San Leandro resident and former tennis great Art Larsen died December 7, 2012, in San Leandro at the age of 87. He had been a resident at San Leandro Healthcare Center at 368 Juana Avenue in San Leandro.
Larsen was born in Hayward on April 17, 1925. His father was a boxer and his grandfather was a baseball player. He moved to San Leandro when he was was 7 or 8 years old. At 11 years of age, he began playing tennis and won a tournament at the Olympic Club in San Francisco in 1939 when he was 14. George Hudson at the Berkeley Tennis Club began coaching him at 16 and he graduated from San Leandro High School two years later, in 1943.
|Art Larsen at the San Francisco Olympic Club after winning in 1939|
Photo provided by Cindy Simons from Art Larsen's collection
After high school, Larsen said, “I fought in the Battle of the Bulge” in World War II, according to an April 12, 2001, article in the San Leandro Times. After the war, he attended College of the Pacific and then the University of San Francisco (USF). While playing tennis at USF, Larsen was part of the NCAA Men's Tennis Championship team and became nationally recognized.
He gained the nickname “Tappy” for his habit of tapping things on the court with his racket for good luck.
As a result of an accident in Castro Valley in 1956, Larsen's tennis career ended after being ranked in the world top ten in 1954, when he finished second in the US tennis championship. In 1969, Larsen was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.
Thanks to Cindy Simons for providing information from her interview of Art Larsen in March 2008.
Update: According to his nephew, Larsen was buried on December 13, 2012, at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery and Mausoleum in Hayward, California. He is survived by his sister Joyce Stengel; his nephews Willis C. Stengel and Carl A. Stengel and his niece Patricia Rickner. He has no wife or children.