John J. Hickey, a central link to the amazing tennis history at Greentree, died in November 2012 at the age of eighty.
Jack Hickey’s parents emigrated from Dublin, Ireland in 1929 and Jack, one of four boys, was born in New York two years later. As a fifteen year-old in the fall of 1947 he started as an apprentice at the Racquet & Tennis Club, working after school. After high school, he stayed on at the R&T working as a tennis, squash and racquets pro until 1955 when he left to take a job as a squash pro at the Union Club.
Two years later he hurt his shoulder and, unable to teach, he left the squash world. For the next forty years he worked at LaGuardia and Kennedy airports as a bartender, and later steward and manager of bars and ambassador clubs.
In 1970 Hickey ran into Clarry Pell at LaGuardia Airport, and Pell, who helped manage the tennis court at Greentree, invited Hickey back into the game. Until Greentree closed in 2001, Hickey worked from October to April on Saturdays and Sundays from 9am to 1pm and later added Friday mornings. He strung racquets, made balls, kept the court, arranged and marked matches and helped host the annual Whitney Cup weekend.
An avuncular man bursting with well-wrought, fascinating tennis stories, Hickey was a beloved figure. Very few people in the game had the ability to talk knowledgably about figures from the mid-nineteen forties on through to the twenty-first century, and to talk with such charm and wit. Whether he was seen on a weekly basis for one of those early weekend morning doubles games or annually when the tennis world came out to his club, Jack Hickey epitomized the gentlemanly, sporting life at Greentree and in U.S. tennis.