayne State University where he earned Bachelor & Master Degrees in Police Administration and Criminal Justice, taught night school, and co-authored a book with his son, Professor Daniel B. Kennedy.
After retiring from the Detroit Police Department, Bruce accepted the position of Chief of Police in Grosse Pointe City; after which he merged the police and fire departments becoming the Director of Public Safety and served for 25 years. He is a life member of the FBI National Academy Associates and the Wayne County Association of The Chiefs of Police.
Bruce’s love of handball started in the early 1950’s at Detroit’s Northeastern YMCA and spanned almost 70 years. His high level of athleticism, skill and passion earned him a multitude of local, state and national championship titles including the honor of being the first inductee into the Detroit Athletic Club Hall of Fame.
Bruce served as president, board member and trustee on numerous committees, organizations and boards including the Detroit Police and Fire Pension Board, The Detroit Municipal Credit Union, The Diversified Members Credit Union, The Hundred Club of Detroit, The Michigan Handball Association, The Detroit Athletic Club Black Ballers, The Michigan and International Police Chiefs Association, The Detroit Police Sergeant-Lieutenants Association.
Of all his life achievements, Bruce cherished and was most proud of his deep commitment and 67 years of marriage to his loving wife Italia, his loving family and his devoted relationships with close friends.
Loving husband of Italia (nee DiCurzio) for 67 plus years. Beloved father of Daniel Bruce (Shirley) Kennedy, Mario Bruce (Amy) Kennedy, Vita Marie (Christopher) Morse and John Francis Kennedy. Dear grandfather of Kelly Kennedy, Katie (Anthony) Bologna, Daniel Kennedy, Jonathon Morse, Christina Morse and great grandfather of 5. Brother of the late Betty Galloway, the late Mary Jane Bryant, the late Norma Decker, Patricia Hall and Jenny Siemianowski. He was also predeceased by his parents, Daniel and Ethel (nee Bruce) Kennedy.
Memorial contributions may be made to The Hundred Club of Detroit, P.O. Box 1018, Fenton, MI 48430. The Hundred Club is a non profit organization that supports the families of fallen police and fire officers in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties.
Pat Kennedy, Simi Valley Calif.
The handball fraternity in Southern California lost one of the “good guys," December 19, 2018, due to heart failure. Myron “Pat” Kennedy, better known as “Pat”, was born on February 15, 1948. He is survived by his wife Sheri and four children: Christopher, 35; Riley, 26; Ryan, 24; and Reece, 18.
Pat was a track and football star at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, in the mid 1960s. He continued his athletic career when he discovered Handball in his early 30s and played continually until about a year ago when heart failure started to take its toll on his endurance. He was a fine club player and known as a competitive “retriever”. He played at the A and B level in both singles and doubles most of his life.
I first met Pat at the Los Angeles Athletic Club in the mid 1970s and for many years thereafter, he was my usual Sunday morning game. I do not recall Pat ever calling a misconceived hinder nor can I remember him ever complaining about my score keeping, as I often couldn’t remember who had the lead!
Pat loved history too. His father was a history professor and it certainly had an impact on him. We would often discuss aspects of American and world history, including current politics. In fact, I am not certain if he was a Democrat or Republican as we never had an argument – come to think of it, we never had an argument on the court or off.
I will sorely miss my buddy and handball friend.
Jack Weiss, Pittsburgh, Pa.
Sadly, On December 17,2018 Pittsburgh lost its JCC/Chappy Goldstein Handball Club patriarch, Jack Weiss, at the young age of 85. Jack’s colorful on-court demeanor, even at 83 years of age (all-out effort and diving re-kills, while wearing his signature bandana, muscle shirt and tie dye shorts) exemplified what handball is all about---a lifetime competitive sport for rugged individualists. Jack’s passions were God, carpet, family and handball (not necessarily in that order). Everyone knew that “Handball was Jack’s life.”
His reputation and intensity for the Perfect Game extended far beyond Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill to wherever his travels took him, especially Florida . It wouldn’t surprise anyone if Jack has already renewed his “friendly” games against past JCC legends Zu, Herbie, Edelstein, Orlove, Blakely, Herbst, Zundy, Marty, Max, Saul, Abe, Joe, Lennie, Willie and the commissioner, Frank Altmar. Jack would have excelled in one-wall handball, where the “legal hinder” is the essence of the game.
All of Jack’s victories were recorded in his confidential (and always handy) “little black book”, where he cataloged his victories against the vanquished opponents he left behind: Jerry, Bill, Itzy, Will, Jim, Bill and Mel (See photo), as well as Ronnie, Solly, Freddie and Rick. We will all miss Jack’s friendship, wit, kindness, sage advice, strength of character and force of personality (especially on display within the confines of our squared circle). Rest in peace, Jack.
Thomas Clemens, Saginaw, Mich.
Clemens, Thomas "Tom" (10/14/1954 - 11/27/2018) of Saginaw, Michigan, passed away suddenly on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, surrounded by his family. He was 64 years old.
