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65-Over Tennis Profile: John Stone an Icon at 91 in Jacksonville

August 10, 2012 09:29 AM
John Stone (left) and Tom Brokaw in 2001
If the group of 15 or so older players who meet twice a week to play tennis at Boone Park in Jacksonville can be called seniors, then their senior is 91-year-old fellow player John Stone.

Stone pays a great deal of attention to fitness and staying healthy as a former Marine, and tennis has been part of his regular regimen for the past 50+ years.

"We're a bunch of old guys but I'm the oldest here, the guys I play with are around 65," Stone says. "When my son was 14 he started playing tennis, and after hacking around as a kid I started to take it up again when I was about 35. I've played it ever since then and it has been great for physical fitness. It's great for keeping active at my age and the social part of it I really like too."

Stone survived a World War II tour of duty in Okinawa, Japan, that almost curtailed his post-service tennis career. He earned a Bronze Star, Silver Star, Purple Heart, Combat V and a Presidential Unit Citation after his Marine regiment suffered the greatest number of casualties of any regiment in Marine Corps history. At 23 years of age, Stone was forced to assume the duty as his company's commander when 80 percent of his regiment was killed in the Battle of Okinawa. In 2001 he was featured in an interview with NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw for the television series, the "Greatest Generation."

Picking up tennis in his 30s back in Jacksonville after his service, he one year won the singles, doubles and mixed doubles at his club championships. Tennis, says Stone, and keeping up with his fitness, and fitness education, have led to his longevity on the court.

"I'm healthy, I haven't had any major problems, fortunately," Stone says. "I walk a lot. Some doctors wrote a book about aging and they said that if you don't exercise when you're my age, you'll lose 50 percent of your capacity. I've lost some of my capacity, but you just have to accept that and play on. It's a lifelong sport -- I used to play baseball, and you get to the point where you can't play baseball, you just can't do it. I played golf but that's boring. But tennis is one of the sports you can play for a lifetime I think."

B.A. Grubbs, a member of Stone's weekly hitting group and a past president of USTA Florida, says Stone remains a player and an individual to look up to.

"Every city has their 'Mr. Tennis,' and certainly John is ours," Grubbs says. "Besides his two sons, also good tennis players on the Florida circuit, many junior tennis players have sought his advice over the years."

Stone says he plans play on into his 90s, and maintain his local status as a champion of tennis health and aging.

"They look upon me as an icon, so I have to keep us the facade," he laughs. "Tennis is fun, it challenges you, it's given me companionship, and it keeps me healthy. I'm just happy to be out there playing with a great bunch of guys."





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