Farewell, The Ambassador

Clearly the title should be Farewell, Mr. Ambassador, but nobody ever called Temple Grassi “Mr. Ambassador.”

Had they done so he would have been one among many, but “The Ambassador” made him unique.

The inadvertent word choice grew over time to reflect reality. Temple Grassi was a most unusual fellow but now he is gone, and we are less.

Too few people aspire to be unusual and I’m not sure Temple did either. He just was. It seemed that he let it happen rather than trying to make it happen.

Large numbers of people go long periods of time without emailing Washington Post reporters to decry the absence of court tennis coverage in the sports pages.

Not Temple. Almost any story on sports misbehavior, cheating, double dealing by officials or any form of exploiting a sport for personal gain would elicit an email directing the reporter to come to Prince’s Court to witness a sport in which these things never happen. The reporters never came. Indeed, they rarely answered. Temple soldiered on.

Technically, Temple was a teacher but his second career following retirement was sportsman, an exemplar of the finest traditions of that craft.

He taught 10- to 12-year-old boys, first at Allan Stevenson School in New York and later at Landon near Washington.

Grown-ups were often surprised when he would ask if anyone needed to go to the bathroom before the start of the journey. You learn to do that when you teach fifth grade.

He taught generations of boys about the Civil War by taking them to Gettysburg and making them reenact Pickett’s Charge. I suspect many more lessons were learned running up the hill then would have been remembered from a recitation of regiments and tactics.

In math, he would skip whole chapters deeming them unnecessary. The one on counting systems to the base six rather than the base 10 comes particularly to mind, but he did teach fractions and decimals… as needed.

Though Temple might have skipped the odd chapter in the fifth-grade math workbook, he was clearly an accomplished mathematician otherwise his backgammon addiction would have cost him dearly.

Far more important than arcane aspects of math, he taught boys to stand up, shake hands, look him in the eye and say their names — both first and last — without mumbling.

Temple was the teacher of choice if you cared about what kind of person your son might grow up to be. Unfortunately, over his career, that objective declined in importance to parents who came to prefer the prestige of college stickers on the back of the family SUV. So, Temple retired and became a sportsman, and this led to his becoming The Ambassador.

Neither of us remembers when or where we met, but we both thought it was in the early to mid-1980s at the start of the Quixotic mission to build a court tennis court in Washington.

There will be no recounting of that story because those who want to know it already do and those who don’t know it really don’t need to. Besides, it extends over the better part of four decades. True, this omission puts me in the same category as the Washington Post reporters who ignored his emails and I know Temple will be disappointed in my not telling you every detail, but I do think you are the better for it.

Our time playing together in Washington extended from September 1997, when we had to hit just a few balls even though the paint on the lines was still wet, through late May or early June 2021, when we played with Robert Liberace, the artist who is painting the portrait that will hang in the Grassi room at the new Prince’s Court at Westwood Country Club.

Our travels took us to England, Scotland, France, and Australia and to the other courts in the United States, all as chronicled in Around the World in 50 Courts, soon to be a major motion picture.

Temple was always the navigator. Some things were absolutes and driving on the wrong side of the road was one of them. He would never do it and this became a factor on our trips to England, some of which took place before the perfection of the GPS let alone a GPS on your phone.

The solution at the time was MapQuest, which provided turn by turn written directions. The downside was that everything had to be planned in detail before leaving the United States because who takes a printer to England?

I would create a notebook divided by day, and the detailed routing would be printed out, three-hole punched and put in the correct order.

As navigator, it fell to Temple to tell me what to do next as I tried to avoid head on collisions by being on the wrong side of the road.

The somewhat prehistoric system, it had a fatal flaw. Concentrating on the pages made Temple carsick.

As is well known, one of England’s great contributions to civilization is the roundabout. MapQuest views this as four commands: turn right; turn left; continue past some number of turnings; turn right again. Each had its own separate line on a set of MapQuest directions.

Because of the car sickness, Temple would have to close the notebook after each direction, and we would circle the roundabout several times as we scrambled to reopen it to the correct page.

On one occasion, in Reading, we became so lost that we had to spread a proper map out on the hood of the car. It is entirely possible that everything since 1999 has been an out of body experience and that Temple and I are still standing by the side of the road trying to figure out how to get out of Reading.

For years, Temple refused to play golf. He thought he would become addicted. Eventually he relented and he did become addicted. The game gave him many opportunities to use one of his favorite expressions: “mistakes were made.” This was said most often when recording the scores though, in recent years, there seemed to be a decline in the importance of that nefarious practice.

Temple also refused to be involved with Facebook or any other social media. Again, he feared addiction. Probably wisely. Can you imagine anyone who would have been better at it?

Even in person, he knew everyone’s first and last names, where they went to school and college to say nothing of the team nicknames and mascots of their alma maters. Can you imagine unleashing that force on Facebook? Like the phrase, “I coulda been a contendah,” Temple might have become an influencer. Stand aside Kardashians.

How do you mark a life?

Temple had one marriage to Ellie, a truly lovely woman. Perhaps long-suffering at times but one who used the words “that incredible spirit” in an email and telling friends he was leaving the hospital to come home to hospice.