Thomas B. Clemens was born on October 14, 1954 in Saginaw to the late Thomas T. and Donna Elizabeth (Pratt) Clemens. Tom graduated from St. Stephen High School in 1972. He enjoyed playing baseball, softball, football and basketball, being a very active athlete in his younger years. Tom worked for Martin Chevrolet for over 20 years, and then Kremin Inc. for the last 15.
He remained active as a handball player, winning the Saginaw YMCA Handball Championship 16 times, the most in Saginaw history, and was a lifetime member of the YMCA.
Tom is survived by his siblings: Diann (Mark) Tyrrell, Dorris Dycewicz, Edward Clemens, Patricia (John) Krogman and Martin Clemens; nieces and nephews: Jenni (Joel) Sickert, Jeff (Holly) Tyrrell, Lisa (B.J.) Bonkowski, Kari (Andy) Sullivan, Elizabeth (Dan) Propp, Mary (August Voisine) Vasquez and Jaime (Tom) McKenna; great nieces and great nephews: Clint, Kevin and Daniel Sickert, Luke and Jack Tyrrell, Taylor, Syris and Rowan Bonkowski, Michael, Liam, Leila and Mia Sullivan, Isabelle, Hailey and Lili Propp, Benjammin Vasquez; dear friends, Diane and Bill Reese. Tom was preceded in death by his parents; brother-in-law, Mick Dycewicz; a dear great aunt, "Auntie" Naomi Isabella Peterson.
Michael Dikman, Lake Success, N.Y.
Mike Dikman: Champion - 26 Years and Beyond
At 6’ 3” and 230 pounds Mike Dikman was always a powerhouse on the 1-wall court in singles and doubles. Frequently he was a quarter-finalist and semi-finalist in national singles tournaments. In 1970 he reached his pinnacle in tournament singles losing to Steve Sandler in two in the final round. Interestingly, however, eleven years later, in 1981, after Sandler had won the USHA open singles championship, Mike defeated him, only days later, for the masters singles title! In 1975 and ’76 Mike was national YMCA singles champion.
In doubles, from the mid-‘60s through the early ‘70s, Mike was nearly never absent from the semi-final round. And in 1974, partnered with Arty Reyer, Mike was the year’s AAU national 1-wall doubles champion. In ’75 and ’76 he was national YMCA doubles runner-up. In 1984, well past 40 and still superb, with partner Lou Russo, Mike was USHA national doubles runner up, and that same year, with Mike Demetriou, he was national indoor 1-wall doubles champion. In ’85 and ’86, with Demetriou, Mike was USHA national indoor doubles runner-up. His first appearance among the top four teams in a national tournament came in 1964 while partnered with Bob Sparrow; his last appearance in that exalted round came in 1990 while teamed with Mike Demetriou. That’s an amazing 26 years near the top of the 1-wall game!
While continuing to play in open doubles events and well after retiring from open play, Mike also entered masters events. Thus he continued to remain at the top or near the top of that level of play, eventually winning eleven national masters championships and earning the title, National Hall of Fame Grand Master. Only three other players in 1-wall history, Vic Hershkowitz, Arty Reyer, and Al Torres, could boast the durability with which Mike was blessed and the achievements he established: 4 championships, 5 runner-up finishes, 12 semi-final finishes – all in open play – and 11 national masters titles, not to mention how many times he was a national masters runner-up. Mike’s ability easily elevated him to membership in the New York Handball Hall of Fame.
Sadly, on October 7, 2018, Mike Dikman passed peacefully in his sleep from natural causes only two weeks shy of his 82nd birthday. My initial reaction to Mike’s passing focused on how much I respected him as both a player and as a man. It is a reaction universally echoed by the 1-wall community who played both with and against him, only some of which follows:
Ken Davidoff: “I have known and respected Mike as a handball player, but more than that, as a man, for over 60 years.”
Howie Eisenberg: “He was a formidable player, a very tough competitor, and, more importantly, a good guy.”
Mark Levine: “Mike was a true champion and a fine person.”
Graham Palmore: “Mike was a good man, a great handball player, fierce competitor, and wonderful partner.”
John Reicher: He was a great partner to play with.
Al Torres: “He was a monster on the court with an opposite right like a paddle.”
Dennis Uffer: “Mike was a great player, one of the legends.”
Joel Wisotsky: “Mike was an aggressive lefty, who always gave me a tough time on the court.”
Those who remember Mike best played top level 1-wall in the open division or masters division – or both. And that is, of course, where Mike always competed – in both open and masters – top level.
Within the last decade Mike gave back to handball by serving on two National Hall of Fame One-Wall Subcommittees. He was also an instrumental part of the New York Handball Hall of Fame Committee, which created the virtual New York Handball Hall of Fame. After nearly four years of research and discussion the NYHHOF went “live” in 2017.
Mike Dikman’s accomplishments reached far beyond the handball courts. He was an esteemed matrimonial attorney, every bit as strong at his profession as he was on the field of handball, always giving his best with honesty and integrity. Despite suffering from heart related health issues, Mike practiced law right up until his final moment. Moreover he delivered an annual scholarly lecture to assist other attorneys. In 1978 he assumed the presidency of the Queens County Bar Association, then served for 16 years on its Board of Managers. He remained Chairman of its Family Law Committee for 38 years – the rest of his life. He was also active in the New York State Bar Association Family Law Section and the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, serving on its Board of Directors for many years.
