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Kindness on the court, remembering Cleveland Gilcrease

Kindness on the court, remembering Cleveland Gilcrease
Posted at 11:11 PM, Feb 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-23 00:11:55-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — It's been nearly two weeks since the Corpus Christi tennis community lost a coaching legend. He was not known for his winning record on the court, but his ability to teach and inspire the best in his students.

"Coach Gilcrease had the greatest vision of potential when he worked with young people," Susan Shelby Torrance, retired, ran the Al Kruse Tennis Center for 27 years, King UIL 1968 state champion, said.

Cleveland Gilcrease had a dream and his passion for teaching was served on the court.

"His teams would dominate for 20 years," Shelby Torrance said. "The other junior highs would wonder how is he winning, but his teams had the best attitude and the best work ethic."

Gilcrease coached young players at Wynn Seale, Baker Middle School and the Al Kruse Tennis Center where he was hired by Susan Shelby Torrance. 20 years ago she believed he was the right person to lead free summer clinics.

"He had certificates for all the children's names on them, and so when I come here this is what I think of," Torrance said. "Those happy moments."

The courts at HEB Tennis Center provide a different feeling of joy for Beverly Gilcrease-Gant.

"This is where we played all day with dad, so it makes sense to be here," Beverly Gilcrease-Gant, Cleveland's daughter, said.

Beverly remembers her dad's kindness on the court.

"Where he would yell out beautiful and alright you're doing good," Gilcrease-Gant, said. "Hang in there!.

But it was his kindness behind closed doors. Helping out those who could not afford to play.

"At my parent's home in the garage right now there are racks of clothes that were there that when a child or tennis player didn't have what they needed all they had to do was go to the house," Gilcrease-Gant said.

Sometimes Gilcrease even rewarded his hard-working athletes to a good meal at Price's Chef.

"We walk in and find his picture," Arlene Medrano, former athlete for Gilcrease at Wynn Seale, said. "Sit under his picture and we would sit, chat and talk about life."

Looking at the menu just over a week after Gilcrease passed away, Arlene Medrano remembers the order.

"It gives you a choice hash browns or grits, and it was always grits," Medrano said. "I didn't know what grits were before I met Daddy Gil."

Gilcrease was more than a coach.

"A friend and the father-figure I had in my life and it wasn't just me," Medrano said.

He impacted every player that picked up a racquet, watching over them till his final day.

"I'll see you later, either here on the tennis court or I'll see you upstairs," Gilcrease said. "Take good care, love you, we'll always be thinking of you and goodbye for now."

Cleveland Gilcrease was born November 19, 1934 in Columbus, Texas and passed away on February 11, 2023 in Corpus Christi, Texas. He was 88 years old.

From 1985 to 2002 Cleveland was employed with CCISD as a Science teacher at Wynn Seale Middle School/Academy of Fine Arts. During that time, he coached tennis at Wynn Seale, Baker Middle School, St. James Episcopal School and at Al Kruse Tennis Center. Along with many tennis championships, Cleveland was nominated in 1991 for CCISD Teacher of the Year and in 1991 was awarded the Corpus Christi Tennis Association’s Coach of the Year.

In 1993, he was the recipient of the United States Tennis Association-Texas Lloyd Sessions Educational Merit Award for excellence in using tennis as a vehicle for education for youth. In 1995, Gilcrease received the Wynn Seale Academy of Fine Arts Teacher of the Year Award and in 1998 he received the NAACP Martin Luther King Jr. Living the Dream - Vision of our Youth Award.

On May 7, 2011 he was honored with Cleveland Gilcrease Day in Corpus Christi, Texas for his outstanding mentorship of youth. Also in 2011, the Tennis Success Cleveland Gilcrease Scholarship was established to award college scholarships to youth tennis players who displayed outstanding community volunteerism. To date, over $176,000 have been awarded in college scholarships to deserving students.

The visitation took place on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2023.