He has three daughters, who might have resisted his “how to behave” lessons as children, but who now remind us how important it is to turn out to be a good grown-ups.

He has several lovely grandchildren who knew exactly how to stick his favorite Prince’s Court tattoos to his arm as they stood by his bedside on his final day.

Temple would be disappointed if I did not end with one of his favorite poems: Vitae Lampada, by Sir Henry Newboldt, which I could not possibly read without breaking up.

Vitai Lampada
(“They Pass On The Torch of Life”)

There’s a breathless hush in the Close to-night —
Ten to make and the match to win —
A bumping pitch and a blinding light,
An hour to play and the last man in.
And it’s not for the sake of a ribboned coat,
Or the selfish hope of a season’s fame,
But his Captain’s hand on his shoulder smote —
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

The sand of the desert is sodden red, —
Red with the wreck of a square that broke; —
The Gatling’s jammed and the Colonel dead,
And the regiment blind with dust and smoke.
The river of death has brimmed his banks,
And England’s far, and Honour a name,
But the voice of a schoolboy rallies the ranks:
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

This is the word that year by year,
While in her place the School is set,
Every one of her sons must hear,
And none that hears it dare forget.
This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind —
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

For Temple, it could never have been about the ribboned coat. What was important was how you behaved in the square that broke.

The last words I said to Temple when I left his bedside were, “please get Freddy Prince, Robin Martin and Chick Cudlip together to get started on the next new court.

He might. It would be in keeping for one who has done more for a small game than nearly anyone else.

Play up! Play up! And play the game.

Nobody knew the meaning of those words better than “The (one and only) Ambassador,” Temple Grassi.

Godspeed, my friend.

153 Responses to “Farewell, The Ambassador”

Daniel Hsu, September 23, 2021 at 10:57 am said:

A fine tribute… and we are less indeed. I shall miss him.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 11:14 am said:

Thank you Daniel, many will join you.

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Andrew J Glass, September 26, 2021 at 4:32 pm said:

Beautifully written memorial to a splendid soul.

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Gaetano Cipriano, September 23, 2021 at 11:12 am said:

Temple was a true sportsman and a great Jester, Jesting freely. He’ll be missed. A big man, with a big personality. A great profile on a memorable individual . Well written, Haven.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 11:14 am said:

Thank you, Guy. Indeed he was.

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Peter Bender, September 23, 2021 at 11:19 am said:

Farewell old dog, always enjoyed you in my corner in the front row of every dedans shouting ” Protect the Colours, Its Not the British, its the Mardi! Go Global!” We Love You & Family! Claudia,Wolfgang,Peter Bender

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Tod Sedgwick, September 23, 2021 at 11:21 am said:

Lovely tribute to a great sportsman and consummate gentleman.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 11:23 am said:

Thank you Tod, I posted this from just up the street from your MVY house

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Charles Houghton, September 23, 2021 at 11:24 am said:

What a grand tribute to a grand man.

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John A. Murphy, September 23, 2021 at 11:25 am said:

So glad that I got to spend a bit of time with The Ambassador over the years.

Thank you, Haven, for the fine tribute. It’s a keeper.

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Melissa Purcell, September 23, 2021 at 11:26 am said:

Wow, Haven! Well done. Beautiful dedication to my father. He really was one of a kind. I’m looking forward to reading the book!

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 11:29 am said:

Thank you Melissa, I am really glad you liked it.

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Chip Oat, September 23, 2021 at 11:32 am said:

As Temple’s friend and fellow Jester, Treddy Ketchum, would say at times such as this, “It’s the end of an era!”

Never were truer words ever spoken.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 11:36 am said:

unless the “host behind” learned its lesson and picks up the torch….

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Helen Grassi Vest, September 23, 2021 at 11:37 am said:

Brought a tear to my eye, but also, some pretty heavy laughs! I can just picture you two lost in Reading, trying to read a road map. We lost a great man last week, but we are all better ladies and gentlemen for having known him and I was the lucky one to have had him as my father. And thank goodness he never joined Facebook! Thank you so much, Haven, this means a great deal to my family, and the same for “The Ambassador”. Surely there is a court tennis court in heaven and if not, one will be built really soon!

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 11:41 am said:

Thank you for your lovely comment, Helen.I am especially glad you liked the story.

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Kenneth Karpinski, September 23, 2021 at 11:38 am said:

Temple was a fierce competitor and a good & true friend.
I will never forget him.
Your tribute says it all.
Thank you.

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Alvar Soosaar, September 23, 2021 at 11:44 am said:

A lovely note about a great guy, Haven.
My last tennis match was at Prince’s Court with Temple a couple of days before his annual journey north. He has related this elsewhere, but we bonded years ago over (many drinks over) a shared quixotic quest to connect our funny/amazing sport to Thomas Jefferson — we got to about 95% certainty. Every year he sent me (and I’m very certain I am not alone in this) a packet of tennis ball lettuce seeds from TJ’s home of Monticello, and last year, he got the staff from there wound up about racquet sports generally, a circumstance that left me chuckling on my last visit there.
While it was certainly a privilege to know him, it was also just a lot of fun! I’m going to miss him a lot.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 11:51 am said:

Thanks for the comment Alvaar. He was obsessed with the idea that Jefferson at least knew of the game. Another facet of The Ambassador’s wonderful way of thinking.