In addition to handball Mike also had a passion for magic, a hobby which he began developing as a youth. An accomplished magician, he performed for both children and adults. His final performance came in front of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, the very evening prior to his passing.
Mike Dikman has left an impressive legacy in handball and in his profession. He also leaves behind a devoted wife, Harriet, of 31 years, two children from his first marriage, David Dikman and Donna Dubinsky; Harriet’s children, Dara Foster-Storch, Shari Snowiss, and Suzanne Eisgrau. There are also 13 grandchildren: Peri, Matthew, Alexander, Jason, Julie, Brian, Joshua, Chloe, Emma, Benjamin, Jacob, Melissa, and Steve. Harriet had a single word to describe Mike as a grandfather: “Wonderful!”
Mike Dikman will be sorely missed by his family who loved him, by his colleagues who revered him, and by his handball opponents and partners who respected his abilities and his character.
Robert J. Decker, Houston, Texas
Robert James Decker was born in the Bronx, New York on October 28, 1932 to George Washington Decker and Margaret Tietze. His only brother, Donald Decker, predeceased him after living for many years as a quadriplegic. (Donny sustained the injuries during an army training exercise at Fort Dix in New Jersey; yet he remained a prolific artist who painted with a brush in his mouth.)
As an Army Ranger, Bob was a First Lieutenant and trained troops in Germany during the Korean Conflict and later participated in Atom Bomb testing in New Mexico where he was part of the Army Military Police.
Bob’s lifetime love of handball started when he was playing one wall as a boy in the Bronx at DeWitt Clinton High School. After graduating from City College of New York and Columbia Law School (Class of 1960) where he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar, he started working as an attorney for Royal Dutch Shell in their Rockefeller Center offices in Manhattan.
In 1966, he was promoted to Midwestern Regional Attorney and transferred to Chicago. For ten years, while living in Mount Prospect, Illinois, he and neighbor and friend Jay Bulaw, played singles every Tuesday afternoon. Jay said that at the end of each game, the loser would have to buy the winner a soda and pour it on ice and serve it to the looser. Bob’s daughter Julie wonders what else was poured with the soda. Bulaw and Decker also won the 14th Annual Northwest Suburban YMCA Doubles Tournament in 1974.
When playing once a week against Bulaw was not enough handball, Decker found his regular early 70’s doubles partner Bob Peters. They played at the Northwest Suburban YMCA (now the Lattof Y). Bob Peters recalls winning the Masters Doubles 25th and 26th Annual TallCorn Invitational in Des Moines, Iowa in May 1974 and 1975; and the Janesville Open in Janesville, Wisconsin. In the early 80s, they were still playing together. At the Four-Wall Championships in Houston, in the Masters Division, Bob Peters remembers Bob loosing sorely to Sol Barth and his partner. Now how did that happen? Off the court, Bob and Elaine Peters socialized with Bob and second wife Maellen.
In 1975, the Deckers had moved to Houston and Bob started playing at the YMCA on 1500 Louisiana Street. On Saturdays and during tournaments, Bob was accompanied by his daughters: Julie and Gretchen. Other ball players would say during a tournament: “I don’t mind playing one Decker, but I am not going to play three.” The girls were always vociferously cheering him on. Chuck Reeve and Bob won first place in the EEY Houston in October 1977. In 1981, Bob and Rob Jacobs were the Turkey Tournament Champions.
Other tournaments Bob played in include: 44th National Handball Tournament in April 1970; 53rd AAU Four Wall Handball Championships in Houston in October of 1972; Alamo Open in San Antonio in June of 1977; Alamo Open in San Antonio in June of 1977; The 26th The 36th Annual USH National 4-Wall Championship in Houston in June of 1986; 45th Annual USHA National Championships Four-Wall Handball in Houston in June 1995; and the Diez y Seis Invitational Handball Tournament in San Antonio.
At the age of 79, Bob ruptured both his Achilles’ tendons and could no longer play ball. It was hard for Bob to watch a game he dearly loved to play; but Vern Roberts remembers seeing him periodically over the last ten years. Julie remembers Vern well from the 1500 Louisiana YMCA of her childhood and was smiling when he picked up the phone at US Handball Association today. Vern remember Bob taking Julie to get stitches at the hospital around the corner during a match and coming back to beat Vern. Decker said: “Only adrenaline like today would ever allow an older player like me to beat THE Vern Roberts.”
