On January 18th , 2015, I was honored to be a part of Dodo’s Memorial service at the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club. The family shared many Dodo stories and adventures. A few tears were shed, but they were mostly tears of laughter. You can’t talk about Dodo without having a big smile on your face. I met Dodo forty-eight years ago when I was twelve years old. This is my story…
I grew up in Santa Monica, and I had four brothers. I was surrounded by a block full of boys. We played basketball, football (across our neighbors lawns), and baseball in the street. I loved sports because I was good at them and it made me feel successful. Around the time I was in the 5th grade my playmates were recruited into “Little League”. (Girls were not allowed.) I remembered sitting on the curb, in front of my house, waiting for my buddies to get home from practice. I felt abandoned.
It was at this time that tennis entered my life. Signups for after school tennis lessons were being offered by May Sutton Bundy and her daughter, Dodo Cheney. I started on May’s court because she took care of the beginners. She pitched me my first tennis ball – I nailed it. It didn’t hit the fence, but it was pretty close. She told me that I was “fabulous” and I needed to go to the advanced group with Dodo.
Dodo gave me my first tennis lessons. I was hooked. Tennis was what I needed to fuel my competitive fires. She encouraged me to practice and get involved in “Teen Tennis” which was a team event scheduled on Saturdays. Later she encouraged me to join the USTA and play junior tournaments. When I was nineteen, Dodo and I played doubles together and won the Santa Monica Open. We have crossed paths many times over the years while playing Senior tournaments. She was always encouraging and supportive; ready to give me some “Dodo” advice. I was proud to call Dodo my mentor and friend.
Across town another twelve-year-old girl, Serena (Rittmayer) Quarelli, was growing up in a universe parallel to mine. She also was a total tomboy, playing and excelling in many sports. Tennis was not on her radar until May and Dodo offered classes at her elementary school. Serena told me that Dodo pulled her aside and encouraged her to keep playing – that she would be really good. Serena took it to heart. Serena and I started tennis at the same time and were both influenced and motivated by Dodo. We went to separate middle schools and actually didn’t meet until high school. We became fast friends and doubles partners. We played junior tournaments, college and many years of Senior Tournaments. Watch out – we have been known to hook up now and then for a reunion tournament.
I’m not sure if Dodo knew how important she was to us; how she affected our lives. Over the years, we often read about Dodo’s gold balls and championships. I will remember Dodo for her encouragement and her love of tennis. Serena and I have been teaching and coaching tennis for the past forty years, between the two of us, we have taught thousands of kids how to play. Dodo made it clear that showing someone a little interest and positive attention can make a difference. Serena and I have carried the torch that Dodo handed us. Everyday, we pass a piece of her legacy to yet another student.
Dodo is a light that will keep on shining far after we have gone. Her newest competition is collecting gold stars. I’m sure she is already forming her very own galaxy-“The Dodo Way”
(Editor’s Note: Kandy Chain, who has a USPTA-Level One certification, has been a long-time fixture in the tennis community as a PE and high school tennis coach, and as a competitor. As a junior, she had a top 10 ranking in the Girls’ 18, and went on to play No. 1 at University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1976, the team finished ninth nationally. She was a member of the Women’s 50 Bueno Cup team, and is currently ranked No. 7 in the Women’s 60s. She noted, “As I look back, I definitely realize that Dodo made tennis fun and was always positive. I had a good role model.”)