When people think about tennis and pickleball at the Lakewood YMCA one name often comes to mind. That name is 86-year-old Judge Joe Gerace, who has been in action at that location for more than 40 years.
Originally known as the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, the facility became the Lakewood Health and Racquetball Club. In 1991, the center was donated to the local YMCA and became the Paul Bush Lakewood Family YMCA in 1991.
During this time, Gerace, along with his wife, Mary, children Andrea Magnuson, Joe Gerace and Vincent Gerace and most of his 13 grandchildren have played and continue to play tennis there.
Joe Gerace, pictured in the first row, takes a break from play to pose with his fellow tennis players at the Lakewood YMCA. In the first row with Gerace is Lynn Nalbone, Laura Hotchkiss and Karen Magnuson while John Anderson, Rick Brown, Dixie Siegel and Nancy Waasdorp stand in the back.
Joe Gerace, YMCA member, gets ready to hit the ball in a recreational game of pickleball at the Jerry Mattison Courts at LaGrega Field in Lakewood.
From Lakewood, Gerace plays both racquet sports four to five times a week, either at the Lakewood YMCA or outside at the Jerry Mattison Courts at LaGrega Field, which were built in 2012, and the Livingston Center Platform Tennis Club.
"Personally, I benefited from being a part of the Y because I have been able to stay physically active and at the same time enjoy this with my friends," said Gerace. "From the fitness, recreational and social aspect, it has been a great place for my family to be involved."
Len Johnson, deceased, a former advocate of tennis in the surrounding area, first introduced Gerace to the sport of tennis and was instrumental in promoting indoor and outdoor tennis in the area.
Gerace looks forward to playing tennis with his adult clinic friends and tennis director Paul Young on Wednesday mornings at the Lakewood YMCA.
"You meet some outstanding people, and the Y has provided for the community and others and has been an important part of my life," said Gerace. "It is a great, family-oriented center, and the Lakewood community would not be the same without the Y."
More than 50 players participate in the pickleball program at the Lakewood YMCA, which started in 2008 as a new event in the YMCA Battle of the Businesses.
Pickleball is a miniature tennis game played on a small, hard court using wood paddle racquets and a plastic ball, which combines aspects of ping pong, tennis and badminton.
Representing the Jamestown Bar Association and City Court, Gerace, along with Tom Dorey, have partnered to compete in the Battle of the Businesses' pickleball event for several years.
Longtime friend Tom Anderson, Lakewood YMCA branch manager, has known Gerace his entire life.
"Joe is a great competitor and a good friend," said Anderson. "We enjoy having him and his family at the YMCA."
Gerace, a part-time judge for the New York State Office of Court Administration, and Mary will celebrate their 60-year anniversary this November.