“Handball was home for our dad”, says Julie. Decker and his daughter Julie were back at the new YMCA for John Coolidge’s Court Dedication in March of this year but Bob did not make the Ron Emberg tournament this year. Julie and Gretchen fondly remember names like: Mike Barnett, Sol Barth, Steve Bell, Don Binnicher, Hart Brupbacher, Jay Bulaw, John Coolidge, John Cooper, John Egbert, Gus Eifler, Ron Emberg, Bill Ferrary, Sandy Gaitz,, Charlie Gallup (“Tuna”), Jerry Garcia, Barney Gershen, Reid Gettys, Bill Hearon (best man at his second wedding to the girl’s mother), Robert Hyatt, Rob Jacobs, John Keasling, Chuck Koziol, Jim LeBoeuf, Terry McManus, Sandy Melamed, Rob Morgan, Bob Peters, Judge Frank Price, Ed Rainey, Chuck Reeve, Jerry Sampson, Don Speers, John Stein, Stu Stuwart (his lawyer from his third wife), Bob Webster and John Wolda.
Bob practiced law with Shell Oil for over thirty years, or if you asked him he would tell you that Bob played handball while Shell paid him to practice law in his spare time.
He is survived by his two daughters: Gretchen Decker, who lives and works in Austin, and Julia Decker Burke. Julia followed in his footsteps and practices corporate law in Houston. She is married to otolaryngologist Luke Burke, M.D. and they have two boys Jack Devlin Burke (age 17 and a high school senior 6’1”) and Donovan Patrick Burke (age 14 and a high school freshman 6’3”). They lived around the corner from Bob in Houston. The grandsons consumed all his time and he almost forgave them for not picking up handball, but never gave up hope. After passing, the grandsons commented to each other that they will never have to wash t-shirts again…as long as they are willing to wear one of “Poppy’s handball shirts”. There are hundreds.
Bob Decker fell asleep in his favorite chair after the finishing Sunday New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He died at the age of 85 in his home in Houston, Texas.
The Houston handball gang all showed up for his service: Sandy Gaitz, Barney Gershen, Charlie Girkin, Robert Hyatt, Chuck Koziol, Jim LeBoeuf, Chuck and Marlene Reeve, and Stu Stewart.
To those who knew Bob well, they will remember him saying: “Life is all right as long as 2 of these 3 things are going well- work, family and handball.”
Julie and Gretchen have asked that all donations be made to USHA Unrestricted “Discretionary Fund”. Donations can be made HERE.
Dennis Wickes, Salem, Va.
Dennis Wickes, 78, passed away on Aug. 11 after a long battle with cancer. As a long-time member of the YMCA, he was an avid handball player who loved the game and played on a regular basis. Dennis also served as the Southwest Virginia USHA Commissioner and was instrumental in organizing many of the tournaments in the area, including the State Commonwealth Games.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. Joseph and Regina Wickes. He was a graduate of Roanoke Catholic High School and Columbia Technical Institute in Washington, D.C. He proudly served for six years in the U.S. Army. Dennis was an avid handball player and coordinator of many handball tournaments over the years which included The Commonwealth Games. Forty years of his working career was spent at Sunnyside Awning Company. He spent much time researching the forefathers of this great country and the Civil War, always marveling at the cost, wisdom and bravery that it took to found and form our nation.
Left to cherish his memory are his wife of 43 years, Brenda R. Wickes; daughters, Tonya Conner (Todd) and Talia Jennelle (Mason); grandchildren, Peyton Conner, Hannah-Kate Conner and Keller Barton; sister, Sharon Glenn (Jimmy); brother, Joseph Wickes (Joan); nephews, Douglas Glenn (Tiffany) and David Glenn (Tereza); and nieces, Janice Frankford (Mark) and Jennifer Osman (Peter).
Wickes also reported on the events for the local newspapers and Handball Magazine. As his health was failing, Dennis still enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow players by attending tournaments and reminiscing about the good old days. He will be missed by his many Virginia handball buddies.
-Bill Morris, Roanoke, VA
Bobby Harbatkin, Weston, Fla.
One of the many benefits of a lifetime of playing handball is the friends you make along the way.
I first met Bobby at the Bronx Union YMCA when I was fifteen years old. Our coach and mentor, the late Bob Davidson, held handball sessions on Saturday afternoon for promising young players. Later in the same year, Bobby joined the Castle Hill Beach Club and became a part of a stable of great young players that included Kenny “Meatball” Smolack, Lou “The Tiger” Russo, Philip “Flip” Wolfarth, Steve Lott, Wes and Willie Yee,Kenny Ginty, Richie Greenwald, Mitchel and Gary Strauss, Alan Findel, and Mike Meltzer among others.
Bobby soon became our so called leader as he was the oldest and most experienced in the game of life. He was co-owner of a family business that sold baked goods to restaurants in New York. Some of the aforementioned players were employed by Bobby as delivery men. Throughout his life, Bobby exhibited his wonderful generosity by helping those that were close to him. He was always willing to provide baked goods in order to enhance hospitality at handball events.
Bobby’s handball career was interrupted in the mid 1960’s by a tour of duty in Vietnam. His job was to install telephone lines. I received long letters from him during his deployment with details of his work and exploits.
After his discharge, Bobby resumed his handball career. During the winter he played ball at the West Side YMCA and the 92nd St. YMHA. He teamed with Richie Greenwald and they became one of the top doubles teams on the east coast. The summer was reserved for Castle Hill. The culminating event of the summer was the 3-Wall Nationals which were held at Detroit’s Palmer Park over Labor Day Weekend. Bobby was the leader of the troupe that traveled from New York to Detroit to compete in the tournament. I know I speak for all of us who played in the tournament that this was one of the most enjoyable times of our life.
