The Texas 4.0 women's team
© Gregory Shamus
By J. Fred Sidhu, special to USTA.com
When it came to tennis in Tyler, Texas, Charles Millard Countryman was someone who made a difference.
Tennis was a passion for the 82-year-old Countryman, who began assisting at tennis tournaments in Texas in the early 1980s and became a certified USTA official in 1990. During his 23 years as an official, he devoted his life to officiating matches and supporting the development of tennis programs throughout Texas.
Countryman passed away on Thursday, Oct. 17, the same day the USTA Texas Section women’s team from Tyler arrived in Indian Wells, Calif., to play in the 2013 USTA League Adult 40 & Over 4.0 National Championships.
“We were on our way out here for this tournament and when the plane landed, I turned on my phone and got a bunch of text messages coming through and one of them said he had passed away that morning. It just made me cry,” said team captain Shawna Tankersley.
“He was just a great guy. He was very loving and outgoing. He ate, drank and slept tennis,” added Tankersley, whose team represents the Hollytree Country Club in Tyler. “He became an official and he upheld the rules and the standards of the USTA and he expected everyone else to do that too, play fair and play it the way it’s supposed to be played.”
Tankersley fondly remembered Countryman as an official who always called foot faults. “We have a girl here this weekend who said she was not going to foot fault all weekend in honor of Millard,” she said with a smile.
According to Tankersley, Countryman was to be buried with his tennis racquet.
“He loved the game and played it until he absolutely couldn’t play it anymore,” Tankersley said. “Just seeing that white-haired old man on the court and when you saw him, it just brought a smile to your face.”
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