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Tim Chisholm, September 23, 2021 at 11:44 am said:

Well said…

The game and everyone involved were blessed to have known ‘The Ambassador’

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 11:52 am said:

Many thanks Tim. Nobody was more dedicated to the professionals who make the game possible.

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Tony Parker, September 23, 2021 at 11:44 am said:

You were the perfect person to write this beautiful tribute to Temple. You captured so much of who he was and why we all loved him. He was one of a kind and we will all miss him.

We owe him a debt because he made our lives better for knowing him and you a debt for capturing his spirit with your tribute.

Thank you
Tony

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 11:52 am said:

Thank you Tony. I am touched and flattered.

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Jim Green, September 23, 2021 at 11:53 am said:

Haven: A wonderful tribute that truly captures the whole of who Temple was. One of my funniest memories was from Susie and my early years in DC when we went out for dinner at the Palm with Temple and Ellie and another couple. Temple set out to consume a four pound lobster and, bar none, it was one of the most entertaining events in unrecorded dining history. He orchestrated the house staff with kindness and humor and kept us in tears of laughter. Our tears of farewell have bested the joy, but will keep his memory alive in our hearts.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 12:09 pm said:

Jim, that one is new to me, but I am not surprised. Thanks for sharing it

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Chris Hughey, September 23, 2021 at 11:55 am said:

Thank you for writing this Haven. Like everyone else, I too will miss The Ambassador. One treasured tennis memory is that “Temple Express” shot he would do, sort of a lob that would inexplicably bounce into the dedans. Never saw anyone else do that!

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 12:08 pm said:

The damn lob sure did win a lot of points. Another example of his imagination

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Stephen Sears, September 23, 2021 at 11:58 am said:

No one could have given a more heartfelt or eloquent tribute. Well said.

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Will Simonds, September 23, 2021 at 11:58 am said:

Great tribute Haven!

Temple used to come into the pro shop at Prince’s Court and test me on many sports related trivia questions. Not being able to escape, (I was trying to do my job!) I would be educated on many fascinating facts and stories from his vast sporting knowledge and experiences. He was not just a good man, but someone who always took the time and had a genuine interest in how YOU were doing…more and more becoming a rare quality. Play up!

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 12:05 pm said:

Thanks Will. Let’s all do our bit to keep his ideas going

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Virginia Crisman, September 23, 2021 at 12:12 pm said:

A lovely tribute. Our family will always remember Temple for his engaging kindness and a person who inspired one to do as much as you can as well as you can.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 12:19 pm said:

Thanks Virginia, I have not doubt his family will read these comments and appreciate them too.

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Ridge Porter, September 23, 2021 at 12:20 pm said:

Thank you for those words in remembrance of a wonderful person, a loyal friend and a class act. He was a perfect example of noblesse oblige.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 12:23 pm said:

Thank you Ridge, he certainly was.

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Tim Hague, September 23, 2021 at 12:32 pm said:

Haven,

Thanks for sharing this fitting tribute to an extraordinary man!

The last time I saw Temple was in late April or early May, following either The Hardy Cup or Coursestormers tournament! As we shared a libation and he lobbed a few cheerful non mots about my OWU Battling Bishops, he noticed that my face wasn’t cleanly shaven (COVID habits are hard to break). He leaned in closely and gently scolded me for this faux pas! “Mr. Hague, you cannot possibly attend an “Event” without shaving. You know better!” I’ll always remember that twinkle in his eyes when he was providing life-lessons. That day, and many times in the past 30 +\- years, while I was fortunate to know him and consider him a friend! RIP!

Go High School!

TWH

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 12:54 pm said:

Thank you Tim, now you must return to the game!

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Kevin Nelson, September 23, 2021 at 12:38 pm said:

Lovely tribute, fortunate to have met him several times, lovely man. When we came over to Washington, Temple decided to join us to play on a number of other courts we had scheduled in the US. He will be missed

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 12:46 pm said:

Thanks Kevin, Temple was as good a host as he was a guest

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 12:44 pm said:

Here is the obituary, though an excellent picture was stripped out.

