Tony (Anthony Ray) Martin was born in Kansas City, Kansas to Mamie (Murrell) and Joseph Martin. He moved with his family to Salina, Kansas in grade school where he began playing tennis in a public parks program. His love of the sport and passionate work ethic earned him a place on the Salina Central High School Varsity Team.
His next stop was Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kansas, where he joined a tradition rich tennis program, eventually earning his spot as Captain and Number #1 player. His Bethany teams won 4 Kansas Conference Championships, and twice advanced to the NAIA National Tournament. The most memorable championship being that of the Miracle Team of 1974. Despite the top 2 players from the prior season abandoning the team due to the intense training regime of their new coach, Tony stepped into a leadership role and glued together a team that many counted out. He was a first-generation college graduate, majoring in Business with a minor in social psychology. His performance prompted him to be selected for the Bethany College Athletic Hall of Fame. Upon graduation, Tony played professional tennis with victories over nationally ranked players.
Tony began his coaching career as Regis College, Colorado, Men’s and Women’s Coach. He served as Volunteer Women’s Coach at the University of Michigan. While in Michigan he coached the championship Pioneer High School Boys’ Tennis Team. Tony returned to college coaching by successfully building the Duquesne Men’s and Women’s NCAA Division 1 programs. He later repeated success coaching the Eastern Michigan Men’s Team. He coached many players to become scholar athletes and taught them the teamwork, mental toughness and dedication they needed to become successful in life. His “less is more” mantra on the court and in life was a
reminder that we perform our best when we keep it simple. One of his players specifically reached out recently to communicate how much of an impact Tony had in shaping his career and his character.
Tony continued giving back to the sport of tennis as a respected USPTA teaching professional in Naples, Florida. He taught as a guest pro for many years on the island of Jamaica and enjoyed the camaraderie of Jamaican pros. He would always bring them gifts from the States and even hosted one of the pros sons in Florida for a summer to work as his assistant pro.
Throughout his lifetime, Tony utilized his mental toughness to rise above all obstacles in life, including the challenge of stage iv cancer he faced for the last 4 1/2 years. Even then, he continued to volunteer and dedicate his time to a local high school tennis team. He also assisted his cancer support group in the first Lungevity Breathe Deep Fundraising Walk in Ft. Myers, Florida. His idea starting his support group’s monthly ‘Happy Hour’ reminded us to focus on the joy of being together.
He was a proponent of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program throughout his entire life. As a child, this program gave him a strong male role model that taught him the value of family. He then became a BBBS mentor later in his life and even inspired his son to be a mentor as well. He had a hand in establishing 4 generations of big brothers. His authentic qualities always generated a sense of family in everyone around him, no matter if you were a blood relative or not. He preached forgiveness above all and strove to allow people a chance to access their humanity.
Tony’s true dedication was to his first love, his wife, Susan Sholle-Martin. They celebrated 37 years of marriage in July of 2019. They both shared proud and loving devotion to their children Sean and Tiffany. Of all his successful accomplishments, he was most proud of his family. He was always a proponent of connecting family and helped multiple generations to connect through starting annual Martin Family Reunions. The memories of his parents and siblings Ida, Dora, Alverns and Willie and others who have passed are honored at each reunion. He is survived by his brother Richard Martin and sister Linda Martin (Kansas City, KS); sister Pat Richards (Sacramento, CA) and sister Jackie Martin (Savoy, IL).
Tony Martin touched many lives. His winning smile, sense of humor, and generous Spirit shone wherever he was present. He taught us all to make the best of what we have and how we are treated by focusing on what we can control and always returning love and forgiveness to others. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends. Please join his family for a celebration of his life on October 5, 2019 at 1:30 p.m. at Graceway Church, 5460 Blue Ridge Cutoff, Kansas City, MO 64133 (Phone 816-358-1515) AND on November 2, 2019 at 2:00 p.m. at Joanne’s House Chapel at Hope Hospice, 27200 Imperial Parkway, Bonita Springs, FL 34135 (Phone 800-835-1673).
His family asks that all those who wish to honor him with a donation may do so by making their tax-deductible donation to the Tony Martin Memorial to benefit the Bethany College Tennis Program at the following link: https://www.bethanylb.edu/support/ (After clicking the link, click on the Donate button, then enter your donation in the Amount box, then click continue and enter ‘Tony Martin Memorial’ into the Description box before submitting your payment information.)
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