Don Neu, a kid from Idaho Falls, Idaho, made up for lost time when his family moved their dairy farm operation to Lodi, California. One of seven children, Don probably had no idea he was a natural athlete until he started university at Cal Tech, Berkeley. As a high school sophomore, he excelled in the pole vault. Noting his great ability at this difficult sport, his coach encouraged him to transfer to Willamette University under a scholarship, where he then set a record in that same sport. After graduation, Don taught physical education for about four years and then worked in the insurance business in Seattle for 25 years. He requested a transfer to Arizona at age 50, where he continued to work. He wanted very much to play tennis. He trained rigorously for it, fell in love with the game and played serious professional tennis until his retirement age 62.
Don’s tragic death at age 78 wreaked havoc in this tennis community in 2016. His life is now memorialized with a tennis tournament fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs, his favorite charity. For 25 years, Don offered free lessons every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. in Cottonwood to anyone interested in learning to play tennis, whether a Sun Lakes resident or not. He did this while working full-time, being a family man and raising three sons.
Don, a resident of Palo Verde, was literally everywhere – teaching, coaching, organizing tournaments in both Cottonwood and Oakwood. Two years ago, a decision was made by the board of the newly-formed Don Neu Memorial Tennis Tournament to hold a tournament yearly, alternating between IronOaks and the Cottonwood facilities. This year, it was held in Oakwood on Friday and Saturday, February 2 and 3, with over 100 participants on Friday and 110 on Saturday. It was a phenomenal success with great food and camaraderie. Through the participation and generosity of tennis members from IronOaks, Cottonwood Palo Verde, Sun Lakes Phase 1, Trilogy, SunBird and others, a check for $1,500 will be given to Don’s favorite charity, the Boys and Girls Club of the East Valley.
For those of us who knew Don, it was truly an honor to have such a dedicated individual as a mentor and as a friend, and it gives us great satisfaction to be able to donate in his name to an organization that will continue helping boys and girls the way Don would have appreciated.