Tennis is a way of life in one Burke neighborhood where the children’s tennis lessons turned into a tennis family led by Gordon Lee on the courts in the Old Keene Mill Swim and Racquet Club. Lee recently celebrated his 40th year teaching tennis at the facility when he could find the time from his full-time position designing submarines for the Department of Defense.
“A lot of kids went on with tennis, we had a few that went on to be coaches,” Lee said.
Tennis was good therapy for after work with the submarines. Lee finally retired in 2003 but even before that, he always made time when one of the students needed help. This included his grandson Kauluwai, at age 12. Lee’s attention made a lasting impression.
“When I really want to do something, he’ll come up to the courts and hit with me,” Kauluwai said.
It was always about having fun, Lee stressed.
“Kids love it,” Lee said.
Bryana Trupo who has two children in the program and now has a racquet and plays on a regular basis – something she didn’t do before.
“It taught me to play too,” Trupo said. “This is really an inclusive program, he makes sure everybody has fun in a sport they can do for the rest of their lives,” she added.
Jeff Jones was a tennis student of Lee’s who went on to coach tennis at Lake Braddock Secondary, West Springfield and Robinson High School between 1996-2021.
“He shaped my life, put me in a direction, it started with him,” Jones said, pointing at Lee as he conducted a round-robin of games on the court. One of Lee’s students also went on to teach tennis at Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology.
There was food, music and comradery up at the courts on July 19 as they celebrated Lee’s achievements.
This summer, Preston Nemeti is using his tennis skills he learned from Lee to help all the children at the club. The 16-year-old is an official instructor with 135 kids in his program. “It’s a pretty perfect job, I get to play tennis all day,” he said.
It all started for Lee in 1983 and his class size was about 12-14 children. The court surface was a little different and the children’s attention was on the task at hand, learning tennis. “Those days we didn’t have computers,” Lee said. “This keeps them out of trouble, their making true friendships,” he added.