OBITUARY

Temple Grassi
10 DECEMBER, 1946 – 17 SEPTEMBER, 2021

Obituary of Temple Grassi
Temple Grassi of Chevy Chase, MD and Northeast Harbor, Maine, born December 10, 1946, died peacefully from metastatic melanoma in his Chevy Chase home surrounded by his family on September 17th, at the age of 74. He was a graduate of Woodberry Forest in Orange, Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After graduating from UNC, Temple began his teaching career at The Gilman School in Baltimore, Maryland, moving to the Allen Stevenson School in New York City, and at the Landon School, in Bethesda, Maryland, where he taught for the remaining 22 years of his 32 year career. Although Temple retired, he remained a lifelong educator in the art of being a proper sportsman, gentleman, and clubman. An accomplished sportsman, Temple played football, soccer, and lacrosse while at Woodberry Forest. He would eventually become co-captain of the lacrosse team and ultimately bring his skills to UNC where he played for 4 years. During his summers, when not in Northeast Harbor, Temple was a camper and, later, a counselor at Camp Kieve in Nobleboro, Maine. His love of Woodberry, UNC, and Kieve had no bounds. Until his last day, he could be found following the football and lacrosse teams for both Woodberry and UNC and singing the second verse of the Kieve Alma Mater loud and clear for all to hear. After moving to New York City, Temple was introduced to what would become his great obsession, court tennis – a game few know, but many love. He met his lovely wife, Eleuthera, and together they moved to Washington D.C., where he began a 15 year quest to build a court tennis court. Ultimately, Temple was successful and Princes Court opened up in McLean, Virginia. It was then that the nickname was born, “The Ambassador”, as he would continue until his dying day to teach and educate anyone who would listen about his beautiful sport. “The Ambassador” was predeceased by his father, Ettore H.A. “Bud” Grassi and is survived by his mother, Edith Gwathmey Grassi; wife Eleuthera S. Grassi; elder sister, Louise Whitney (Karen); younger brother, Edward Grassi (Judith); daughters Melissa Purcell (Andrew), Charlotte Aukamp, and Helen Vest (Chad); 5 grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. Relatives and friends are invited to his Memorial Service on October 26th at 11 AM, located at the Washington National Cathedral. The Family asks, in lieu of flowers, to please make a donation to The United States Court Tennis Preservation Foundation, attention The Junior Development Program, using the website: https://usctpf.org/player-development/ or mailing address: USCTPF, c/o Jane Lippincott – Treasurer, P.O. Box 194, Jamestown, RI 02835

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Richard Seymour Mead, September 23, 2021 at 12:46 pm said:

richard.seymourmead@btinternet.com
An excellent tribute to a fine and gentle man. He joins too many recently noted in the T and RA annual report.
I was privileged to have joined The Ambassador at tournaments on 3 continents as well as the splendid CCC.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 12:51 pm said:

Thanks for the lovely comment, Richard

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Maggie Henderson-Tew, September 23, 2021 at 12:46 pm said:

What a fine tribute in every way, Haven.
I thought you would like to know that Sir Henry Newbolt gained a Scholarship to Clifton College before going up to Oxford. This fact has a particular resonance about it now that CJR and I will be going from Oxford to Clifton College (well, their Sports Ground, anyway, although not including The Close, its cricket ground) on 1 October for our stint at the Bristol Real Tennis Club. You may also be pleased to know that ‘The Sailing of the Long-Ships and other Poems’, by Newbolt, a volume of his poems published in 1902, was dedicated to that superb Victorian real tennis player, Sir Edward Grey, who was Amateur Champion in 1889, 1891, 1895, 1896 and 1898. He was runner-up in 1892, 1893 and 1894, which were the years in which he held office as the longest-serving Foreign Secretary (eleven years) in British history. Haldane and Grey were both members of the Liberal (important for US citizens to remember that this is not a term of abuse in the UK) dining club, The Coefficients, set up by the Social Reformer brother and sister, Sidney and Beatrice Webb in 1902.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 12:52 pm said:

Pundificator readers, see what you can learn from this fine group? Thank you Maggie.

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Richard Meyer, September 23, 2021 at 12:47 pm said:

Haven: Sharon and I are so grateful for your thoughtful communication. Temple was surely sui generis. I am glad that you were able to spend time with him toward the end. Blessings to all.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 12:53 pm said:

Thanks to you both Richard.

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Moss Glover, September 23, 2021 at 12:55 pm said:

Well said Haven. I’m so, so sad to hear of Temple’s passing. What a great tibute you have written though.

He & Ellie put me up during the Washington Leg of the 2013 UK Jesters Tour to the States. Terrific hospitality. He was a fine man, one of the World’s great enthusiasts and a Jester legend.

A great loss.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 12:59 pm said:

Thank you, indeed he was

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Walter Deane, September 23, 2021 at 12:57 pm said:

A beautiful tribute to a great man. Temple was a prince and he will be missed by many.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 1:00 pm said:

Thanks Walter, so true

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Eric Pearson, September 23, 2021 at 1:01 pm said:

A favorite Temple-ism that I find myself quietly muttering frequently: “Make the effort.” A simple statement, but one that should guide the way we live our lives. Make the effort. Life is busy, full of distraction, and it’s easy to find excuses. Easy to not show up. Not participate in the extravagant tennis jaunt in some far flung locale. To conduct oneself in a dignified manner on court and off. To engage with our fellow sportsmen. Temple always made the effort. In doing so he worked his way into our hearts and into the annals of our great game. So much of life is just showing up. But even that takes effort. The best fruits of life come from effort. In The Ambassador’s honor, I shall continue to remind myself often to MAKE THE EFFORT. I will miss him.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 1:05 pm said:

Great observation, Eric. As in the final lines of the poem, you are one of “the host behind.”

Make the effort.

