In memory of our late President John Reed, who sadly passed away in October.
We’ll continue the legacy you built John and will always remember your vision, dedication and commitment.
Tribute to John Reed given by Robert Brown at John’s Memorial Service at Buxhall Church on Saturday 9th November 2019
As a member of Stowmarket Lawn Tennis Club for over 50 years and the Suffolk County Tennis Association Committee for about 20, I come today to pay tribute to John’s enormous contribution to Tennis in Suffolk.
When I first met John, Stowmarket had a friendly but sleepy club. For many years we had happily occupied a small, almost handkerchief sized site, hemmed in by Knight’s Cattle Yard, the Cricket Meadow and the Rookery Bowls Club (and woe betide anyone who accidentally hit a tennis ball over the fence into the middle of a bowls match). There were 3 tennis courts with very limited runback, and a white , rickety wooden shed with a bowed floor which served as our Clubhouse.
It was about this time plans were announced that the Dee Corporation were to build a new supermarket on much of the land around our site and the land occupied by our courts would also be compulsorily purchased as part of the scheme. Things looked bleak for the future of tennis in Stowmarket, as we had very little money and certainly nowhere near enough to acquire and build a new Club.
However, we did have two aces up our sleeve;
• firstly, we did own the freehold of the site: and
• secondly, we had John, the arch negotiator and deal doer.
Little by little he worked away at the Dee Corporation and eventually they started to put together a deal to relocate the Club. The initial offer was for a 3 court Club on an out of town, open, playing field site. However, in no way did this match John’s ambitious vision for the new Stowmarket Tennis Club. Slowly he was able to chip away and to persuade them to consider the town centre site that we now occupy, in the old brickpits behind Finborough Road
At first this looked very unpromising, with water filled pits largely occupied by resident toads. But eventually, largely driven by John, plans were drawn up to drain much of the area, build 4 new courts and a new brick built pavilion, with further land available for expansion. I can well remember Club Members’ amazement on the opening of the new site to find out the miracle that John had achieved in gaining such wonderful new premises for us.
Quickly to follow under John’s leadership were a 5th court and floodlighting on the 4th. However, perhaps the biggest achievement was his vision for a single skin dome to cover 3 of the courts during the winter season. This was a totally new innovation for a Suffolk Club, and indeed one of the first nationally. But John knew it was right for Stowmarket, and how correct he has proved to have been. His boundless energy again wore down initial resistance from the national LTA, and with further financial support from both the County and District Councils enough grant and loan funding was raised to allow the project to go ahead. The dome has been a wonderful benefit for our Club and one which has subsequently been followed by many other Clubs both locally and nationally. Through John’s efforts, tennis became a truly all year round sport in Stowmarket, no longer subject to whatever the winter weather might throw at us.
If you haven’t before seen out tennis courts, hidden away in the far corner of the Iliffe Way car park, take time to go and have a look. There couldn’t be a greater tribute to all that John has achieved for tennis in Stowmarket.
John has also been very active in supporting the Suffolk County Tennis Association. He was our Chairman for a number of years and more recently was made a Life Member of our Association. His chairmanship came at a time of great change for the organisation and funding of county tennis and John led our efforts to strengthen relationships with our neighbouring counties of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, under the umbrella of Tennis East.
Life in tennis for John hasn’t always been easy and his efforts to provide an indoor centre in Sudbury were ultimately less successful. However, even in adversity, with the unstinting love and support of Jill, he always pulled through with optimism and drive, never complaining about circumstances, always with a way of getting over problems: if he had to sell one house in Buxhall, he was quite capable of building a new one in the garden next door.
Throughout his life, John has loved playing the game of tennis and in his younger days competed at the All England Club at Wimbledon. In slightly later life, and under the more modest surrounds of Suffolk, he was a highly respected and much loved player in the county, district and veterans competitions. As his partner for many years in the Sunday morning winter league, I particularly remember his booming serve and winning net play. He was always a gentleman on court, never disputing an opponent’s line call and quick to congratulate a good shot played against him; always enjoying all the social aspects of the game, especially if they involved a pint of beer or a glass of red wine after a match.
So John, on behalf of Stowmarket Lawn Tennis Club, The County Association and all who play and love the game of Tennis in Suffolk, we would like to pay tribute to all your achievements on our behalf.
But most importantly to say how much we will miss you and Jill as our wonderful friends.