Rites today for tennis coach, advocate Charlie Cunningham
BY TIM STANLEY World Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
11/21/12 at 3:56 AM
After nearly 30 years of teaching Tulsans to return serve, a little return for Charlie Cunningham's service was long overdue.
The director of tennis at LaFortune Park for much of those three decades, Cunningham had given his life to the sport, helping it take off locally by starting the city's first tennis leagues, organizing tournaments and giving thousands of lessons.
In recognition of those contributions, Cunningham was honored last month in a ceremony at LaFortune.
In addition to the unveiling of a sculpture and plaque to him, Court 4 was renamed for Cunningham and his wife, Nancy Cunningham, who worked side by side with him, honoring their years of dedication.
Charlie D. Cunningham, who was inducted into the USTA Missouri Valley Hall of Fame in 1999, died Saturday. He was 89. A memorial service is set for 11 a.m. Wednesday at Freeman Harris Funeral Home.
A native of Ardmore, Cunningham came to love tennis as a boy, playing on a dirt court in a relative's backyard.
After serving with the Army Air Forces during World War II, he took his game to the University of Oklahoma.
Playing for OU from 1947 to 1951, Cunningham lost only one conference singles match during that time and led the Sooners to four league titles.
He had never really done any teaching, though, until the opportunity came to take over at the new LaFortune Park Tennis Center.
Cunningham became the director of tennis operations there in 1970.
His wife came on board with him, handling most of the office duties, while he was out on the courts.
"He was excited at the opportunity," Nancy Cunningham said. "He had always loved to play, and this gave him a chance to share it with many others. Meeting all the different people was his favorite part."
She said he also enjoyed getting to work with young players and watching them progress in their games.
"Remember the three C's - consistency, concentration and Charlie," he liked to quip.
Cunningham left LaFortune in 1993. From there, he taught lessons at a couple of local clubs before he retired.
He continued to play recreationally until earlier this year, his wife said.
A past president of the Oklahoma District Tennis Association and the Tulsa Area Tennis Association, Cunningham was one of the original inductees in the Oklahoma Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999.
His survivors include his wife of 56 years, Nancy Cunningham; three children, Debbie Miggins, Cherie Burgess and Blake Cunningham; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Original Print Headline: Tennis coach's love for the game was unmatched
Tim Stanley 918-581-8385
Charlie Cunningham: In recognition of his contributions to the sport, Cunnigham was feted in a ceremony at LaFortune Park. In addition to unveiling a sculpture and a plaque in his honor, Court 4 was renamed for Cunningham and his wife, Nancy Cunningham, who worked with him. Cunningham was the park's director of tennis for nearly 30 years