As we continue along in our journey Bobby will be sorely missed. However the wonderful memories we have of him are everlasting.
Bobby Harbatkin passed away on August 27 from Parkinson's. He was a veteran of the Vietnam War. Bobby was one of the first Lifetime members of the USHA and an avid supporter of local Metro New York and New Jersey Tournaments. He is survived by his wife Susan, his two daughters Samantha & Megan and son Dylan.
-Kenny Smolack, Manalapan, NJ
Robert E. Sparrow, Hollis Hills, N.Y.
Robert E. Sparrow of Hollis Hills, NY passed away on June 9, 2018 at age 83. Beloved husband to Marcia for 61 years. Devoted father to Laurie and David, father-in-law to James and Darcy. Loving brother to Joyce. Cherished Grandpa to Dallas, Cody, Matthew, and Isabella.
He was a top-ranked player, starting in his teens on all outdoor courts in Brooklyn, especially Coney Island. While at Columbia College and University earning his BA & JD, he excelled on all the indoor courts, winning many tournaments and trophies. His longtime handball doubles partner was Michael Dikman. Bob played with many of the old time greats—the Oberts, Vic Hershkowitz, Jimmy Jacobs, Steve Sandler and Artie Reyer.
He excelled in every racquet sport-squash, racquetball, paddleball, and tennis. He was a founding member of the New York Handball Hall of Fame.
He piloted a small private plane for many years, taking our young family on many adventures. He was also a certified scuba diver, a world traveler (including Antarctica, Iceland, China, India, Australia, Ecuador and the Galapagos, to name just a few of the places he visited), and a poet (especially in rhyme-a new one legally themed published regularly in the Queens County Bar Association Bulletin). Any inspiration evoked a poem. An outstanding criminal defense lawyer covering courts in the metropolitan area for 53 years; he was a true hero—donating a kidney to his daughter 28 years ago, which provided him with 2 beautiful grandsons, now both college grads.
A gentleman to be very proud of and a man for all seasons. Bob was a U.S. Army Veteran and Four Armed Service members were present to perform a special flag ceremony at his funeral.
-Marcia Sparrow (widow)
Joe Cassidy, Jersey City, N.J.
Veteran New Jersey handball champion Joe Cassidy, 76, passed away at his Jersey City home May 14.
Cassidy learned to play handball during the 1960s as a member of the Jersey City YMCA team which competed in the North Jersey Handball League. He also played outdoor handball on the three-wall courts in Bayonne, NJ, and on the modified one-wall courts in Lincoln Park in Jersey City.
During this time, Joe's handball game was improving as he moved up the ranks of the Jersey City Police Department. He really took to three-wall and wound up winning National Three-Wall singles titles in Golden Masters Singles in 1992 and 1996. He also won singles titles at the East Regional Three-Wall championship tournaments held in Baltimore.
In four-wall, he won the 2004 Super Masters doubles championship at the New York Athletic Club.
On the job, Cassidy rose to the rank of deputy chief, as he became the top-ranked officer in the Jersey City PD Detective Bureau. After he retired, he was elected Hudson County Sheriff. It was as a county sheriff, that Cassidy made his greatest contribution to handball. He persuaded the county to tear down the modified one-wall courts in Lincoln Park, and replace them with four often used three-wall courts.
He leaves his wife, Marion, and a daughter, Trish, who is East District Commander as a captain for the Jersey City PD.
Arrangements were by the Greenville Memorial Home of Jersey City with a viewing May 17 and 18 4-7 p.m. and a funeral Mass May 19 out of St. Patrick's Church of Jersey City.
Michael Schneider Sr., Richmond Hill, N.Y.
Michael Schneider Sr. passed away peacefully in his sleep after a brave battle with cancer on April 3, 2018. Adored and loving husband of Chris, loving and proud father of Amy and Michael. Doting grandfather of Harper and Georgia. He is survived by his sisters: Ellen and Mary; and brother Jim. Also many cousins, nieces, and nephews. Author of "They Call You Doc", a memoir of his childhood and experience as a medic during the Vietnam War.
A retired NYC School Custodian, he was a friend to many with his wit and sense of humor. An avid athlete, his latest passion was playing handball in NYC parks and on indoor courts at the Y. He will be sorely missed by his family and all his friends.
"I was unfortunate to lose my father earlier this year. While this was a difficult lesson, I found I was overwhelmed by gratefulness that I was lucky enough to be around such a wonderful person more than I was by any sorrow. The memories we share on this planet are the most beautiful thing we can find happiness in, and for us handball was a huge part of that. We started handball at the same time, and were fortunate enough to be able to travel, compete, and get to know a ton of great people. Some of you are absolute cartoon characters, but I love each and every one of you. It was beautiful to see how quickly you accepted my father into the handball community, and the outpouring of kindness in the aftermath of his passing has touched my heart. Thank you for the good times, thank you for the memories, and thank you for playing handball with us."
- Michael Schneider Jr.
