I would like to introduce a member of our tennis club who is certainly worthy of recognition - 4.0 player extraordinaire Jim Gard.
Jim is a born and bred Washington state native and a long term winter VDO resident. He has been married since 1954 to his high school sweetheart Donna. Jim suggests (tongue in cheek) that she chased him all through high school, starting in grade eight - yeh, right Jim! We won't begin to go there - suffice it to say they've been married over 60 years, have four kids - Jim Jr, Leslie, Susanne & Jay, and 12 grandchildren.
This story starts in Enumclaw, Washington where Jim was born. He now lives in Auburn, Washington, 15 minutes southeast of Tacoma and 15 minutes from Puget Sound where he and Donna often walk their cute little dog "Molly" on the beach.
After graduating from high school where he was a standout baseball and football player, Jim attended Western Washington University in Bellingham, where he continued playing baseball and football. In those days there weren't athletic scholarships as we know them today, but the university gave Jim free tuition in exchange for cleaning four classrooms everyday. After two years at university he was drafted into the army and sent to Berlin, Germany, returning two years later to the school to finish his degree. Part of the reason Jim was agreeable to the draft was being able to qualify for the GI Bill after serving and in fact, he went on to take his Masters in Education from Oregon State on the GI Bill.
While at Western Washington University he played 2nd base on the Varsity Baseball team, along with VDO tennis' much loved, late Bruce Randall, who played 1st base. Bruce and Jim were also both on the Varsity football team, where Jim was quarterback. Jim headed south to Camas Washington, while Bruce stayed in the north, near Bellingham.
Aside: Jim's passion for sports was brought to the forefront for me when I phoned him with a couple questions I had about this bio. He couldn't talk to me then as his beloved Washington Huskies were playing football against arch rival Washington State so he asked me to call back after the game... Now that's the consummate sports fan!
In Camas, Jim taught high school Math & Phys Ed for 10 years and then at Jefferson High School in Federal Way for 24 more years.. He also coached the high school football, baseball and basketball teams - but had to give up the basketball position after six years to "save my marriage". In total he was head football coach for 24 years and head baseball coach for 30 years!! As for tennis, his wife Donna was on the high school tennis team, playing mostly mixed doubles, and only lost one match in her entire high school career!
Jim was promoted to Athletic Director at Jefferson high school, which is half way between Tacoma and Seattle on Interstate 5. He was made recreational director for the summer recreational parks program in Camas, where they offered a swimming pool and tennis program to youngsters during the day and to adults in the evening. At the end of each summer, he offered an "all comers" tennis tournament for the younger kids and was instrumental in introducing women's softball to the area. In 1971 Jim was named baseball coach of the year for the entire state of Washington and in 1992 was elected to the Washington State Hall of Fame for coaching baseball.
Jim retired from teaching in 1992, then he and Donna made their way south to Arizona for the winter, arriving here at VDO. While hitting balls on our tennis courts, they struck up a conversation with a couple on another court that - lo and behold - turned out to be Bruce and Kay Randall. Talk about irony! The guys had lost touch after their college days but soon had a fast friendship, along with their wives, who knew each other through the student wives association back in Bellingham.
In those early years, Jim and Bruce were 3.0 players; there was no 4.0 level then. In 1997 the 2 old buddies entered the Farnsworth Tournament at SVE, which they won. As winners, they had to move up to 3.5 the next year, which they also won in 1998. Jim's lasting memory of those days was wearing a pink tennis shirt, as that was VDO's colour in the early days. He is still traumatized by that experience!
The Senior's Olympics was offered in Phoenix, so Jim and Bruce entered as a doubles team and won their age division, which qualified them to represent Arizona at the US National Senior Games in Baton Rouge, LA. They beat the North Carolina duo, then lost in a very close match to the doubles from Hawaii. Three or four years later, Jim and Bruce won the right to represent Washington state in the Senior Olympics in Virginia Beach but, due to a scheduling mixup, had to play the reigning National Champions in the first round, before they had a chance to meet lesser opponents and get their confidence level up. They lost in a closely played match... Meanwhile, Donna and Kay had also won the Senior Olympic trials in Olympia and they also represented Washington in Virginia Beach. It surely is a remarkable achievement for both couples to represent their state at the same time! Five years later, Jim and Bruce again won the right to represent Washington at the Senior Olympics, in Palo Alto on the Stanford University campus courts.
Jim's storied carreer doesn't end here. To this day he plays a very solid 4.0, often with his youngest son Jay. It is a real treat watching this father-son combo play such great, winning tennis together and represent our tennis club so admirably. I, for one, have watched them play together and wonder how many other spectators are as inspired by such an achievement as this. Wouldnâ€™t it be awesome if more of us could compete at this level with one of our own children. The word remarkable somehow isn't strong enough, but it sure works for me!
Good on you Jim, you make us all want to try just a little harder.