Tennis Legend Billy Power, 89, died on Feb. 25

 

WORCESTER - William P. Power, 89, of Westborough and formerly of Worcester, died Thursday, February 25, 2010 at his home.   He was a legendary figure in tennis in Worcester for most of the twentieth century.                   

 

Bill was one of the most accomplished tennis players in New England history.  He started playing at age 9, and at age 11 made the final round of the Worcester Parks under 19 division in his first tournament.  He won the state high school singles championship twice.  He went on to be ranked nationally in the top 10 in four different categories, and first in 14 different New England tennis divisions during his long and illustrious tennis career.  He was a mainstay on the New England tennis tournament circuit for decades.  He won more than 600 tournaments in his lifetime, including 12 All-Worcester Men's Singles titles, the last in 1971 at age 51.   

 

Bill played with some of the greatest tennis players of his era.  He played doubles against Rod Laver in Newport.  He competed against Vic Seixas, Bobby Riggs, Pancho Segura, Billy Talbert and Gardner Mulloy. He played exhibition matches with Don Budge, Bjorn Borg, Billie Jean King and Wendy Overton.  He competed on the Wimbledon courts while stationed in England during World War II.  With his longtime doubles partner Nick Sharry, he won countless New England championships. He won three Mass. state titles. 

 

Billy and his son Billy Jr. played in father-son doubles competitions for years and were for a time ranked fourth nationally.  They played against many well known regional teams, including the Bowditch, Allen and Steele families.

 

Bill was part of the 1991 inaugural group of inductees into the New England Tennis Hall of Fame recognizing him for his success as a player, his integrity on the court, and his lifetime as an ambassador for the game.

 

Bill was a nice guy who usually finished first.  His friend and frequent tennis partner Bob Cousy said: "It was a joy to be in Billy's company.  He had a rare combination of traits.  He was a sweet and gentle person overflowing with compassion.  He remained a gentleman on the tennis court, but was as fierce a competitor as you could ever find."

 

His wife of 61 years, Dorothy (Northridge) Power, died in 2004.  They also partnered in tennis, winning many mixed doubles tournaments.

 

He leaves four children, Nancy Gill and her husband Joseph of Westboro, William P. Power Jr. and Linda Power of Carmel, Indiana, Ellen Barry and her husband Philip of Holden, and Susan Tanner and her husband Michael of Westboro; 10 grandchildren, Christopher and Elizabeth "Dee Dee" Anderson, Amy, Lindsey and Kylie Power, Michael and Timothy Barry and Courtney, Kelsey and Robert Tanner, five great-grandchildren, a sister, Gertrude M. Dean of Harwich Port, and many nieces and nephews.  His dear companion, Mary Jean Ashton, died last week.

 

Bill was born in Worcester, one of eleven children of Patrick M. and Elizabeth C. (McCann) Power.  He attended Worcester North High School, where he also starred at basketball, and graduated from Hebron Academy in Maine.  He attended the College of the Holy Cross for two years before entering the Army Air Corps.  He was a World War II veteran, and participated in the Normandy invasion before advancing through France into Belgium and Germany.

 

From 1956 through 1967, Bill promoted the game of tennis in clinics and demonstrations throughout the Northeast for the Spalding sporting goods company.  He later joined the Bancroft Sporting Goods Co., a leading racquet manufacturer.  He was a sales and marketing representative for the company for more than 20 years, retiring in 1989. 

 

Bill was a member of the Worcester Tennis Club for 75 years.  He served as its teaching pro in the early 1950's.  Many of the players he instructed achieved notable success in tennis.  Each summer, the club hosts the Worcester County Open Tennis Championships to honor Bill & Dottie Power, who were both former presidents of the club.  Bill was also the tennis coach at Worcester Academy from 1952 until 1967.  He was a member of the U.S. Professional Tennis Assn. for 60 years.

 

Billy was a humble man and a gentle man.  He greeted everyone he met with a warm and genuine smile, a firm handshake and a wish for a good day.  He loved music and dancing. He was proud of his heritage, his country and his family.  The twinkle in his eye is gone but never forgotten.  He will be sorely missed by all who were fortunate to know him. 

 

Calling hours are Tuesday, March 2 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Athy Memorial Home, 111 Lancaster St., Worcester.  The funeral will be Wednesday, March 3 from the funeral home with a Mass at 11 a.m. in Blessed Sacrament Church, 555 Pleasant St., Worcester.  Burial will be in Saint John's Cemetery, Worcester.

 

In lieu of flowers, donation may be made to an organization dedicated to helping at-risk urban youth develop skills, build character and find pathways to excellence with fitness and tennis:  Tenacity Inc., Attn: Development Dept., 367 Western Ave., 2nd Floor, Brighton, MA 02135.