‘A positive influence on so many people’s lives’
By Denise Linke For The Beacon-News September 20, 2012 6:10PM
Dick Wyatt stands by the pool at the Westwind Swim Club in Aurora in August of 1983. | Beacon-News file photo
Updated: September 20, 2012 6:52PM
AURORA — West Aurora High School lost one of its biggest cheerleaders Thursday with the death of Dick Wyatt at the age of 82.
“There are a lot of heavy hearts in West Aurora today,” said Michelle Matko, who grew up playing tennis at the Aurora Tennis Club, which Wyatt co-founded and managed for almost 35 years.
“It’s rare when one person can have a positive influence on so many people’s lives, and Mr. Wyatt was that type of person.”
Wyatt, who graduated from West Aurora High School in 1948 and entered its Sports Hall of Fame 50 years later, opened the tennis club in 1971 with his brother, Art. He owned the club until 1999, when it was purchased by the Fox Valley Park District, and stayed involved in its management until 2004, when the park district built the Vaughan Athletic Center around it.
“I want this to be the best tennis facility in Illinois, if not the country,” Wyatt told The Beacon-News in 1999. “The park district is a classy outfit, and that’s the reason I sold it to them.”
Though the building was “barnlike” during the 1980s and ’90s, Wyatt’s informal charm and dedication made it a haven for tennis players, Matko said.
“He was a very personable man, and he really cared about the kids who played there. Every time I came in, he’d greet me from his round table in the lobby and we’d talk about current events, or a recent meet, or the latest episode of ‘Seinfeld.’ It felt more like a family than a business,” she recalled.
While Wyatt did not work as a coach, he often gave players informal advice on how to improve their games, Matko said. He often attended high school meets to cheer West Aurora High School’s tennis team to victory.
“The girls team won the state championship in 1996 and ’97, and we all thought it was an honor to bring those titles home to Mr. Wyatt,” she said.
When the park district took possession of the club, officials unveiled a plaque bearing Wyatt’s picture and a tribute that reads, in part, “Dick is an excellent tennis player, scout, sponsor, cheering section, father figure and dear friend to those who have crossed the threshold of the Aurora Tennis Club.” That plaque now hangs in the entrance to the recreation center.
“Seeing it there means a lot to us who went to the club in the old days,” Matko said.
Tennis was not Wyatt’s only joy — he also owned the former Westwind Swim Club on Indian Trail.
An avid West Aurora High School basketball supporter, he was inducted into the Illinois High School Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1999, along with his wife, Carole, as “Friends of Basketball.”
The funeral will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday at The Healy Chapel, 332 W. Downer Place. Visitation will be held from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that memorials be directed to the A+ Foundation for West Aurora Schools.