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August 15, 2016 05:13 PM

Remembering Charlie Chavez

Charlie_Chavez_PhotoEarlier this year the Tennis Club of Albuquerque lost a charter member. Charlie Chavez, 90, also happened to be one of TCA’s best-loved people. To help celebrate the club’s 60th anniversary, Charlie’s family and friends recalled the man for Toby Smith.  

Charlene Chavez Tunney, daughter:  My father did not grow up on a tennis court.  His mother died when he was 4 and his father, an Albuquerque policeman who walked a beat, wasn’t around very much. Dad came from a humble and difficult childhood.  Most of his growing up years he was taken care of by his older sister. One day she bought him a cheap wood racket and he played on the old Zoo courts and hit against walls. He was self-taught. 

Angie Chavez, widow: Charlie went to Albuquerque High School and UNM and served in World War in Europe under George S. Patton.  After the war, he took a job at Sandia Labs. In 1956, he helped organize the Tennis Club of Albuquerque. Charlie and I immediately became regulars at the club.  He taught me to play there. 

Gig Brummell, friend: Charlie and Angie regularly took new members on to the back courts and hit with them. Charlie loved to teach people tennis, especially young kids.  He helped me pick up the game. Charlie was a lot older than I was, but we would play doubles together every Saturday and Sunday. We were partners on the court for 15 years. Charlie always wanted to play the backhand side. 

Angie Chavez: Charlie played tournaments at TCA, at Sandia Labs and in the Southwest.  You can find his name on many small, gold-colored markers on the clubhouse wall for winning the singles, men’s doubles and mixed doubles. 
Norm Chavez, son:  My dad never had an enemy He got along with everybody and he played tennis with anyone, no matter how good or bad they were. I didn’t take up tennis until I was 12.  Before that I was kind of a screw-up at the club. My dad never pushed me.  One day I decided I want to be a player. He looked at me and said, “I’ve been waiting for this.” Every night after that for two hours he would hit a bucket of balls with me. He drilled me every day. He built me into a tennis player and after a year I caught up with other kids.  He loved the game that much. He was the best dad you could ever have.
Charlie_signChuck Maguire, former teaching pro at TCA:   On a small patio facing court No. 2 there’s a large sign on the wall. It says, Angie and Charlie Corner. “Charlie liked to sit there and then get on that court and play. We laughed that he didn’t know how to find any of the other courts at the club. 

Charlene Chavez Tunney: Whenever young players came to Albuquerque to play in a tournament, my parents would house them. I can’t think of a young kid interested in tennis who my father didn’t work with and practice with and teach. He was always available to play tennis.  Always. 

Jack Kennedy, friend:  Charlie embodied everything that is good about tennis and about TCA. Everybody liked Charlie.   He played with good players and ones who weren’t very good. He was like that “Cheers” bar on TV. Everybody knew Charlie’s name.
youngdad3_(1)Angie Chavez: Charlie was small in size. Maybe 5 foot 7. He was very fast and well-coordinated. He had good hands. He could drop the ball on a dime.

Jeff Chavez, son: “My dad was part of a group of players that really established the culture of TCA. Some of those in that group were Ed Edmonds, Nancy Neeld, Reggie Garcia, Bill Patterson, Mo Nour, Sissy Kelly and so on.  They were all very good and they played tennis all the time. We kids at the club used to look up to them, especially to my father. In fact, Ted Howard, Dwight Howard’s son, named his dog “Charlie Chavez.”
Angie Chavez: Was my husband the life of the party?  Well, people gravitated toward him. We met so many wonderful people on the tennis court. We went to tournaments together. I was the first woman president of the club.  I don’t play tennis any more.  I’m afraid of falling down and breaking something.  I’m 91.

Jeff Chavez: The club during the 1960s was a great place to grow up.  TCA was not some buttoned-down, stuffy place.  Dad wouldn’t let it be; he helped make it a fun place. The club turned out many fine tennis players and swimmers, people who embraced two activities that are lifetime sports.
My Dad was usually at the center of everything. He was president of the club more than once.

Charlie_Chavez_(1)Norm Chavez:  The rule he set in our house was this:  If you ever throw a racket or get angry on the court I will yank you right off. Tantrums were not allowed. Dad practiced what he preached. He never lost his temper when he played. I never saw him yell or get upset. Oh, and he was a spectacular player.
Gig Brummell:  In his 80s, Charlie fell on the court and banged up his shoulder.  That’s when he initiated the 75-25 rule. He said to me, “Gig you cover 75 percent of the court and I‘ll take the other 25.” Another time Charlie fell and four concerned women hurried over to where he lay to see if he was OK.  Charlie eventually moved his arms and opened his eyes.  “I must be in heaven,” he said.  “I see four angels.”  His legs started to go on him after that. He finally went to a walker, yet still came to the club. He’d stand by the side of a court with his walker and kibitz.
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