Barco Left Quite An Impression

Arlene Barco, who was funny, occasionally brash, but forever a caring individual, passed away on Monday morning May 23rd.  Rightfully referred to as the  “godmother” of LA84 Foundation/NJTL, she was the soul and spirit of the program for many years.

When a member of the Southern California tennis community departs, the game loses a bit of its essence. In the case of Barco, this is a genuine understatement. During her time with the Southern California Tennis Association, she made a difference. It was significant and the impact has left quite an impression, one that in reality will be indelible.

All of this was immensely clear after the news of her death began to circulate among those who had worked with her in various capacities over the years. When the NJTL program was launched, Barco teamed with Amy Gibbons, now the President/Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix. “Arlene was a very special person,” Gibbons said. “Because of her commitment and dedication, thousands upon thousands of youth from all over Southern California had the opportunity to learn the game of tennis.  And as we all know, the game teaches us so much.  Dealing with success and failure, working toward goals, discipline, the value of hard work, practice and teamwork are just a few essentials that youth need to learn to become successful adults. Arlene believed in youngsters and tennis, and I know that her dedication changed lives.”

Arlene Barco and with former LA84 Foundation_NJTL Program participant, Danny Castro

Arlene Barco and with former LA84 Foundation_NJTL Program participant, Danny Castro

The LA84 Foundation and NJTL, in Southern California, have an unmatched, at least in the tennis world, 31-year relationship. Patrick Escobar, the former LA84 Foundation Vice-President of Grants and Programs, offered, “Arlene was passionate about the NJTL Program.  She recognized the program’s value in bringing the sport of tennis to youngsters in underserved areas who have otherwise not have had the opportunity to learn and play tennis.  She was a tireless advocate for NJTL, constantly looking for ways to maximize exposure of the program in the media and among those who would help support it.  The success of the program, today, is in large part, due to the strong foundation she built for it.  She leaves a strong legacy behind for the sport.”

Barco’s personality was well suited for what she did. Never shy about expressing an opinion (or two or three), she was something of an “Energizer Bunny” who had been guzzling 5 – Hour Energy drinks when it came to doing all that was necessary to make NJTL a success.

Timothy (Tim)  Bryant, a long-time NJTL instructor who works for the Los Angeles County Probation Department, acknowledged,  “Arlene was a pioneer in the building of NJTL where she assisted so many youth, underprivileged families and communities, not only in the capacity of their introduction to the game of tennis, but also enhancing their life skills during her long tenure at the Southern California Tennis Association. She has been sorely missed over the past few years when her health began to decline, but her strong spirit has, and will remain in the hearts and minds of all the instructors. She had an endearing and affirmative way of getting the most out of everyone for the benefit of the entities mentioned above.”

Arlene Barco with LA84 Foundation_NJTL honorees Eddie Williams, Tony Haig and Tim Bryant Photo Cynthia Lum

Arlene Barco with LA84 Foundation_NJTL honorees Eddie Williams, Tony Haig and Tim Bryant Photo Cynthia Lum

The NJTL Program, under Barco’s stewardship, never slowed down its outreach efforts as Sem and Montez Noa (whose children literally grew up on the courts at El Sereno Senior Center), brought out. “To me, Arlene Barco was the First Lady of the NJTL Program,” Sem said. “She was the face of the NJTL and a great ambassador for youth tennis throughout Southern California. For that reason, she was special because to her the NJTL kids were hers. She was my community tennis hero. I am very sure that I would not be as active with the SCTA today, if it wasn’t for her.  I owe a lot of my community tennis experience to her.  My family knew her well. She was my ‘Tennis Mom’.”

