Dean Williams' remarkable athletic exploits are well-known and well-recognized around Juneau.
This weekend, the 85-year-old avid tennis player will be the toast of the entire region as he is inducted into the United States Tennis Association/Pacific Northwest Section Hall of Fame.
"To me, it's the ultimate of what an amateur can get in any sport," Williams said of receiving hall-of-fame recognition.
"It seemed like Dean was 'Mr. Tennis' in Juneau and Alaska," said Steve Hall, chair of the USTA/PNW Hall of Fame Committee. "We got letters from all kinds of people who just raved about him."
Williams, his wife Edna and several other family members will be in attendance in Bellevue, Wash., on Saturday night at the awards banquet. Williams is one of four inductees this year for a tennis Hall of Fame that encompasses Alaska, Washington, Oregon, northern Idaho and British Columbia.
The awards ceremony is part of Tennis Fest, an annual weekend of workshops and other activities in Bellevue.
Williams, a lifelong resident of Juneau who will turn 86 next month, started playing tennis in the 1920s. One of his earliest playing venues was a court that now bears his name in Evergreen Bowl, also known as Cope Park.
Through the years, Williams faced a number of obstacles that could have ended his playing days - being stationed in Nome with the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II, a bout with polio in the early 1950s, being diagnosed with glaucoma and macular degeneration in the early 1980s - but through it all, he persevered and continued to hit the courts.
Williams also hit the slopes for many years as an avid downhill skier and skiing instructor.
In recent years, Williams has continued to play tennis locally at JRC/The Alaska Club tournaments - against much younger opponents. He has also played in Southern California in a succession of senior age groups, for which he has received several national rankings.
Williams was contacted by the USTA-PNW late last year and told that he was a strong candidate to enter the Hall of Fame. He assembled his tennis biography, letters of recognition and letters of recommendation, and sent them to the Hall of Fame Committee.
Among the friends who wrote to support Williams was retired Superior Court Judge Tom Stewart of Juneau. Among the letters of recognition were congratulatory notes for past tennis achievements from former governors Walter Hickel and Tony Knowles.
Hall, the USTA/PNW Hall of Fame Committee chair, said the committee was looking to honor someone from Alaska, and, with his strong support, Williams was "a natural candidate."
Last March, Williams got word from the USTA/PNW that he was selected to enter the Hall.
Williams joins some illustrious tennis players in the Hall. One of the previous inductees is Tom Gorman, 57, who was born in Seattle and coached the U.S. Davis Cup team from 1986 to 1993.
In a 12-year professional career in the 1960s and 70s, Gorman reached the singles semifinals at Wimbledon, the U.S. Open and the French Open, and reached the doubles finals at the French Open.
"He was probably the one of the best tennis players they've ever turned out of the Pacific Northwest," Williams said. "It's great to rub shoulders with that company."
After the festivities in Bellevue, Williams and his family plan a side trip to Leavenworth, Wash., where he and Edna will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary.
Next month, he plans to participate in the Capital Classic at JRC/The Alaska Club.
"One of the greatest things is the people you meet (and) it's so good for your physical state," he said, noting how he spends about a half-hour stretching and lifting weights before every tennis session.
"Every time I walk on a court, I'm a winner - being able to go out and swing my racket."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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