John Barry McGrath, Carlsbad, Calif.
Barry, was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, September 6, 1937. He attended St John’s High School in Worcester, and accepted a full basketball scholarship to Boston College. His freshmen year his team was 18-1. Barry’s Senior Basketball Season (1958-59), Boston College earned their first invitation to the NCAA Div. 1, Basketball Tournament. In 1998 Barry was inducted into Boston College Hall Fame. The ceremony was held during the halftime of the Boston College football game against Syracuse.
Barry had quite a teaching career at University High (now Cathedral) teaching English Literature. Barry also coached the University High tennis team to a CIF State Championship. He retired from teaching in the juvenile court system. His students in the court system really needed an understanding teacher and friend, and that was Barry.
Barry, loved being close to the ocean and the sun. He built his house overlooking the surf in Carlsbad as close to the ocean as possible and enjoyed body surfing. The problem, Barry was very sensitive to the sun and he had many visits to the dermatologist over the years. Early this year, recovering from a fall he notes a dark spot on his ankle that appeared to enlarge very quickly and was diagnosis as Merkle Cell Carcinoma. This is a very aggressive cancer and took our friend very quick. Barry passed away 2:07 A.M. on April 29.
This is a very brief out line of Barry’s life, and we hope to share many more stories from those who knew him.
Funeral Mass for John Barry McGrath will be held Friday, May 18, 4:00 p.m. at the Immaculate Conception Church (Old Town), 2540 San Diego Ave., San Diego, CA.
Jack Austin, Menlo Park, Calif. (July 30, 1921 - April 20, 2018)
Jack D. Austin died of natural causes on April 20, 2018, at Silver Point Plaza Menlo Park, California. Jack was predeceased in 2014 by Kit, his wife and soul mate of 67 years; he is survived by his sons Frank (Peg) Austin and John (Gloria) Austin; his grandchildren Betsy (Steve) McBride, Amy Austin, and Greg Austin; and his great grandchildren Ashlyn and Austin McBride and Juniper Austin.
Jack had a memorable handball career that spanned six decades, and was inducted into the Northern California Handball Hall of Fame in November 4, 1995. He observed that “The secrets for playing handball well are imilar to qualities needed in boxing---determination, physical endurance and playing a lot. Moreover, ambidexterity is extremely important. Speed, agility and experience are key also."
However, it was off the court, where the real measure of Jack Austin could be taken. He was a man of great honor and integrity, the epitome of a true sportsman and friend --- and a class act, win or lose. Throughout Jack's life, for his simple goodness and generosity of spirit, he was loved and held in warm and extremely high regard by friends and family.
Jacks active participation, personal interest and support made great contributions to Sacramento Handball, as a founding member of the Sacramento Area Handball Association, as well as a charter member of the USHA. His significant "Nationals" accomplishments were realized while he was a member of our Northern California Handball community -- as a resident of Fair Oaks/Sacramento for over a decade.
Jack participated in hundreds of local tournaments at various levels -- winning more than his share. In due course, he prevailed in both the singles and doubles tournaments for players "60 to 70+" in both "National" and "World" tournaments Jack's handball accomplishments included being the school champion for Franklin High School in Highland Park (1938), champion of the University of California, LA, (1940) -- where he played with former LA Rams coach Bob Waterfield. Jack entered his first tournament at North Hollywood High, where a "peeled tennis ball" served as the handball, and the court consisted of one wall and three lines drawn in the dirt. He observed he sobbed when he lost.
The following is a summary of his numerous Handball accomplishments:
1992 Four-Wall Nationals: 70 Singles Champion, 70 Doubles (semifinalist)
1991 Four-Wall Nationals: 70 Singles Runner-up, 70 Doubles Runner-up
1991 World Championships: 70 Singles Champion, 70 Doubles Champion
1988 Four-Wall Nationals: 65 Singles (semifinalist)
1987 Four-Wall Nationals: 65 Singles Champion
1986 Four-Wall Nationals: 65 Singles (semifinalist)
1983 Jack Tone (Modesto, CA) 60 Singles Champion
1965 Southern California Regionals Contenders Champion
Alfonso Vega, Ogden Dunes, IN
Alfonso Vega "Mr. Vega" "Coach Vega", 86, of Ogden Dunes, Indiana, passed away on April 8, 2018. He is survived by his loving wife Cindy and beloved pets Humphrey and Luigi, many brothers and sisters-in-law and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his mother Irene Bargas and stepfather Luis Bargas.
Al was born on December 26, 1931 in El Paso, Texas. He grew up in the South Derring area of Chicago. He attended Chicago Vocational High School where he became an accomplished wrestler. He is in the CVS Hall of Fame. He was recruited by Purdue University for his exceptional wrestling ability and became a Purdue All-American and Big 10 Champion. He earned a Master's Degree in Education from Purdue University and an Administrator's License from Loyola University.