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Dick Friend, September 23, 2021 at 6:12 pm said:

Eric, on the US Jesters tour Down Under 2017, your captaincy demonstrated you had learnt those lessons well – a credit to the teachings of The Ambassador

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 9:07 pm said:

No surprise there, Dick.

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Louis Jebb, September 23, 2021 at 1:03 pm said:

An exemplary tribute to a wonderful man. And beautifully written. Thank you for sharing this, Haven.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 1:05 pm said:

Thank you Louis. Much appreciated

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Arthur A Drane Jr, September 23, 2021 at 2:21 pm said:

What a wonderful tribute to Temple Haven. I will try to put some words together. To be honest I am still in disbelief. Who was Temple to me? He was a friend, playing partner, mentor, coach, teacher, hilarious sidekick and so much more. Ambassador was not a nickname, it was who Temple was. His promotion of the game was second to none. There was no screening process with Temple. If you wanted to play the game he was there to help and guide you. If the workers at Washington’s new court feel like someone is watching over them, they are not paranoid , it’s Temple. There will be extra scrutiny concerning the Tambour. One of the many benefits on knowing Temple was getting to meet his family. Ellie, Mellissa, Helen and Charlotte all supported Temp!e on his Court Tennis Crusade. I ‘m sure they expended a lot of patience and love during that never ending mission. Temple will be missed ,but never forgotten. On many occasions Temple’s eyes would light up and he would say ” reminds me of a story “. His catalog of stories was endless. He was a character in the truest sense of the word. A unique individual with a huge heart. I do believe that something positive will come from this great sorrow. There will be a court in Heaven. Temple, I wish you peace and thank for for the honor and privilege of being able to call you my friend. See you On court. AD

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 5:21 pm said:

Arthur, Thank you for your lovely comment that adds much to the overall picture. Much appreciated

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Lee Allen, September 23, 2021 at 2:23 pm said:

A splendid tribute for a most distinctive Ambassador. He was a robust influence on the young to the aging and players and fans alike. Have loved knowing all the Grassi family since the early days of Prince’s Court. With love and appreciation.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 5:19 pm said:

Thank you Lee. I am glad you liked it

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Alan Goulty, September 23, 2021 at 2:59 pm said:

Thanks, Haven for a wonderful and well-deserved tribute to a great gentleman.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 5:19 pm said:

Thank you Alan, I am glad you liked it.

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Ellie Grassi, September 23, 2021 at 3:00 pm said:

A beautiful tribute!
Thank you Haven!

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 5:18 pm said:

Thank you Ellie. I am touched by your comment.

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Danny McBride, September 23, 2021 at 4:31 pm said:

Thank you, Haven. Wonderful tribute to a wonderful man. Temple’s a big reason I started playing. His enthusiasm drew me in, as it did for so many others.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 5:18 pm said:

Thank you Danny, glad you liked it. And glad he helped lure you into the game

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Arnold Spangler, September 23, 2021 at 4:36 pm said:

Well done Haven. A fine tribute to a real character with so many interests and an ability to keep in touch with so many friends. He will be missed by all who ever came in contact with his wit and personality.

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 5:17 pm said:

Thank you Arnold, Glad you liked it

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Nigel Pendrigh, September 23, 2021 at 4:54 pm said:

Thanks for this great piece about a very nice man

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 5:17 pm said:

Thank you, Nigel. Glad you liked it.

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Jim Nesbitt, September 23, 2021 at 5:21 pm said:

Great tribute Haven…. RIP Temple

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 5:30 pm said:

Thank you Jim. much appreciated

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Marc Lewinstein, September 23, 2021 at 7:43 pm said:

A lovely and loving tribute to a fine man. Fare thee well, THE Ambassador.

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Chuck Resor, September 23, 2021 at 7:44 pm said:

Although I never met The Ambassador, he was clearly a special person who touched many others. He and you deserved each other, and I am glad that you two were able to share so much.

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Peter W. Bragdon, September 23, 2021 at 7:48 pm said:

Haven!
The Ambassador has not died: he lives on with his students and with all who knew him — with all who choose to take their best shot.
Well done, Haven-
Pete

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 9:06 pm said:

Thank you Peter, you nailed it. The torch is passed to the host behind as in the poem.

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Allan Willingham, September 23, 2021 at 7:51 pm said:

Thank you Haven, We have all lost a great friend. He surely knew how to ‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’ Will you please pass on to all of Temple’s court tennis friends in the US my sadness for them having lost a great leader, tennis stalwart, and beautiful eccentric. Earlier, I passed on my private condolences to Ellie and her family in a message to you. Sadly, I do know how all of Temple’s closest tennis friends must feel right now, the death of your closest family and friends is something so painful, so enduring, that little things like tattoos take on extra meaning. My dear girl Jan (died at the Acropolis, Athens on Independence Day, 2013) loved Temple’s red and blue tennis slippers, she often spoke of them in usually totally unrelated ways, and thought they epitomised his free, characteristic and charming spirit. We first met The Ambassador on the Melbourne Docklands after a Boomerang Cup cruise on the Yarra. He was wandering around on the wharf, seemingly lost! We took him to his billet in Richmond, an act of dangerous generosity considering the amount of ‘electrolytes’ we had consumed on board that night. It was the start of a wonderful friendship for both of us. Vale Temple Grassi III. He helped me on many occasions with my research and already has a large footnote in my PhD chapter dealing with courts in the USA. As Always, Allan

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Haven Pell, September 23, 2021 at 9:05 pm said:

Thank you Allan. I know how much he valued his friendship with you.

