Bud Collins memorial service a celebration of his extraordinary life

From the Boston Globe

In words, music, songs, prayers and above all, glorious smiles, the family and friends of legendary tennis journalist Bud Collins gathered inside Trinity Church at Copley Square Friday afternoon for a two-hour memorial service to celebrate his life.

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Tennis great Chris Evert spoke at Friday’s services for late Globe sports columnist Bud Collins.

Much like Collins, who died in March at age 86, the ceremony was witty and smart and touching, as elegant and flawless as Wimbledon’s emerald lawn. Some of the biggest names in the game — Rod Laver, Stan Smith, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and others — came from far and wide to speak fondly of a man who was their loyal friend, their trusted confidant, and the singular authority of the sport he so dearly loved.

They shared stories of Collins’s clever turns of phrase, his trademark crazy wardrobe, his passion for everything about the game and everyone who played it.

“Bud will be remembered most of all for his wonderful, unique sense of humor,’’ noted Evert, one of five speakers to offer remembrances during the ceremony. “But what I admired about him, more than anything, was his extraordinary kindness, his decency and his sensitivity.

“Bud was one of the finest and tennis will never be the same. He will be the lasting imprint on our sport, and on our souls.’’

King, long ago dubbed “Mother Freedom’’ by the moniker-loving Collins, wore a shocking pink jacket to the ceremony. Because pink was “Bud’s favorite color,’’ she said, and this was a day, what would have been his 87th birthday, to give him everything he wanted.

King, whose courage boosted the women’s game to new heights in the 1970s, particularly when she thumped loudmouth huckster Bobby Riggs in a ballyhooed matchup, regaled the gathering of some 2,000 with stories dating to the first time she met Collins more than a half-century ago….

Both Evert and King noted how they trusted Collins.

“He was trustworthy and compassionate,’’ said Evert, noting how she was comforted by Collins immediately after losses in seven Wimbledon finals. “I knew at that moment Bud Collins would take care of me.’’

“I just loved him from that moment,’’ said King, thinking back to the first day she met Collins. “I felt safe.’’…

The choirs of Trinity Church accompanied a handful of soloists, including singers and instrumentalists, helping to make the celebration a dynamic presentation. The man who wrote about triumph and loss, legends and hackers, was sent off with rich readings (“To everything there is a season . . . ’’) and magnificent song (“Amazing Grace’’; “Ave Maria’’)….

Following the ceremony, many in the gathering made their way slightly west for a reception at Boston University, where many of Collins’s works have been preserved at the Howard Gottlieb Memorial Gallery. Collins earned his undergraduate degree at Baldwin Wallace College in Ohio, then moved to Boston in the late 1950s to pursue a master’s degree in communication at BU. He quickly caught the news bug.

“What keeps you going?’’ King recalled asking Collins in more recent years. “He’d say, ‘Billie, it’s the story . . . it’s the story.’ ’’

One thought on “Bud Collins memorial service a celebration of his extraordinary life

  1. I could not agree more with the words of Chris Evert: “This was the most awesome service I have ever been to.”

    For me it was the most surrealistic send off and welcome home for “The Royal Court Jester.”

    I cried many times during this symphony of life for Bud not because of sadness but out of joy and amazement of how one man’s life and death brought so many of the worlds greatest athletes, journalist, business leaders and humanitarians together. We weren’t together for one last time; we were renewing old friendships and trying in some small way to fill the unfillable gap that Bud’s passing will leave in the true spirit of the greatest game on earth.

    Living life to the fullest Bud was the conductor, encourager, motivator and the constant in the ever changing game and business of tennis. To be around Bud was to love him because you knew he loved and cared for you.

    Hat’s off to Anita who summoned the rest of the Royal Court of Tennis to be part of the most beautiful, spiritual, melodic, glorious celebration of life and do it so well with courage hope and a brokenness that bought us all a little closer together. We love you Anita and we will be here for you.

    I am so glad I called Bud’s phone number for one last time before I deleted it from my contact list. When Anita answered I was surprised for I did not know about the Celebration and was honored when Anita asked me to be there. The last two years for me have been driving back and forth between North Andover and The Moffitt Cancer in Tampa helping my 30 year old daughter beat cancer and my 93 year old mother who’s cancer is now in remission. Each day we have with those we love is precious.

    I don’t know what prompted me to call instead of just deleting Bud’s phone number but I know now how much I needed to be there and be part of something real and eternal. God does move in mysterious ways. Thank you Bud and Anita you will always be in my heart and prayers.

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