Carl Swanson — a Staples grad and Steve Ogilvy fan — sent along this remembrance of one of Westport’s most legendary sportsmen.
Those tired of seeing the endless array of clones dressed in ball caps, sunglasses and driving in convertibles around town may take a brief moment to remember Steve Ogilvy on this, his 95nd birthday.
Steve — nicknamed “Tennis” — is no longer with us. He died in a traffic accident in 2005, returning home from a tennis match. Many remember the tennis star, Hall of Fame inductee and father of 9 children. He was a Westport fixture for over 50 years. Many generations recall at least one of his talented offspring.
The man himself was as unique as the town he loved. A Princeton graduate, he followed the path of entrepreneurship with a hearing aid business in Bridgeport.
Before it was fashionably healthy, “Tennis” did not smoke or drink. He offered each of his children $1,000 if they didn’t abide until they reached the age of 21.
He taught Sunday school and confirmation class at Saugatuck Congregational Church with the infamous lesson that “Jesus is love” would be a correct response to any question ever asked. His boisterous voice could be heard among all others when he sang hymns in church.
When the nest on Valley Road was empty of all 9 children, he wrote each of them a post card every Monday for 30 years.
His non-conformity and stark individuality seemed a perfect fit for Westport. During Ogilvy’s heyday the town was full of unusual stores, celebrities, artisans and many who paralleled his uncanny ability to be different. Certainly he was accomplished, but the true brilliance of the man was his graciousness and love of life.
Such traits rubbed off on most people around him. He could make you feel good about yourself with a few choice words. At my father’s funeral, my former wife mentioned that it was extraordinary that he had 9 kids. He pointed his finger at me: “And he was our 10th.”
When the new pastor at Saugatuck Congregational gave his first sermon, there was an abrupt silence upon its completion. Soon the bellowing voice of “Tennis” announced to the attendees: “A+. A+”.
I guess more than anything I miss about Steve Ogilvy is his happiness. Save his athletic abilities, loving family, business success and innate intelligence, “Tennis” was a happy Westporter. We could use a little more of that these days. As he once told me when he saw me play tennis: “Less pizzazz and more snap.” Amen.
Happy Birthday, “Tennis.”