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Shepard Skiff, September 23, 2021 at 9:04 pm said:

Such a wonderful tribute. The poem – wow (hadn’t heard, thank you). Rise in Glory Temple.

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Alistair Curley, September 24, 2021 at 1:54 am said:

Well done, Haven, a wonderful and obviously heartfelt tribute.

Temple was quite simply one of our game’s most precious jewels and he will be remembered with great fondness by so many tennis players around the world. He enriched the lives of everyone he met.

Vale The Ambassador

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Haven Pell, September 24, 2021 at 6:27 am said:

Indeed, he will. Thank you Alistair

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Matthew Dupee, September 24, 2021 at 4:22 am said:

I fist met Temple in the 1990s at he Racquet Club of Philadlephia and over the years saw him with increasing frequency, not only in the Court Tennis world but through various other activities and affiliations.

Whether it was in NYC, DC, Tuxedo or Aiken, Temple always had time for a chat and usually had an invitation to offer to join in him in some new enthusiasm, especially with those projects to develop and enlarge the Court Tennis universe. Who could resist and say “no”? Damn few.

In the last several years, whenever I was in the Tap Room at Chevy Chase, Temple would be there, ensconced with his buddies at the round table, usually sharing a story and a laugh.

I will never forget the USCTA auction offering “a Day in the life of Temple Grassi” and though I never bid on this, I’m grateful that he had many days in mine.

Ave atque Vale.

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Haven Pell, September 24, 2021 at 6:26 am said:

lovely recollections, Matt. Thank you

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Ros and Al Clark, September 24, 2021 at 6:02 am said:

Real tears here from over the pond. Temple was such an inclusive person, genuinely befriending all who came to Princes Court including us. What a gentleman. Thank you Haven for your touching tribute.

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Haven Pell, September 24, 2021 at 6:25 am said:

Thank you Ros and Al. He was a winner of the award we renamed for the two of you when you returned to UK — formerly, “WAGYAH” We are glad you are here.

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Ralph Nappi, September 24, 2021 at 7:26 am said:

It is sad that so many in the new Westwood court tennis community (that Temple was instrumental in facilitating) will never have the chance to get to know him. But he has left the great gift of introducing us to a new sport and experience. Thank you, Temple!

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Haven Pell, September 24, 2021 at 7:36 am said:

Ralph, We are looking forward to a superb cohort of new enthusiasts at Westwood to follow the call of the last four lines of the poem. They will become “the host behind.”

This they all with a joyful mind
Bear through life like a torch in flame,
And falling fling to the host behind —
‘Play up! play up! and play the game!’

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Tony Geyelin, September 24, 2021 at 9:17 am said:

Absolutely beautiful and pitch-perfect! As Temple would say, “Well played”.

Thank you so much. I’ve taken the liberty of recopying in a somewhat more printer friendly format and am circulating it to a number of family and friends who knew and loved him.

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Haven Pell, September 24, 2021 at 7:56 pm said:

Thank you Tony, glad you liked it. Delighted you are sharing the story with others.

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Tony Geyelin, September 24, 2021 at 8:48 pm said:

I sent you a PDF to the last email that I had for you. If you didn’t get it please email me your current one.

The response I am getting from my correspondents is universal gratitude for the sharing.

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Schuyler Van R. Winter, September 24, 2021 at 9:51 am said:

Haven, an absolutely wonderful tribute. Temple was my partner three times in the 120 Dubs, in two of which we prevailed. Although winning was always a great pleasure, playing like a gentleman was paramount. A bit of light hearted and well intended bantering was also encouraged. I am deeply saddened to learn of his passing. He will be missed but not forgotten. schuyler

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Haven Pell, September 24, 2021 at 7:55 pm said:

Thank you Schuyler. Temple loved that event.

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Chuck Coggeshall, September 24, 2021 at 2:07 pm said:

Beautifully written Haven!!,
Temple’s most recent addiction was Pickleball, which just a few months back he returned to his teaching and Ambassadorial ways by leading a bunch of 75 year olds in what was a new game for most of us. He would never be bested in enthusiasm, for any game, anywhere, anytime!!

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Haven Pell, September 24, 2021 at 7:54 pm said:

Thank you Chuck, that was indeed a new passion for him.

As always, with enthusiasm.

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Andrew Purcell, September 24, 2021 at 3:37 pm said:

Wonderful tribute Haven. Thank you!

