A Perfect Day, Large Turnout for Mumford Memorial Event

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

A Perfect Day, Large Turnout for Mumford Memorial Event

It was the kind of day Keith Mumford would have enjoyed.

The sun was shining brightly. Not a cloud in the sky. The tennis courts were full of people exchanging ground strokes and compliments for a nice shot. Off the court, folks were greeting each other and catching up on each other’s lives.

“Every year, Keith is in charge of the weather, without question,” said Ginny Wortham, president of the Richmond Tennis Association.

It was the fourth annual Keith Mumford Memorial Doubles Shootout Tournament at the Country Club of Virginia on June 1. And everything went exactly the way Keith would have wanted it — if only he had been able to attend.

Keith died on June 28, 2009, after a courageous, six-month battle for a new heart ended at the VCU Medical Center.

“I say this at the end of every day that we have this,” said Emily Mumford, his wife. “It’s bittersweet. I just wish he was here because he would have loved it. He would have thought it was a great day. All the people, all the socializing.

“He loved really, good competitive tennis, but he also loved sitting around afterward, with a beer, catching up with friends. It’s not a sad day. It’s a happy day. All the people he loves are together. I just always feel like he’s watching and thinking that it’s a perfect day.”

It was a far from perfect occasion when Keith was stricken on the court at the Westwood Club playing the game he loved one day in late December, 2008. He suffered a massive heart attack and was rushed to nearby St. Mary’s Hospital.

Keith was eventually moved to VCU Medical Center, where he lost one of his legs and went blind in one eye while being kept alive until a matching heart could be found. Eleven days after the transplant, he died of sepsis, an infection that occurred in the hospital.

“He didn’t die at all from what he went in there with, he died from a hospital infection,” said Lee Mumford, his father.

Lee also believes that a bout with Hodgkins’ disease when Keith was 14 may have contributed to the heart attack later in life.

It didn’t keep him from playing on the team at St. Christopher’s with his younger brother, Chris, or from walking on to the squad at Vanderbilt University. In both cases, Keith had to work harder than everyone else to make it – and he did.

“He was an ordinary, average guy,” said Lee Mumford. “He became a really good club player when he got older. He loved the competition. He loved the camaraderie. And I think that’s the essence of Keith.”

The tournament has grown each year and drew a record number of players (134) for this year’s event.

“I think the tennis community here has picked a guy that is one of them,” said Lee Mumford. “He’s not a Tom Cain. He’s not a Chris Mumford. He’s one of them and they’ve sort of rallied around that, and this thing has taken off.”

A junior event on May 31 that attracted 75 kids preceded the doubles tournament. It included a clinic and games with Richmond pros followed by a pizza party. Youngsters from 4 to 14 were invited to take part in the event.

“When we first came together, we tried to come up with an idea for the weekend that would involve everybody,” said Julie Ogborne, director of special events and a teaching pro at CCV. “It’s such a great family event. We literally have people from age 4 to age 70.

“It’s special to have everybody of all ages come together. I think, really, he touched a lot of people, and they all have the opportunity to come and be a part of it. Every year it gets bigger. For 134 people to come out, it means they’re coming out for him. That’s fantastic.

“It’s really special to work on this because I feel like it’s not work at all. I know he’s smiling looking down on us.”

Keith never won any big tournaments like the city or the state, but he never stopped enjoying the competition. On more than one occasion, he was awarded the sportsmanship trophy for the way he conducted himself on and off the court.

In every sense of the word, Keith conducted himself like a gentleman, and that was appreciated by all who knew him. As well as his family, which includes Annie, 14, Mary Elizabeth, 13, Sally 11, and Henry, 8, who might be the tennis player in the group.

“We’ve been doing this for four years now,” said Chris Mumford. “And this is the best way that I could ever ask for to try to stay in touch with my brother. All the people he’s grown up with. All the people I’ve grown up with in this town playing tennis. It’s the way I stay connected to him.

“I think the most amazing thing with the tournament is it’s the best example of something growing out of nothing that I’ve ever seen. It’s not like this was my brainchild. This was created out of friends that Keith has made over the years, and it’s happened and it’s grown.

“It sustains itself. Everybody shows up. It’s a real testament to my brother and the kind of guy he was. It’s unbelieveable. I had no idea that this would happen. But I have no doubt that we’ll be able to do this for the next 20 years.”

Garrett Horsley was one of his doubles partners and realizes Keith’s impact went beyond tennis.

“I think it’s becoming almost like the Anthem Challenge [between area clubs each year],” said Horsley. “A lot of people have this on their calendar. He was a bright guy, friendly, but a competitor on the tennis court. He enjoyed his tennis friendships but he was a lot bigger than just a tennis player.”

After the tournament, Bryan Bostic plays host to a party for the players and any friends of Keith’s who want to attend at his home on Westham Station Road. Party-goers can make a donation, which goes toward the Keith Mumford Scholarship Fund at Vanderbilt for a tennis scholarship.

“I think the essence of this whole thing is the love of the game and love of family, and Keith epitomizes that,” said Bostic. “He did that from being a young kid on the court until, really, the day he ran into a problem and died.

“He believed in it and had his family involved in it. Nothing’s changed and we all want to honor that. That’s why we’ve put this together. It’s a lot of fun. Great turnout, year after year. It’s really exciting.

“It’s [party] been a fund-raiser as much as it’s been a fun party. It’s a great way to unwind and talk about the game and talk about Keith. It’s an honor to do it. I know it’s [scholarship] meant a lot to the family and it means a lot to us. I know Keith would be proud of that.”

Wortham may have summed up the day in Keith’s honor best when she said, “I feel like you feel the spirit of Keith around you all the time. It’s not about winning and losing. It’s just about playing tennis on a beautiful day and remembering a great man.”

Main Draws – Championship Finals
Men’s Open – Paul Caldwell/David Caldwell def. Ed Butterworth/John Snead 8-3
Men’s 35s – Chris Mumford/John Bristow def. Jason Kinder/Ben Hall 8-5
Men’s 45s – Joe Cappellino/Kevin Rotty def. Will Kaufmann/Dan Carey 8-6
Men’s 55s – Brian Beveridge/Kevin Garrahan def. Tom Bryan/Paul Dickinson 8-0
Men’s 65s – Dan Woods/Gerald Augst def. James Elder/Philip Lilienthal 8-6
Women’s Open – Margie Walsh/Anna Fuhr def. Ginny Wortham/Mason Davis 8-6
Women’s 35s – Julie Ogborne/Kirsten Elim def. Katie Willett/Townsend Westermann 8-0
Women’s 45s – Tammy Mavromatis/Chris Witherspoon def. Brooke Hatcher/Lori Jennings 8-2
Women’s 55s – Mary Miller/Cille Allen def. Tarja Kostin/Donna Moody 9-8

Consolation Draw Finals
Men’s Open – John Hudson/Al Thomas def. Nick Hardesty/Greg Meleski 8-6
Men’s 35s – Clifford Foster/Charles Valentine def. Jon Morris/Matt Schon 8-0
Men’s 45s – Wes Atiyeh/Bill Carli def. Mike Westhoven/Carey Donovan 8-2
Women’s Open – Karolyn Hall/Sharon Dunsing def. Nathalia Esteves/Sydney Lindsey 8-4
Women’s 35s – Lisa Makepeace/Helen Horsley def. Janann McMillan/Jessica Stephens 8-2