At 6’3” and 195 pounds, Mike was the perfect picture of a man in fine physical health. An optimistic attitude about life, exceptional mental and physical strength and the kind of man that always made you feel good about yourself and just happy to be alive. A kind, sensitive man who radiated a positive and rewarding energy to those individuals who were fortunate enough to meet him. If you were introduced to him, he’d always shake your hand, you never forgot his firm yet very warm, sincere handshake, like no other. Driving around Anderson Valley in his White ’63 Chevy, people said he reminded them of Clint Eastwood in the movie “Bridges of Madison County.” A real fine country gentleman with a gentle disposition and one of the few people I know who actually sincerely listened to whatever you wanted to talk about.
Little did many Valley residents know that this fine strapping gentleman had been diagnosed with cancer 21 years previous and, with a strong, determined mind to match his body, had beaten the odds with no obvious visible signs of the disease. Many a time he told me that he was convinced that his regular vigorous Tennis exercise program was the main reason he felt he had kept his cancer at bay all those years. His never ending quest to play everyone in the Valley at least once was sometimes overshadowed by his determination to beat everyone at least once as well.
Everyone who ever played tennis with Mike knew that he was the first person on the court in the morning, sometimes sweeping up the newly windswept sand on the courts or cutting back the berry vines that grew through the fence and, most importantly, making sure the net was the correct height for play when his formidable opponents arrived. He was always determined to do his best with the courts available at Anderson Valley High School to mitigate any excuses for losing a match.
It is therefore debatable that anybody had as close a relationship with tennis in Anderson Valley and with the maintenance of the courts at the High School than Mike had. Except for his close personal friends, hardly anyone who played tennis with him knew of his 20 year-old victory over cancer. Nobody, except for maybe his wife Maureen, knew of the pivotal role tennis played in his life both in the Valley and elsewhere. Everyone who played tennis with Mike, whether an adversary or partner, played tennis like they played against everyone else, and that’s that way Mike wanted it. There were no excuses! Not health, age, height, weight, gender, socioeconomic, race, national origin, disability, religion, or education. Not many a day was too cold, or too hot! If you won, you won, and if you lost, you lost. You did your best, beaten fair and square and with Mike, there was no mercy either!
Mike used to say that the most wonderful thing about tennis is that anyone can play. That the cost of entry to Tennis was merely a tennis racket and a can of balls. To be in such a beautiful setting like Anderson Valley, well, we in the valley can all relate to this wonderful experience, even not playing tennis. I can remember more than a handful of occasions while playing tennis when Mike would make me stop for a moment and look around. The trees blanketing the north slopes and the meadows flowing over the south slopes, the cool crisp mornings and the gentle afternoon breezes. The blue sky, the clean fresh air and the wonderful human beings who make up the community of Anderson Valley. If you knew Mike, you’d always hear him say, “Isn’t this wonderful,” and I for one still hear him and would like to share his story and his wish for Anderson Valley with you.
When Mike informed me that his cancer had returned for what he felt was the last time, he expressed how he loved Anderson Valley, the natural beauty, the people here, and playing tennis at the High School in Boonville. For the first time he also revealed to me that he had always felt the condition of tennis courts was the single most important aspect that took away from the enjoyment of the game in such a perfect setting, that in his entire lifetime he had not played on courts that were in such disrepair.
“It’s the most beautiful scenic location I’ve ever played tennis, but the tennis courts are in such bad shape I think they may actually be affecting the outcome of a game, and they’re only getting worse,” he said. “When I go, I will set aside a fund to hopefully restore the courts to their original condition so that children growing up here can be as fortunate as I was to learn to play tennis on a flat surface, without ruts and bumps and grooves.” He went on, “I’m going to leave some money for the courts, but you cannot tell anyone about it until I’m gone. This is such a beautiful valley and playing on proper tennis courts would be such a wonderful experience for children and adults alike and such an asset for all in Anderson Valley.”
Mike was right! Mike is still right, and he’s backed it up with his own personal savings. Why not have decent and proper tennis courts for this community? Why not provide a place for our children where they can share and learn all that comes from such a wonderful game? Why shouldn’t tennis players feel that they were playing each other on a level playing field (no pun intended)? Why not that when a person or team won, it was because they were at that time and place, better than the other and an irregular ball bounce didn’t affect the outcome of the game? And why not provide children of the valley an outlet for their bounding youthful energy, enthusiasm, optimism, interest and excitement?
Why not? As we all know like just about everything else, it’s about the money. I am delighted to inform you that the process has already begun! Mike brought more tennis players out of hiding and some good ones too! There are times when you may have to wait for a court on the weekends in summer and since Mike’s passing, several players have now committed to joining the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and forming an Anderson Valley Tennis Team to play other towns and cities. For those interested in competitive tennis, the players and alternates thus far are: David Ballantine , Camille Corby, J.R. Collins, Tina Walter, Clive Silverman, Rich Ferguson, Peter Gordon, Jeannie Collins, Arnaud Weyrich
If you would like to try-out for one of the remaining spots available on the Anderson Valley Tennis team, please contact David Ballantine.
Several discussions have also taken place to coach and assist in the development of our youth playing tennis in the valley through the possible formation of the (AVTA) Anderson Valley Tennis Association. As Mike would often say, the children in this valley need something they can latch on to, something that can motivate them to exercise not only their bodies but their minds. Tennis not only helps keep us in shape and healthy, but also teaches coordination, patience, inspiration, personal satisfaction, persistence, perseverance, selflessness and teamwork in an intimate social environment. If you believe like the rest of us, these attributes form an integral part of an individual’s character which transcends to a better and closer community. Done right, these courts will probably last our lifetime. With the formation of the AVTA, the USTA has graciously offered to donate tennis rackets and balls to all who wish to learn or play tennis and cannot afford them.
We all know there are a multitude of fine causes in the Valley and we all receive their solicitations every year. These causes, worthy as they are, require annual donations to continue to survive year after year. What differentiates this cause from all the others is that not only is it self-sustaining, but a one-time event, a single call to action, a one-time tax deductible donation that provides the donor with the satisfaction knowing that the cause has been completed and will probably outlast the donor’s lifetime.
A gracious grant from Mike and Maureen Bowman has planted the seed to begin the restoration of all three Tennis Courts in Anderson Valley, for Anderson Valley Junior High and for Anderson Valley High School.
Many valley residents have already watered this seed and recently a donor has offered up to $45,000 in matching funds and I just received a call while writing this from a local winery pledging $6,000. We are already almost there and would like to begin this project before the 2012 summer season. If this valley has the motivation and wherewithal that Mike believed it had, we should receive donations to match the $45,000 to make this a reality this summer.
Here are the details for your tax deductible contribution:
Select “Donor Advised Fund” from dropdown menu
See: Bowman Family Fund - Grants recommended by Maureen Bowman.
Select “Donate to this fund now”
Payable to: Community Foundation of Mendocino County
Reference Bowman Family Fund in the MEMO section
290 South State Street, Ukiah, CA 95482. 468-9882
Besides asking for your hard earned money and with or without the tennis courts restored, I encourage anyone looking for a new experience, a game, a challenge, a dynamic social interaction or just plain exercise, won’t you come play with us?
Clive Silverman, email@example.com . 895-2024
David Ballantine, firstname.lastname@example.org, 895-2583