Melanie Bischoff is the SCTA Director of Community, which includes overseeing NJTL activities. She took over after Barco stepped away when health issues forced her to retire in 2008. “Arlene and I met when I worked for the LA84 Foundation and I was the Grant Associate for the organization,” Bischoff said. “Foremost, Arlene loved her family and NJTL. She also loved animals, cooking and going out and enjoying good food.  After I finished working at the LA84 Foundation, I eventually started working with the SCTA and with Arlene. I remember certain specific things about her. She had an awesome laugh, and she loved to play ABBA music at the NJTL Special Activity Days. She would always use a bullhorn, which had a loud siren sound, in order to have the kids rotate courts and to offer direction, so that everyone there could hear what she was saying.  She loved the kids, the program and all the instructors.  She lived and breathed NJTL.”

Before he became Director, USTA Training Center – West & Player Services, John Lansville was SCTA Director of Junior Tennis. After he moved to the Stubhub Center in Carson, Darren Potkey replaced him. Both looked back and offered sincere and meaningful recollections.

Jack Kramer and Arlene Barco

Jack Kramer and Arlene Barco

“Arlene had tremendous passion to provide underprivileged and at risk youth an opportunity to lean and discover the game of tennis through the NJTL Program,” Lansville said. “She cared deeply about the program and was an asset to the tennis community. She and her infectious laughter will be sorely missed.”

Potkey, who is now USTA Georgia Executive Director, admitted, “Arlene epitomized the spirit of opportunity and access for all of our youth.  She dedicated her life to bringing tennis to children from all socioeconomic backgrounds through the NJTL Program. SCTA’s NJTL would not be what it is today if it wasn’t for Arlene.  She will be greatly missed by those that knew her and admired her passion for the youth of today.”

SCTA President, William (Bill) J. Kellogg agreed saying,  “Arlene was a wonderfully positive person who made everyone smile when she walked into a room.  She was completely committed to the SCTA, the NJTL and the tennis events she was in charge of. Her passing leaves a big void in our lives and the lives of those she touched on a daily basis.”

Arlene Barco and Melanie Bischoff

Arlene Barco and Melanie Bischoff

During the time Carrie Cimino was the leader of the SCTA Schools Program, she had daily dealings with Barco. “Arlene put her heart and soul into the NJTL Program for many, many years,” Cimino, who is now the District Sales Manager HEAD Penn Racquet Sports, said. “I had the pleasure of having Arlene as a dear friend and I will always cherish the fun times we spent together.

“One of my favorite memories of Arlene, is when we were flying together to New York to attend the US Open and I convinced her to sit in an empty seat in first class. This was before they really checked seat assignments, and she kept saying that we are going to get caught… we are going to get caught… I told her to just act like you belong and order a glass of champagne – It will be fine. Needless to say, we enjoyed endless champagne and a delicious dinner. Years later, we would always laugh about our first class trip to New York. I will miss you Arlene. May you rest in peace.”

Bischoff added, “We loved Arlene and will always think of her when NJTL is mentioned. I know that I will always have a special place in my heart with fond memories of Arlene and the fun that we had together.”

LA84 Foundation Vice President of Grants, Patrick Escobar, LA84 Foundation_NJTL Director, Arlene Barco, Southern California Tennis Association Executive Director, Henry Talbert and SCTA President, Bill Rombeau Photo Mark Winters

LA84 Foundation Vice President of Grants, Patrick Escobar, LA84 Foundation_NJTL Director, Arlene Barco, Southern California Tennis Association Executive Director, Henry Talbert and SCTA President, Bill Rombeau Photo Mark Winters

Services to celebrate Arlene Barco’s transition to “A better place” (as her son, Jeff said) will be held at Hillside Memorial,  6001 West Centinela Avenue,  90045 at Noon, on Sunday June 5th.

Mark Winters

Look for a fresh examination of tennis topics at “Mark Thoughts”

 

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2 Responses

  1. I had the pleasure to work with Arlene. She will be definitely missed and speaking strictly for myself, my tennis world will be a little bit diminished by her absence. She was for sure one of the thousand points of light. RIP….

    • Arlene was a treasure and your heartfelt expression of her importance to not only those of us who are involved in tennis, but in day-to-day life, touches on just how significant an impact she made. Many thanks for your thoughts…

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