The senior tennis community lost a valued and dedicated member of its fraternity recently with the passing of Jerry Paul of Desert Hot Springs at the age of 86.
“He was a wonderful and exuberant man who got great joy from the tennis circuit and his many buddies, like good friend Robert Sanford,” according to his son Jamie who recalled one year when Jerry played 50 tournaments. “He truly looked forward to not just competing but sharing fellowship and life’s many stages with his senior peers. He looked forward to each five-year birthday for his new lease on life and competitive advantage as the youngster in a new division.”
Paul was one of the original Lettermen, one of Nat King Cole’s Merry Young Souls, and a singer and performer with Pearl Bailey, making multiple tours through the South during the early 1960’s with integrated casts.
The following are excerpts from Paul’s biography provided by Jamie:
Jerry Paul was born in Minneapolis, Minn., on Dec. 20 in 1928, and passed away in Desert Hot Springs, Calif., on Feb 8th, 2015. His mother, Reeni, was a popular blues singer, “the Sophie Tucker of the west”, with her own radio show. Clearly his love of singing and performing grew naturally out of his love for his mom and their shared natural gifts of a great voice and a big enough personality to fill a stage and the airways.
He was raised and confirmed in the Catholic Church and was a spiritual man throughout his life, shown explicitly in his status as a practitioner in the Church of Religious Science and daily in his love and compassion for his family and students and everyone who was fortunate enough to fall within his circle.
He graduated from high school at age 16 and joined the Ice Follies to begin his many years of traveling and performing in one form or another and on stages of all sorts. Before and during his performing career, he made time to return to college at the University of MN and, after settling in the Los Angeles area, earned his Masters degree and PhD in Speech and Communication from The University of Southern California. He taught for 26 years at Whittier College.
In 1954, he married Betty Jane Rosenzweig, who he met while both were performing at Minsky’s Burlesque Revue in N.J. They traveled and performed together for many years before they were blessed with the birth of their first child, Rene in 1959 and their son Jamie in 1962.
Paul married his devoted wife of 35 years, Joan Margaret Gonnella Kitttell, on January 11th, 1980. Jerry was a loving father to Joan’s children and grandfather to Julie Ann and Catherine Elizabeth, who he adored and was blessed to have in his life. Jerry and Joan enjoyed travels together to Greece, Puerto Rico and Islesboro, Maine. Their enduring love and Joan’s devotion, through sickness and health, brought him comfort and grace throughout their years together.
During his 35 years with Joan, his love of tennis led him to continue to perform and travel and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow enthusiasts on the senior tennis circuit. He achieved a national ranking of No. 38 in Men’s 70 and Over singles and competed against Pancho Gonzales and other legends of the game. He and Jamie played in Father/Son tournaments across the country, and he also competed in various tournaments with Leon, Joan, Rene, and in some of the first-ever national grandfather/grandson tournaments with Ben Paul and Alex Carlis.