by Terry Nielsen
There is nothing in Becky Blue’s background of growing up in rural South Dakota that would have hinted to her being inducted into the SD Tennis Hall of Fame, except under the contributor category. Make that contributor extraordinaire!
Tennis likely was furthest from her mind as she attended a one room, grade school District #32, a mile from the family farm outside of Hurley, SD. She caught the bug to write (she has authored two books since) while in middle school. By the time she graduated from Hurley High School in 1977, Becky’s passion for community and desire for involvement in all things meaningful continued to drive her.
So why tennis for this now retired nurse, geriatric specialist?
Becky says her inspiration for tennis involvement has always been her children (Ian, Julia, Elliot and Mason) and the kids of the Brandon and Valley Springs communities. She became a “social” tennis player, but really felt joy from being a tennis organizer. She led the charge to create an eight- court tennis complex at the Brandon Valley Middle School, which really kick started both the high school tennis and summer instruction programs for the community.
Longtime tennis guru Mary Thompson said Becky was the lead organizer, along with Tracie Rohlf, another passionate tennis parent, to form the Brandon Tennis Association in 2006. Becky says BV tennis coach Mark Schlekeway had planted the idea of a CTA (Community Tennis Association) and along with others, it became a reality. In 2008, the Northern Section named them the Organization Member of the year.
The BTA successfully presented funding plans for the new tennis complex to the city of Brandon, the school district, the USTA Northern and the USTA. Along with supplemental private donors, the courts were completed in 2007.
Becky led the charge to fill them with players, and even now as retired President of the BTA, she assists with programming and events to draw players and families to the courts. One doesn’t get into the SD Tennis Hall of Fame for making great apple pies for prizes at tournaments in Brandon, but it didn’t hurt in Becky’s case!! (It is called the “Big Apple Open” and is held during the US Open.)
Jeff Nelson and Dick Hahn were recruited by Becky over the years to offer professional lessons and tournament direction for the BTA. Both say Becky was THE driving force to build the courts and recruit players and secure USTA supplemental funding. Becky was awarded the USTA Northern Wolfensen/Ratner Community Service Award in 2010 for her contributions to recreational tennis.
Since passing the torch as executive director of the BTA to Laura Wong, Becky has continued to fill her time with her love of writing, publishing in 2022 her book “Turning: the Magic and Mystery of More Days.” Turning age 60 herself inspired Becky to write the book. Drawing on her Christian faith and experience as a geriatric nurse, Becky says the book encourages readers to reach each birthday with positivity and welcoming, rather than dreading the turning of the years.
While at Hurley High School, Becky helped care for her mother who died from breast cancer when Becky was 16. This influenced her to pursue a career in nursing at Augustana College (1981 graduate). There she met her future husband Dan Blue. Her parents Juel and Myrle Johnson raised Becky and her three siblings, Patty, Cindy and Paul on the farm which now spans five generations. Her mother being an English teacher and her uncle who wrote poetry provided inspiration to continue Becky’s love for writing.
Now that she is six years into retirement from Sanford Health (where her husband was a physician), she is drawing on her time spent in geriatric nursing to share her stories, now as an author. She speaks to book clubs, and recently was a featured speaker at Sioux Falls TedX.
To no surprise her biggest joys in life with Dan revolve around their family. Ian and wife Paige Blue are in music production and live in Los Angeles, CA; Julia and husband Luke Thompson live near Sioux Falls where Julia is a pediatrician and Luke a banking analyst, and Elliot and wife Kara Blue live in Omaha where Elliot is an internal medicine resident and Kara is an occupational therapist. Son Mason and wife Ellie Blue are both second year medical students at University of South Dakota. All of the Blue children played tennis for the Brandon Valley Lynx.
Becky is partial to kids growing up on tennis courts and has seen friendships grow and connect in special ways through the sport. Asked about a highlight from many years serving her tennis community, Becky recalls being thanked by a father who was so glad she helped create tennis opportunities in Brandon. He said it was on the court that he and his daughter had their best time of connection.
Mary Thompson said Becky is so deserving of being in the SDTHOF. In tennis and beyond, Mary sums her up: “Becky has likely achieved hundreds of goals, all the while remaining friendly, engaging, and smart, welcoming, respectful, considerate and going after it every single day. That is Becky Blue!”