EBENSBURG - Bede Lantzy is proving that tennis is truly a lifetime sport.
The 88-year-old Lantzy is the oldest member at the Ebensburg Tennis Center, and his presence inspires the local tennis community.
"It's a nice way to show people that you can still play this sport at any age and have fun with it and compete," Ebensburg club professional Jamie Taylor said. "I think anyone who plays with Bede respects him for his playing ability and overall desire to continue playing the game."
(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski) Bede Lantzy, 88, returns a shot at the Ebensburg Tennis Center during the weekly game he plays with family members and friends on Tuesdays. Lantzy is the oldest playing member at the Ebensburg club.
Lantzy is part of a regular eight-man weekly Tuesday group that includes several friends, along with two of his sons, Joel and Dave.
"It's inspirational not only because of what he is doing at his age, but the quality of tennis he is playing is amazing," Mike Waksmunski said. "We play hard against him, and he plays hard against us."
"Everybody that I talk to can't believe he's playing at that age," Dave said. "He just has that passion for it.
The Lantzy file
Name: Bede Lantzy
Family: Bede and his wife, Julia, have six children, 16 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Education: 1944 graduate of Carrolltown High School and a 1950 graduate of St. Francis College where he played football.
Career: After World War II, when he served in the Navy, he started in the family business, Lantzy Insurance and Realty.
Interests: Hunting, fishing, gardening. He serves as a Eucharistic minister at Queen of Peace Church, Patton.
"I'm really proud of him."
Lantzy still serves, volleys and hits the ball with strength, and his height (6-foot-2) provides an asset at the net.
"He places the ball well with his serve and ground strokes," Dave said. "He thinks ahead in his strokes by lobbing the ball, which will set up his partner or himself for the next shot, and he likes to come to the net when he serves. He's still very competitive and does not like to lose."
Taylor made it clear the Tuesday group is not just hitting the ball back.
"The guys he competes with are strong players, and Bede always seems to hold his own," Taylor said. "I personally find him an inspiration."
Bede has been playing the sport since he was 10 years old when he moved from Spangler to Carrolltown, where he started playing at the Carrolltown Tennis Club.
In 1976, Bede and his wife Mary Julia (Lieb) moved to East Carroll Township with their six children and built a tennis court in his backyard.
"My neighbor, Omer Strittmatter, had a backhoe, and he immediately started grading and found some tennis clay," Bede said.
He loves to play outdoors at his home or at the Ebensburg Tennis Center, which was built in 2007 after a $2 million gift from world wrestling promoter and personality Vince McMahon, who wanted to honor his mother, Vickie Askew. She lived in Ebensburg but has since relocated.
"I really like it [tennis]," Bede said. "I don't have to travel so far. I used to go to Altoona [Blair Racquet Club, now ProCare] every week."
When Bede is away from the tennis court, he enjoys fishing, gardening, wood carving and painting. He and his wife enjoy working puzzles to keep their mind sharp, which he hopes to do well into the future.
"With God's help, I expect to enjoy many years to come," he said.
Joel enjoys the opportunity to share so many activities with his dad.
"He keeps active no matter what he's doing. He still goes hunting and fishing with us," Joel added, with a chuckle. "He shoots a deer and tries to find us to get it out of there."