Born: 1925 (New York, Northumberland, England)
Died: 2014 (Duncan, British Columbia)
Member: USTA Pacific Northwest Hall of Fame (2012)
Soon after immigrating to Canada from his native England, Jeff Hunter visited his local tennis club. He played two sets before breaking for tea. The club’s members called an emergency meeting and elected the No. 19 member as president.
For more than a half-century, Hunter championed the South Cowichan Lawn Tennis Club. The venerable club is known for having maintained grass tennis courts, the upkeep of which was partly financed by an annual international tournament.
The club was founded in 1887, a Wimbledon amid the wilderness of Vancouver Island. A local farmer willed land to the club for as long as the property was used for lawn tennis. That clause has helped the club survive as a rare outpost of the lawn game on a site in the countryside about 60 kilometres north of the Victoria, the British Columbia capital.
Hunter joined the club in 1956 at a time when the membership consisted of a quartet of foursomes and two singles. As president, Hunter began the slow process of repairing a dilapidated clubhouse, which lacked flush toilets and offered showers with cold well water delivered courtesy of a rope attached to a 45-gallon drum overhead.
The demands for fundraising were unlimited, as the upkeep of the seven courts atop fescue and rye cost about $3,000 each per year. The low-lying land suffered floods every spring. As well, the playing season was much shorter than the repairing season. “It’s a four-month club,” Hunter once told me, “with 12 months of expenses.”
His efforts preserved the club. At times, he dipped into his own pocket to complete a task. For his tireless efforts on behalf of the club, Hunter, the King of Cowichan, was inducted into the USTA (United States Tennis Association) Pacific Northwest Hall of Fame in 2012.
Hunter was born in 1925 in in Northumberland county in the village of New York (now part of the metropolitan county of Tyne and Wear). As a teenager during the Second World War, he worked aboveground at a coal mine. He immigrated to Canada in 1955, working as a pipefitter at a pulp-and-paper mill in Crofton, B.C.