Al proudly spent a total of 54 years in education. He was a biology teacher, wrestling and cross country coach, and administrator at Thornton Fractional North High School for more than 20 years before becoming Superintendent of School District 215. After retiring from School District 215, he became Superintendent of Burnham Elementary School. He was a teacher, coach, and mentor to many. Al enjoyed getting to know people and spending time with friends. He was an avid handball player, fisherman, and gardener. He enjoyed golfing and playing cards or shooting pool with friends. He lived with a positive attitude, fine sense of humor, and caring spirit. He was always generous and giving of his time, talent, and wisdom to help improve the lives of others. He will be dearly remembered and truly missed by all whose hearts and lives he touched.
Online condolences to the family may be made at www.ee-fh.com
Benjamin James Agajanian, Cathedral City, CA
Ben Agajanian, passed away on Thursday, February 8, 2018, at the age of 98. He is survived by his son, Lewis (Mindy) Agajanian and daughters, Lynne (Bruce) McVay and Lori (Bobby) Hinkle. A Celebration of Life Ceremony will be held for family and friends on Wednesday, February 21, 2018 at 11 am. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial contributions be made to Samaritan's Purse, P.O. Box 3000, Boone, NC 28607
Ben was known in the national football community as “booten Ben, the toeless wonder” and the local football community as “oldest living Ram”. To the handball community he was known as the developer and first owner of the legendary Long Beach Athletic Club.
From the Long Beach Independent in 1972:
“Aggie will open his brand new Long Beach Athletic Club at 4000 Long Beach Blvd. July 1 and he, like many others, feels this project will fulfill a long-needed Long Beach requirement -- a first-class athletic club and one aimed primarily for handball and the national tournaments which such a club can attract. Since the Pacific Coast Club fell by the wayside, there has been a desperate need for an athletic club in the Long Beach area. The YMCA does a great job, but like the public schools, it needs the parochial schools -- in this case, the private club -- to handle the overload. "I've put all my cards on the table," said the prominent Armenian gin rummy player. "When the Pacific Coast Club expired, here was a gap. And Long Beach is too big of a city to be without an athletic club. "I've always been an exercise fanatic. I feel this new club will fill the need for both men and women interested in exercising." HANDBALL IS THE THEME of the Long Beach Athletic Club, but that doesn't preclude other activities there. "We'll have everything else the all-around athletic club has -- weights, exercise machines, table tennis, volleyball and tables for the tired, old gin rummy players," remarked Agajanian. The old placekicker has his head screwed on correctly. Without the old, tired gin rummy players no athletic club would ever succeed. AGAJANIAN IS GOING major league immediately. "Next week I'm sending the Long Beach Athletic Club handball team to the nationals in Seattle," said the legendary one. "I've already got the uniforms. They're powder blue, red and white. It's an all-American production. "Our club commissioner is Ed Kelly, who is the Southern California AAU handball commissioner. Kelly will get us national tournaments here in Long Beach. Val Moore and Earl Russell will represent Long Beach Athletic Club in the Masters' division in Seattle, and I'll be in the Golden Masters' division. Skip McDowell and Matt Kelly will be our Long Beach doubles' team...”
Ben was inducted into the SCHA Hall of Fame in 1997.
Raymond O. Anderson, Wilmington, NC
Raymond O. Anderson, age 76 of Wilmington, NC, completed his circle life on January 1, 2018.
He was born in Birmingham, Alabama on September 25, 1941 to the late Charles Dodd Anderson and Doris Davis Anderson. He was a self-made man in his dealings in Real Estate investing.
His passion for the game of handball led him around the United States playing tournaments leading to long lasting friendships with many wonderful people around the US. He was actively involved for well over 30 years with the Shrimparoo Handball Tournament in Wilmington, NC. He took great pride in hosting a cookout in his backyard on Saturday night of the tournament.
He also shared his love for the outdoors with his sons and many, many others hunting, fishing, and boating.
He was preceded in passing by his brothers; Charles Anderson Jr. and Glenn, as well as his son Wade Anderson.
He is survived by his special friend Barbara Hall, his son Brett Anderson, and his daughter Diana Dee Barnish and grandchildren all of whom will miss his presence.
A Memorial Service will be held at Coble Ward-Smith on Oleander Dr., Wilmington, NC. Saturday, January 20, 2018 at 12pm. Family will receive friends one hour prior to the service.
In lieu of flowers please donate to your charity of choice as to help others in this circle of life.
Read the Ray Anderson Tribute by Mike Rusinak [HERE].
Edward Allen Mendell, Los Altos, CA
Ed Mendell (November 23, 1933 – January 3, 2018) passed away peacefully of natural causes, as a result of dementia, on the morning of January 3, 2018 with his family by his side. Ed touched many lives as a teacher, businessman, and athlete. He was an adventurer, visiting far off places such as the Galapagos Islands, Madagascar, Antarctica, and the Amazon.
Ed was born at Fort Lewis, Washington, the son of a military family that traveled from base to base. As a teenager, he left home and completed high school in Miami, Florida. When asked, “Why Miami?” he always responded, “After I walked out the front door, it was cold, so I headed south.”
