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John Short: He Served Longboat Key Well

Christine and John Short in Italy

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

A long and rich life is composed of many acts. But nothing underscores a life of success in the realms of business, family and friends than if one can make a meaningful impact and contribution right up to their final days. That was the life of John Francis Short.

John and Christine were married June 27, 1981.

John was the CEO of tennis at the Longboat Key Pubic Tennis Center where he unofficially ran a group of 80 players affiliated with what was referred to as Short’s Academy, which met six days a week, 362 days a year.

To someone who does not play tennis, it could easily be underestimated. But for the hundreds of Longboaters and Sarasotans who over the years drove religiously each morning to arrive at 7:30 a.m. sharp for their arranged match — it meant the world. And arranging the matches, keeping the order and overseeing the entire daily event was all John Short. It was his gift to Longboat Key tennis players.

His contribution cannot be underestimated.

For years, dozens of players found a home each morning and all they had to do is show up and a competitive game was guaranteed. And to have a high level of competition and camaraderie late in life in retirement made the matches something to cherish.

John Short kept track of the players day after day, year after year as they traveled north and south coming and going. He had to assess the ability of each player and put together the best matches he could. It was like herding dozens of type-A cats into formation. And he made it all look easy.

But in reality it took hours and several Stella Artois every afternoon for him to pull this task off.

Not to mention Longboaters and tennis players love to complain: “Why was I on that court — my partner couldn’t hit a beach ball?”

There were times John had to swiftly discipline and sometimes expunge no-showers and the chronically late.

 

Are you crazy?

John’s wife, Christine, recalls when John agreed to take over the sizable Longboat tennis group.

Ron Wedekind with Christine and John Short at the Center.

“Dick Egan ran it and had to step down. A meeting was called at Gecko’s and it looked like the group might fold. Nobody would step up and wanted to run it. John agreed. When he came home, I said, ‘Are you crazy? Are you out of your mind?’ I wondered how many beers he had,” said Christine.

Longboat Key Tennis Center Director Kay Thayer says that over the years that John ran the Academy it grew and grew and sometimes would fill 10 courts with 40 players.

Thayer says, “He did an awesome job. When new people wanted to play, we would slide them his way. It has worked well. The group keeps new people coming and keeps them playing with new people.”

 

Get the ball over the net…

John was himself an avid tennis player. He was scrappy on the court and liked scrappy players; one of his favorites was Andre Agassi.

After 3-5 sets of tennis daily, John would finish off two bottles of Stella Artois beer and engage in “man talk conversation” according to Ron Wedekind, a frequent tennis partner. Allen called him indefatigable on the tennis court. “He would never give up on anything even to

John was given a custom-made card at the Tennis Center to keep track of his daily Stella Artois intake by Grace Hackett.

the point of tripping over sprinkler heads and running into the fences,” said Allen.

Wedekind, his doubles partner, once told John in a tournament “winning is not all that important to me. I just want to play and have fun.”

John wouldn’t buy any of it. He would reply, “Shut the F up and get the ball over the net.”

“I would then laugh while he scowled.”

John had a chain saw accident that mangled his right hand, but that never slowed down his tennis playing.

John and Ron Wedekind won First place in their 70s Division.

John also played competitive mixed doubles tennis with his wife, Christine. One year John and Christine won their division in the Observer Challenge.

John would often drive to away matches in his “very cool” Mercedes sports car according to Wedekind. “We both had a difficult time getting in an out of the car in our later years since it was so low to the ground, although I never heard him admit it.”

For about five years, John’s dog, Rocky, would attend every day and watch the action courtside, or from John’s car.

 

CEO at heart

John Short arrived on Longboat key in 2005 after retiring as CEO of Opinion Research in Princeton and CFO at Hays Associates and Burroughs Corporation/Unisys.

The couple first bought a house on St. Armands, then moved to Tangerine Bay on Longboat Key.

“John didn’t like condo living — he hated all the rules and regulations,” says, Christine. They finally settled on Bird Key.

Over the years, Bill Upton, who has gracefully stepped in to continue the Short Academy, became close friends with John.

“John was such a hard worker. He walked the walk. He had a big bark but I never saw him bite anyone,” says Upton.

Upton is proud to continue the legacy of the tennis group despite the workload.

“When John handed over the academy last winter it was as strong as ever,” says Upton.

Since taking over where John left off, Upton has had to navigate the Covid closings, court procedures and the myriad of protocols in starting tennis back up.

“I work hard at it and that is what I admired in John. He was tireless in his love and commitment to the players on the Key and to the game itself,” says Upton.

The Short Academy members and the Tennis Center are going to create a small remembrance for John — perhaps a bench or a bronze racket.

In the meantime, if you play a good match at 7:30 a.m. on Longboat Key, you can thank John Short in your mind as you drive home. He may just be somewhere on a clay court far away with a Stella in his hand and a smile that only comes from doing what you love to do in life.

John’s wife Christine sits surrounded by their 6 grandchildren. From left in the back, Cameron, Dev, Destrey, Max. Beside Christine are Talia and Gianna.

 

The official obit

John Short passed away on September 12, 2020, at the age of 76, after a valiant battle with metastatic cancer. John died peacefully at home with his devoted wife, daughter, grandchildren and his beloved 4=legged pal, Sammy, by his side. John and the love of his life, Christine (Giannotta) were married for 39 years. His grieving children include Dina (John Maher), Jake, and Bill Giannotta (deceased 2004). His grandchildren, who worshiped the man who always put family first, include Maxwell, Benjamin, Cameron and Gianna Kleinberg and Levi, Talia and Destrey Giannotta. John was born in Philadelphia, PA on March 31, 1944 to Ralph & Elvia (Hansell) Short. The third of seven children, John is the first to go to Heaven. He is survived by siblings Vincent (Helen), Ralph “Tony” (Marlene), Edward (Dee), Sara (Charlie May), Michael (Marianne), and Rosemary (Michael Mascherino). John attended Monsignor Bonner H.S., Saint Bernard College and Ursinus College. He retired as CEO of Opinion Research Corp in Princeton, NJ. Prior to that he was CFO at Hay Associates, Phila PA/Washington DC, and Burroughs Corporation/Unisys. John was an avid tennis player, who ran a tennis league called Short Academy, at Longboat Key Public Tennis Center. There, John grew the group from just 11 to 60 players. The tennis enthusiast was proud to have captained a winning team at the Suncoast Tennis League. A Frank Sinatra lover, he often sang “My Way”; John’s way was family, strength, love, integrity and never giving up.

Writer, tennis player and Short Academy member Blake Fleetwood contributed to this piece.

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4 Responses for “John Short: He Served Longboat Key Well”

  1. Ralph Monaco says:

    My sincere condolences to the Short family. May John rest in peace.
    Ralph Monaco

  2. Dick Lyons says:

    WONDERFUL, thanks from all of us.

  3. Blake Fleetwood says:

    He gave so much of himself to others right up to the end. No easy retirement for him.
    It’s hard to keep 70 people in line and make them happy. He ran the group like a clock.

    Now you can rest but I bet you won’t.

  4. A huge loss for the community. He did so much for so many. A gem of a man. Welcomed everyone to tennis, no matter their level of play. So sorry for your loss, Christine. Take comfort in his legacy.

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