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Senior Tennis Profile: 'Thank You, Dr. Brutus'

April 1, 2010 07:00 PM

 Dick at his 80th surprise birthday party


 Dick and his ladies at his birthday party

by Nancy Morgan, TheTennisNews.net

You may not recognize the name Dick Brutus, but as a tennis player you no doubt have heard of -- and probably played in -- the Humane Society of Pinellas Charity Tennis Tournament.

This men's, women's and mixed doubles tournament benefited the Humane Society of Pinellas from its inception in 1993 to its final in 2008 earning about $255,000 for the non-profit animal shelter. The contest started all because of longtime veterinarian Dr. Richard "Dick" Brutus.

This month's feature highlights Dick and shares some of his personal, professional and tennis experiences. March is also Dick's birthday month, so it's a perfect time to celebrate his turning 80 years young, as well as to thank him for his awesome idea!

The idea of a tennis tournament to benefit the Humane Society of Pinellas occurred after Dick bought the Gulf Bay Animal Hospital on Belcher Rd. in Clearwater in 1967 and sold it in 1991. Then, he started working with the Humane Society on Coachman Rd. and mentioned to then executive director Rick Chaboudy the idea of combining tennis with raising money to help care for the animals housed at the shelter.

"I told Rick I knew about tennis but didn't know a thing about raising money," said Dick. "He set up a meeting with Judy Foster and she was a savior. I felt very positive about the success of the tournament from the beginning. The tournament would expose a lot of people to the Humane Society and raise money for it. The scheduling dove-tailed with USTA leagues and it all seemed the right fit for success."

Success is putting it mildly, because the charity event became one of the premiere events in the area and drew more than just local players. From the first tournament in 1993 with about 106 players and raising around $2,500, the participation grew to a limited 250 players raising $25,000 the last three years. It is estimated the total raised in 15 years of the contest was over a quarter of million dollars! In addition, the retail value of in-kind contributions exceeded $130,000!

"When Rick came to me about helping with the tournament, it was such a coincidence," said Judy Foster, who chaired it all 15 years. "When my parents moved back here in 1967, Dick was our veterinarian and I had actually known him since junior high school. Dick was, and still is, so well respected and well-known. He didn't realize how great a resource he was to the community."   

So, how did Dick Brutus end up in the Clearwater area the last 43 years? His 55-year journey in the field of veterinary medicine led the way!

From his childhood days growing up on a 500-acre farm in Indiana (which he still farms today), it was apparent that Dick would pursue a career in veterinarian medicine, which he did at Michigan State University 1948-1955.
It was while attending college that Dick was first introduced to tennis.

"Michigan State was a land grant college and required both two years of ROTC and a physical education class each term," said Dick. "So, I enrolled in a tennis class, but I didn't have any further tennis until 25 years later. As a kid, I played some basketball, baseball, track and did some school plays and such, but not tennis.

"Lots of physical effort in the form of labor was needed to maintain the farm operation...and that contributed to creating a strong and durable body that enabled me to enjoy lots of sports. Today's athletes utilize planned exercise routines to create a strong and durable body."

After graduation, Dick left Indiana and took a job in Miami in 1955 a year before heading to Indianapolis for 10 years. Then, it was recommended he move his family -- his first wife and four kids -- to a warm climate to escape the challenge of hay fever and other allergy issues. He learned from a friend and fellow vet in St. Petersburg of the availability of Gulf Bay Animal Hospital, which he ran for 24 years. Dick says he "bounced around" the next few years, doing some farm work, relief work for other veterinarians, traveling some and fishing.

That didn't last long before he purchased Sunset Point Animal Hospital in the mid-1990s and sold it after a few years to retire for the third time -- although his wife Barbara says he still hasn't retired, and probably won't!

"I had been so dedicated to my profession plus raising kids, tennis was not something I did after my college experience until I enrolled in a class at St. Petersburg Junior College 25 years after that college class," said Dick. "Subsequently, I joined Royal Racquet Club in 1976. The a membership included personal lessons, a singles challenge ladder, men's night doubles and USTA leagues -- Royal Racquet always provided an enthusiastic attitude and matches could be arranged any time."

Tennis at Royal Racquet Club brought together the meeting and marrying of Dick to Barbara Brotherly in 1983. According to Dick, he noticed Barbara on the patio while standing inside with then tennis director Don Paitrick, and asked Don who she was. Later, mixed doubles led to marriage at the club in May 1983!

"It doesn't surprise me Dick got this tournament going," said Don, who is now the indoor tennis center director for the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. "Dick was always a forward-minded thinker and an energetic guy that always put a lot of work in what he believed. When I gave him lessons, he was a great student -- just an all-around, down-to-earth terrific guy."  

Earlier this month, Barbara staged a surprise party for Dick. Family and friends gathered at the Safety Harbor Community Center to celebrate his 80th birthday.

"Dick is a very kind man and that was one of the virtues that attracted me to him," said Barbara. "He has the ability to recognize the talents in a person that they were not even aware of. His pride and integrity of his profession was known throughout the veterinary community."

What now for this young man?

After income taxes get submitted and he completes a class required to keep his veterinary license current, Dick will head to his farm in Pine Village, Indiana. April is one of two extremely intensive times in the crop world (the other is in Sept.). He farms corn and soybeans, and says his specialty is drilling soybeans.

"I could sit on a tractor all day long," he said. "Farming is definitely one of my passions, along with tennis and some bird watching."
Happy birthday, Dick! And, thank you for combining your love of tennis with your love of animals!

This article originally appeared at TheTennisNews.net. For additional photos go to www.thetennisnews.net.





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