Remembering “Tennis”

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 Ogilvy

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.”

17 responses to “Remembering “Tennis”

  1. Bonnie Scott Connolly

    I was actually in one of his Sunday School Classes at Saugatuck Congregational Church. I think we got unruly once in awhile but I definitely think we got his message “Jesus is Love”. I remember a picture in the paper once of all his girls lined up, each braiding the hair of the one in front of them. They were all great kids, a true testimony to their father.

  2. Generations of Westporters recall that bellowing voice — and the kindness behind it. Good memories of a great guy, CAS — and Bonnie, too..

  3. I remember he would sit in once a year in at least one of Joan’s elementary school classes to see the class in action.

    I was working a temp job a few months before he died and he called in to our customer service center. He didn’t recognize my name and I wished I had introduced myself when I saw his name pop up on the computer screen.

  4. The Dude Abides

    One great guy. Happy Birthday, Papa Ogs.

  5. Great memories. I remember joining a league at Westport Tennis in 1996/97. What a great strategic tennis player! We all learned so much about the game from Steve.

  6. Both my older sister and I grew up with two of Steve’s children and knew most of the ones in between. They were all (if that is possible) as nice as their dad and not a black sheep in the bunch. I’ll never forget hearing Mr. O bellow “WOW!!!” at the conclusion of the Staples Spring concert my junior year and the whole auditorium bursting into laughter. I still have the recording and they didn’t take his contribution out. This was a father of the finest caliber who lived life so fully that he will never be forgotten and thanks for putting this in.

  7. One of “Tennis” habits was also to attend each of his nine children’s classes for a day in school. He did this each year of each child’s school career in Westport. While most of us would be horrified, Mr. Ogilvy fit in like any other kid. Wonderful man!!

  8. I believe one of his sons is a neurosurgeon at Mass General. He treated our daughter, obviously brilliant, surprisingly he had a wonderful bedside manner. Now we know why!

  9. Thank you to the many of you who have taken the time to remember my Dad. It means so much to each of us. May his spirit, love for life and willingness to be his own person remain an example for us all. Joan Ogilvy Holden (the middle of nine!)

  10. Bonnie Scott Connolly

    Thanks, Tom. Am I correct that you lived up on Tar Rock Rd behind (and above) our house on Narrow Rocks? (sorry to draw the thread away from Mr Ogilvy)

  11. Nope, Bonnie, that was Charlie Allen, my friend and ’66 classmate but no relation. My family lived on Treadwell Ave. in Saugatuck. Sister Suzy was ’65, Emmary ’69. Your dad, Harry, and mine, John, were friends and Saugapops together. Your dad was coach of the Hornets, the Little League juggernaut of the that era for which one of my oldest friends, Murray Rosenberg, was a star pitcher. Murray still talks about your dad with reverence. Back on thread…Like your dad and mine, big Steve Ogilvy was also a Saugapop (and also one of our Troop 73 scoutmasters) . Son Steve ’66 was my classmate from Saugatuck El through Staples. Joanie ’69 was friends with my sister Emmary. Buck, nice memory of big Steve, and how typical of him!

    • Bonnie Scott Connolly

      Okay, Tom, now I am on board. (sorry for the lapse). I remember Suzy from sports and then we always used to see her name as a producer on the news (CBS?) and would love the last show of the year when they showed her on screen and other producers and employees. I remember the Hornets and how great a pitcher Murray Rosenberg was. My brother, Jack, was on the team also. My dad died in 1986 so he has been gone a long time. I remember Steve and Joanie the most of the Ogilvie offspring. I was right in the middle as the class of 67.

  12. Joanie, your dad gave a lot of people in Westport more gifts than could ever possibly be returned. He was, however a partner with your mom and I’ll leave it to Dan to figure her story out for remembrance on his blog.

  13. The Dude Abides

    Indeed, Alicia Ogilvy was an incredible individual as well. A talented artist, she drew my portrait for my parents just before I went off to Vietnam. It seemed when she was finally done getting her nine off to school, the grandkids started to come. Certainly she was the rock behind Papa Steve’s success and good will.

  14. Were the twins David and Mike among his children, or his lineage? I remember they played tennis at the Y.

  15. Longtime Westporter

    Wendy Ogilvy was just a bit younger than I was, and I admired her as one of the nicest girls in Staples. And not long ago my husband and I visited Steve Ogilvy’s son, David, down in Stamford. He has continued giving superior care with the AA Hearing Aid (?) company and he visits the Westport Senior Center once a month or so to give free checkups. I see that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Wonderful family!