Temple gets a perfect score in the father-in-law department. While I can’t even imagine the thought of giving one of my girls away, he could not have been nicer and more welcoming to me when I started randomly appearing in DC to play court tennis with Melissa. At first, he thought my visits were random. I will never forget after about my third appearance (that he knew about at least), the lightbulb went off in his head. He discreetly pulled me aside as we had been friends for several years and he said, “Andrew, I may be dumb but I’m not stupid. Is there something I need to know about?” My response having been put on the spot was, “Ask your daughter because I’m not so sure myself.” He apparently did speak with Melissa as the next day he invited me to his brother “Uncle Ned’s” for Thanksgiving. The rest they say is history. I will never forget his generosity, and inclusiveness. He really made me feel like family and I so appreciated that. I hope that I can reflect on this someday and act as Temple did with me with respect to my children as they start their own families. Temple is irreplaceable and will be deeply missed by our family.

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Haven Pell, September 24, 2021 at 7:53 pm said:

Thank you for sharing a side of Temple that few of us would have had reason to know.

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Geoffrey Baker, September 24, 2021 at 4:22 pm said:

Wonderful tribute to a true gentleman, avid scholar, and spirited sportsman.

The Ambassador, most Extraordinary and ever Plenipotentiary, promoted the highest standards in all his realms.

We will carry on his legacy, and, yes, ‘play up’!

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Haven Pell, September 24, 2021 at 7:51 pm said:

Thank you Geoffrey,

“the highest standards”

words to live by

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Tyler Hathaway, September 24, 2021 at 7:45 pm said:

Haven: It is an impossible task to describe Temple to those who may not have had the privilege to know him, but what you have written has brought a smile in a time of sadness to those of us who did know him. Thank you.
I was always running into Temple whenever I least expected it, and he always seemed delighted to see me; I certainly was always happy to see him! The last time I spoke to him was in Boston (!), this spring, during the National League. I sort of sneaked into the T&R that day – there were CoViD restrictions – but when I arrived, there he was, the only spectator in the dedans (who else?). He was gamely keeping score, after the pro assigned to the task failed to appear on time.
I think I am somehow still imagining I will run into him again soon… I shall miss him immensely.

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Haven Pell, September 24, 2021 at 7:50 pm said:

What a great story. Thank you. And I think you will run into him again as each of us has absorbed a little bit that you are likely to see displayed.

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Rahul Vinnakota, September 24, 2021 at 10:02 pm said:

Wonderful tribute to a true legend. Thank you Haven.

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Dianne Warner, September 24, 2021 at 11:38 pm said:

Far from boring.
So sorry for this sad loss, Haven.

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John Hoskinson, September 25, 2021 at 11:29 pm said:

A fine remembrance, Haven. Thank you.

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Haven Pell, September 26, 2021 at 10:33 am said:

Thank you John. Easy to pay tribute to a fine man.

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Jeanne Gengler, September 26, 2021 at 11:45 am said:

Haven, What a beautiful tribute to Temple.

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Joey Katona, September 26, 2021 at 8:39 pm said:

A most fitting tribute — thank you for writing, Haven. Like 100s of others, Temple took me under his wing in my early court tennis days, met my family, and made me feel most welcome. Never a dull moment with The Ambassador!

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Haven Pell, September 27, 2021 at 6:24 am said:

Thanks Joey, let’s be sure to pay it forward.

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Bonnie Matheson, September 26, 2021 at 10:16 pm said:

Haven, that was a lovely tribute to a grown man with the pure heart and enthusiasm of a 10-year-old boy! We met him first at the early meetings about building a court in the DC area. He was the most enthusiastic and entertaining person in the whole group. You all were getting together to begin the new court (Princes Court). Many thought it a hopeless enterprise but he never faltered. It is hard to believe that yet again a new court will be built, this one without him. Most likely he will be supervising from the Heavens. My deepest sympathy to the family and to you, too Haven.

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Haven Pell, September 27, 2021 at 6:23 am said:

Thank you for the lovely comment, Bonnie, we will make his presence felt in the new court.

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Lesley Ronaldson, October 02, 2021 at 1:23 am said:

Thank you Haven. Temple will be remembered with enormous affection by so many….he cared about us all but you were a team. X x

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Haven Pell, October 02, 2021 at 9:02 am said:

Thank you Lesley, we had a good run and now it is up to others.

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David Watson, October 02, 2021 at 2:26 am said:

A gentle and deeply affectionate tribute to a much loved man and friend. Thank you Haven for bringing back such warm memories and smiles – a great character and wonderfully addicted devotee of the great game

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Haven Pell, October 02, 2021 at 9:01 am said:

Thank you David. You captured him well.

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Dick Brickley, October 02, 2021 at 10:30 am said:

Nice piece. Great remembrance of a truly nice man.

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Haven Pell, October 02, 2021 at 5:40 pm said:

Thanks Dick, much appreciated.

