‘Father Tennis’ Scotty Mitchell, former Catawba College coach, dies at 92

  • Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2013 11:41 p.m.
Scott Mitchell
Scott Mitchell

SALISBURY — Scott “Scotty” Mitchell, 92, once dubbed by the Salisbury Post as “Father Tennis,” died Wednesday morning at Novant Health Rowan Medical Center.

He was fighting a bout with pneumonia.

Mitchell played tennis into his 90s and was a fixture on City Park and Catawba College tennis courts for close to 35 years. After retiring from his job at General Electric in 1983, he coached tennis at Catawba College for many years.

Some 20 tennis friends gathered for a small birthday party for Mitchell in 2009, and several told stories of how difficult it was to keep Mitchell off the courts.

Once he played through a match with a torn biceps muscle. A swollen Mitchell shook off the pulling of a tough wisdom tooth in the morning to play tennis the same afternoon, and Bob Pendleton remembered how he and Mitchell once scraped snow off a court so they could play.

Despite his age, Mitchell had a solid tennis game, featuring a strong forehand, dinks and alley shots and a low-toss serve that came quickly from behind his head.

He usually played doubles and gave this piece of advice once to playing partner Jeff Saleeby: “The best test of skills is singles, and it should be avoided at all costs.”

Mitchell was known for a sharp wit, dry sense of humor and his gentlemanly manner. Well-read, Mitchell loved doing crosswords, stringing rackets, and helping young people with their games and life lessons.

A financial officer with GE, he moved here from Cincinnati when he was 55. He and his wife, the late Mary Marks Mitchell, had six children.

When he was 75 and still coaching tennis at Catawba College, Mitchell asked Pendleton to accompany him to a Kannapolis tattoo parlor. Mitchell returned from their trip with the semblance of a tennis player tattooed on his right shoulder.

He did it as a lesson for his college players: They had no business getting tattoos until they were his age.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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