It is with deep sadness that we report the sudden passing of Richard (Dick) Johnson, a friend to tennis players throughout the world and a longstanding member of our USIC. David Nash, himself a USIC member who has nobly served our Club for many years, composed this beautiful tribute to his dear friend. We thought it fitting that David’s comments be posted for all members to read to get a full appreciation of Dick’s many accomplishments on and off the tennis court. There is no doubt that Dick left a valuable legacy to the tennis community that will have a lasting impact on so many connected with our sport.
On Monday, April 8, I woke to the news that one of my best friends, Richard (Dick) Johnson, had died in his sleep. This is a huge loss to so many. Dick’s wife, Liz, lost the love of her life. Dick was a father, grandfather, coach/teacher, a son-in-law, and a friend to so many. The tennis world lost one of its most legendary competitors. We are all stunned and sad.
A week ago Dick and Liz spent five days with us in Florida. Typical of tennis players, we discussed old matches, and I asked him, “What would you say were your most memorable career moments.” Dick was typically humble, but he shared some great stories. Dick was looking forward to playing a National Tournament in May and planned to join Jimmy Parker, a long-time friend and competitor from St. Louis, at the World Championships in Croatia. His only dilemma was how he would manage to juggle his tennis and pickleball tournaments (a recently acquired sport where he had already won a National title.)
He was born in Rockford, Illinois, but lived most of his life in St Louis, Missouri. He played tennis for Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University. He spent a year on the tour, but gave it up to become a teaching professional. He recently retired as the head tennis professional at the Country Club of St. Louis. In 1997 he was named to the Missouri Valley Tennis Hall of Fame.
Dick loved tennis and was a fierce, classy, well-respected player. At age 74, he looked and moved like a much younger player. Throughout his life he spent most of his vacation time competing in tournaments; locally, nationally, and internationally. As a singles player, he was consistently ranked top four in senior tennis, but he was especially known as a brilliant doubles player. Every player felt confident and lucky to have Dick as a partner. I was lucky to share the court with Dick numerous times. Dick earned over 60 gold balls, the coveted award for winning a National tournament. Since the 1980s, almost every year, Dick was elected to the U.S. team to participate in the ITF World Team and Individual Championships. In 2015, Dick won the senior World Singles Title in Croatia, gaining his highest ranking ever. Dick participated in tournaments throughout the U.S. and across Europe, competing in England, France, Germany, Austria, the Czech Republic as well as South Africa.
We will miss him immensely and treasure the good times we all shared with him.
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