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Ham Clark, October 02, 2021 at 11:58 am said:

Haven, I can’t believe all the responses you’ve received regarding Temple. He was an Ambassador to the Real Tennis world for sure, but he was a legend of sorts in all walks of life, and he was a very dear friend of mine for over 60 years. I knew him mostly from Maine and our summers in Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert, ME, where he was an avid tennis player and a daily recruiter for doubles’ games (on Court 1, the soon-to-be renamed Grassi court) at the Northeast Harbor Tennis Club. I’ve read about and witnessed his lob shot at Prince’s Court on a number of occasions, but he also had a lethal (and most annoying and frustrating) lobbing game on the tennis court. If you were at net and your partner was serving, Temple could punch a lob over your head and wreak havoc, via creating endless lobs back and forth that he could play better than most. I witnessed this strategy as recently as late July this past summer. It was better to be Temple’s partner, and I was for many games over many, many years.
Let’s not forget Temple’s love of Mt. Gay rum, either. Never in the day, but after his full day of games, he certainly enjoyed his CT. He referred to it as climbing the mountain (Gay) or even Mt. Goofy, after a pop or two. I’ll miss him dearly, but he leaves a very strong wife in Ellie, and wonderful talented children, in-laws and grandchildren to carry on his tradition.

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Haven Pell, October 02, 2021 at 5:39 pm said:

Ham, Lovely remembrance, thank you. When Prince Edward came to Prince’s Court, he wrote disparagingly of Temple’s annoying lob. It was always worst when it bounced into the dedans to be chase 1/2 yard. Not annoying for the Ambassador though.

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Aldona Greenwood, October 02, 2021 at 5:42 pm said:

What a great tribute to a wonderful man. I haven’t seen him for many years but he made a real impression on me.

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Haven Pell, October 02, 2021 at 5:51 pm said:

Thank you Aldona. If I recall correctly you were playing at Manchester when Temple and I came through on one of tours.

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Aldona, October 02, 2021 at 6:24 pm said:

Dear Haven,
That could be correct but I first met Temple in Washington at the Ladies World Championships in 2001 and I have also met him in Melbourne, Cambridge and at Queen’s! It was always a pleasure to meet him -and you of course..

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Haven Pell, October 02, 2021 at 6:32 pm said:

Aldona,

I remember that one as well. Hard to imagine that was 20 years ago. I marked the first ever over 70 World Championship and now both Temple and I could have played in it. Well, except for being the wrong gender.

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Aldona, October 02, 2021 at 6:39 pm said:

Yes amazing how time has flown and scary too.. I also remember the first over 70s ladies world championships with the wonderful Sheila Mac and Sheila Owens!

Haven Pell, October 02, 2021 at 6:57 pm said:

One of the two spelled her first name differently. I can’t remember which, but it is on a board at Prince’s Court

Bob Angell, October 02, 2021 at 5:54 pm said:

Wonderful testament to a truly unique individual. I fondly remember first meeting Temple in the dedan in Philadelphia, His in-game commentary was both insightful and pithy, and a great time was had by those listening.

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Haven Pell, October 02, 2021 at 6:07 pm said:

Thanks for the comment Bob.

Temple could definitely do that.

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Aldona, October 02, 2021 at 7:06 pm said:

Is it really? I didn’t realise it went on a board -how lovely. Yes my error, it’s Sheilagh Owens

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Haven Pell, October 03, 2021 at 7:17 am said:

We have a board called “Whatever for…” and it lists “one-off” competitions like the over 70 Women’s World Championship

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Fred Underwood, October 05, 2021 at 12:44 pm said:

This sad news came to me late yet still unexpectedly as we just saw Temple in NEH. Temple had that rare gift of making those he interacted with (no matter how infrequently) feel as unique and special as he was. A true gift and a truer reflection of the type of person he was. Thanks.

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Haven Pell, October 05, 2021 at 5:36 pm said:

Thank you Fred. Glad you had a chance to see him recently

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Graham Michener, October 09, 2021 at 9:53 pm said:

Thank you, Haven, for capturing the true essence of Temple, truly a one-of-a-kind in both the world of court tennis and life, in general! I will miss him, especially seeing him at the NYR&T where he was always a breath of fresh air. What a loss for our game, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

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Frederika Adam, October 24, 2021 at 4:33 am said:

Big Heart Emoji and sending Jesters’ Cheer to The Influencer. I’m sorry I can’t be there on the 24th – wishing everyone a memorable weekend and will be thinking of the Grassi family on Tuesday. Freddy xx

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Haven Pell, October 24, 2021 at 7:47 am said:

Thank you Freddy, we have quite a group today

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Philip Kennedy, October 25, 2021 at 9:57 am said:

Loved every minute of every tennis game I played with Temple. All of us at the NEH tennis club will miss his presence greatly. My favorite line of his when I complained about some shot or call on the court was “ would you like some cheese with that whine”. God speed Temple !!

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Haven Pell, October 25, 2021 at 12:46 pm said:

Thanks so much Philip. It is nice for the court tennis people to hear of Temple’s quips in other sports.

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Sam Abernethy, November 02, 2021 at 8:35 am said:

Just saw your tribute this morning, Haven, and what a woderful piece it is. Unique is a word that should be rarely used and reserved for the truly unusual. But Temple deserves it. When you saw him in the darkened hall on the third floor or in the dressing room of the R&T, he lit up the space with his enthusiasm and generosity. Wish I’d had him as an elementary school teacher.

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Haven Pell, November 02, 2021 at 9:07 am said:

Thank you Sam. Temple definitely lit up the space. What a superb choice of words.

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