After graduating from Miami High School, Ed applied to the US Military Academy, West Point. He also applied to Harvard University. He was accepted to West Point and had no hesitation in making that his choice. Growing up in a military family, he looked up to those who served, especially those who attended West Point. However, shortly after beginning his studies there, he was reprimanded, not by West Point, but by Harvard for skipping his orientation. Apparently, he was so excited about his acceptance to West Point that he forgot about Harvard, who also accepted him as a student. However, Ed made the right choice and was very successful at West Point. As a cadet he excelled in both the ranger program and the paratroopers. He also played on the football team, threw the javelin, and was a heavyweight boxer on the boxing team. He graduated from West Point in 1955 and received his diploma from President Eisenhower.
Ed spent two years in the army before pursuing his dream of being a school teacher. He relocated from New York to California and continued to box, turning pro to earn some extra money. His professional boxing career was short, but he didn’t lose a fight and had one memorable bout against the number one heavyweight contender at the time, Eddie Machen. Ed was asked to box a three-round exhibition against Machen in San Francisco, and after losing two close rounds, Ed stunned Machen in the third, resulting in gasps from the crowd who came out to see the top contender in action. At least one ringside promoter scored the fight a draw.
Eventually, Ed found a position as a teacher at Ravenswood High School in East Palo Alto. He spent several years at Ravenswood, then at Woodside High, before finishing his career at Ravenswood. Ever the businessman, Ed opened coin operated laundry mats in the early 60s before moving on to rental properties. In 1968 he took a sabbatical from teaching and received a doctorate in education from Stanford. In the mid 1970s he was instrumental in the growth of the Supreme Court Racquetball Clubs, having a part in the growth and expansion of the clubs in San Carlos, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, San Jose, Hayward, and Alameda.
No longer interested in boxing, Ed took up handball and joined the Palo Alto Elks Club. There, he met many of his longtime friends. And years later, he was instrumental in keeping the club alive when it ran into financial trouble. He was elected as the Exalted Ruler of the Elks, a very proud moment in his life.
Ed also volunteered as a little league coach, coaching one son while being assisted by the other. He then coached soccer, coaching his daughter while being assisted by one of his sons. Ed loved sports and was always quite the athlete. He competed in handball tournaments with his oldest son, winning four titles including one at the age of 80. He also enjoyed fishing trips to Alaska, and in recent years, he combined his love of fishing with his love of the military by donating all of his catch to the veteran’s hospital in Palo Alto. On a very special night, the veterans were treated to fresh Alaskan Salmon and Halibut, prepared by a local chef.
At 6’ 3” with a very muscular build, Ed could be an intimidating figure, especially for those who knew about his boxing background. However, he had a soft spot for children and animals and often found humor when it was least expected. He liked to dress up as Santa if it made kids happy, and he would wear extra loud Hawaiian shirts if he thought it would get a laugh or two. He would break out his old guitar and sing a tune if the crowd was right, and he loved to share stories originally told by his dad.
Ed is survived by his wife of 58 years, Nancy; his sons, Glenn and Dale; daughter, Diana; and grandchildren, Yvette, Shelby, and Alexandra. He is preceded in death by his parents, Col. Martin Mendell and mother Lela, his brother James and his sister Patricia.
Richard "Dick" Roberson, Austin, TX
Richard "Dick" Roberson passed away peacefully at home on Friday, January 5, 2018, after living a very full and wonderfully blessed life. He was born on Friday, the 13th of February, 1931, to Spurgeon and Kytha Roberson, who preceded him in death. His son, Russell "Rusty", and his sister, Wanda Ware, also preceded him in death along with many dear relatives and lifelong friends. What a reunion he must have had upon his arrival! Richard's family moved from Houston to Austin in 1941, where he attended Fulmore Junior High, Stephen F Austin High and the University of Texas graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Banking and Finance. He attended First Baptist Church, Tarrytown Baptist Church, Highland Park Baptist Church, Covenant Presbyterian Church, and most recently, Austin Christian Fellowship. He served in many capacities from Elder, Deacon and Committees faithfully.
Richard's love of baseball and his gift of athleticism allowed him to play from high school, college, Austin Buddies, Austin Pioneers and many more Semi-Pro teams all the way to the major league for the Atlanta Krackers (now known as Braves). His baseball career was full of National Championships and relationships he always held very dear. Richard was also an avid handball player and as the Handball Coach for five years at the University of Texas, he coached several teams to become National Champions. He was also able to bring his dream of the Glass Court to fruition at Gregory Gym often referred to as the "House that Robby Built". In 1960 Richard joined the Trust Department of the Capital National Bank. In 1965 Richard became a stockbroker and was one of Austin's Top Brokers for many, many years. Retiring in 2002 after 37 years, he continued to help people whenever asked. Richard is survived by his loving wife and best friend of more than 32 years, Teresa Connally Roberson, sons, Rick (Carol), Randy (Debbie) and Brian; daughter, Dee Bow (Bob), granddaughters, Stephanie Smith (Brian) and Melissa Manifold (Mark), grandson, Clayton King (fiancé Madelaine), great grandchildren, Carolynn and Landon Smith, and nephew, Bill Worrell.
In lieu of flowers, family and friends who wish to honor Richard's life may do so by making a contribution to Muscular Dystrophy Association, Hospice of East Texas or their preferred charity.