When not tackling the great economic issues of the day, Huntley could often be found on the courts at the Rideau Tennis Club.
Of his many interests and passions, tennis held a special place in his heart.
He was a student of the game; loved to be on the court; he was always working at it—wanting to improve and be a better player.
Huntley was a fixture at the club for many years.
And he definitely stood out in a crowd. Tall, easy stride, knee-high tennis socks, a collared tennis shirt tucked in at the waist, old-school style, and a booming voice that could be heard at every corner of the club, especially when he hit a great shot for a winner.
He took a lot of lessons over the years from Zhenya, our Head Pro. Zhenya couldn’t be here today, but he provided us with notes on his impressions of Huntley, which I will refer to from time to time.
Here’s Zhenya: “Huntley was tenacious, with one of the most unorthodox forehands you could imagine. He was crafty, competitive, and determined. He would slice, come in, pound it, whatever it took … Huntley was always learning. He had a keen mind.
“He was also a wonderful guy, thoughtful, kind and gentle, never complained. Loved his work, his friends, and his tennis … took it all in.”
There are many stories that depict Huntley’s sheer tenaciousness. And there’s one that kind of made him a legend around the club.
A few years back, he suffered tennis elbow, a severe case that threatened to take him away from tennis for a long time.
So Huntley decided to play left-handed. He was basically starting all over again as a tennis player. He embraced the challenge; took lessons, stayed in the House League—thrived on it—it was the only way he could keep playing.
Then, months later, as luck would have it, he developed tennis elbow in his left arm.
Just as he was about to become the first man in tennis history to suffer from two tennis elbows simultaneously, he found that his other arm had healed well enough. He could return to playing right handed.
Lahouaria tells me that Huntley considered tennis a metaphor for life, and for battling cancer.
He thought: You may be playing poorly at the start; you may be down a few games. But if you keep trying, keep going for your shots and never give up, you never know what could happen. It was all about perseverance. As in tennis, as in life.
Of all the matches we played—or “epic battles” as we good naturedly called them—I remember one in particular.
It was July 1st—Canada Day. Huntley and I were to play that morning. I got up; it had rained during the night; the ground was drenched; the courts would be closed. I thought about going back to bed.
Then the phone rang. It was Huntley. “Steve,” he said, “I am eager to play tennis—how about you?” Yes I said, but it’s been raining. The courts are likely closed.
Huntley however had a plan. Apparently, isolated pockets of Ottawa had not been hit by rain. His plan was to meet at the club, then we would drive around, searching for one these dry areas, and then play our match on a public court.
In a way, this summed up Huntley’s outlook on life: no matter how wet it is outside, somewhere, someplace, there’s a dry court to play on—you just have to go out and find it.
When we met at the club, the sun was out, the courts were drying. We find one lone hard court at the club that was free of puddles.
We had a fun match. The day had turned out warm and sunny—blue sky as far as the eye could see.
All in all, one of those pleasant memories that you think back every so often. And I would have missed it had it not been for Huntley.
I would like to end with one final observation from Zhenya:
“One of the last times I saw Huntley, the weather was still warm. He was heading for the entrance of the club … headphones on, dreamy smile on his lips.
“He looked content, happy, he was in his element. He was going to have a game of tennis. Something he loved doing. That’s how I am going to remember Huntley.”