Wednesday, November 30, 2016


USMC Corporal Thomas "Tommy" Jardas
1993 - 2016
Note: You can access an audio/visual representation of the first five paragraphs of this blog post by clicking this linkYour device volume should be up to view the video.  

Do you savor special memories and competing sensations as
Photo courtesy of Fox News
you drive past your old high school? Or maybe the high school where your children walked the halls, frolicked on the field, mingled with other teenagers, they too, teaming with potential?

Now, can you imagine? You’re a mom, or Dad. You’re getting ready for work and you turn on the Today Show. You’re not totally paying attention, but your antennae always go up when there’s a story on the military. Of course; your 22-year-old son is a Marine stationed thousands of miles away.

Your preparations for work slow down, become trance-like,
Beth Haely & Tommy Jardas-
Photo courtesy of Brian Johnson 
as the sensation of doom drapes over you like a heavy shroud, slowly smothering you, before realization crashes into you, snatching your very breath away. A helicopter crash? Marines? Hawaii? You hit the ground in hysterics, knowing in your heart of hearts that that helicopter, is THE helicopter, the one your son maintained and risked his life on daily.

Can you imagine the next 11 hours, as you futilely seek
Sikorsky CH 53E Super Stallion
confirmation of what you already know deep down in your bone marrow? Was my son on the chopper that day? God, let it not be so! And then finally: “The Knock on the Door” that all parents, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters dread when their loved ones serve. Yes, my son was on that bird that flies no more. One phase of torture ends and bleeds into another.

The rescue mission is underway. Six days, six long days and endless nights the mission sustains your limbo. Hope and
Photo courtesy of Stacy Henson- News-Press 
Despair compete for dominance. Hope dies hard, but die it does as the declaration of what you already knew in your heart of hearts is made: The tragic training mission had ended in disaster. And yet, somehow, life goes on…

How might you feel, as a parent, sibling, friend, driving past
Tommy, Beth, & Haely
the high school your loved one attended? Driving past Cypress Lake High School has brought me mixed emotions for years, but those sensations will be even more intense for me now. You see, I only recently found out that USMC Corporal Tommy Jardas, a graduate of Cypress Lake High was killed while on active duty in the USMC this past January. Tommy was a promising 22-year-old at the time. The News-Press provided excellent coverage of Tommy’s return home.

Although moved by all untimely deaths that penetrate my consciousness, finding out that Tommy’s potential would
T. A. & Con back in the day 
never be realized hit close to home. Tommy attended Cypress Lake High School at a time when I was a frequent visitor there as a surrogate dad. Tommy’s sister Haely Jardas (Ms. District of Columbia, 2015-16) and Connor Zerilla (my surrogate son) were close friends. Connor and Tommy shared a birth date as well as mascot duties at Cypress Lake High…There is challenge, and then there is the challenge of tragedy.

As members of our tennis community are rallying around
Screen shot of GoFundMe page for Tommy's fund
initiated by Gina Cuoco-Barfield
Steph and me with our challenge (so minor in comparison), friends of the Haely-Jardas family have been rallying around Beth Haely (Tommy's mom); her Fianc√©, Brian Johnson; and Tommy's sister Haely. The first public demonstration of the support they received was in the form of a GoFundMe effort initiated by Beth’s cousins Bruce and Haely Bates, and her friend Gina A. Cuoco-Barfield to build a memorial in Tommy’s name at Cypress Lake High School (lots of good info available at the GoFundMe website).

The original concept of the memorial project has grown; in fact, tripled in size. Initially consisting of a flagpole and
Cypress Lake High Memorial in Progress-
Photo courtesy of Beth Haely's Facebook page
plaque, support has been so strong, that the memorial currently includes, in Beth’s words: “over 500 sq ft of pavers with lighting 24/7/365; two 8' pergolas with 2 black powder coated steel benches with 2 royal palms and bushes boarder the area. The Black Granite Marker is over 7' and will stand in the middle.” Wow (Click here for progress)! The dedication of the memorial will be January 14, 2017 at noon. It’s already on my calendar.

The completion of that funding effort is drawing nigh, but
Flyer courtesy of Brian Johnson
there is a final push that directly involves our tennis community. Cypress Lake Country Club will be hosting the Corporal Tommy Jardas Memorial Tennis Social on Sunday, December 11, 2016, from 9:30 am - 12:00 pm. If you’ve been in this community a while, you know that they know how to do events at Cypress Lake.

The event is primarily a Cypress Lake member social, but guests and their checkbooks are welcome. There will be round robin tennis, racquet demos, silent auction, clinics, and a 50/50 raffle to make the giving fun. Court Sponsorships are still available, and you can always give above the suggested donation of $25 if you so desire. For general questions on the event, please contact Cypress Lake Country Club at 239-481-1333. If you have questions about items for the Silent Auction, please contact Beth Haely at 239-271-0009 or

Wait! I almost forgot the most fun thing- outside of the tennis of course- Love Boat Homemade Ice Cream will be on hand to honor Tommy, who worked there during his high school years. You might want to head over to the event just for the ice cream- it’s that good!

In any event, if you aren’t a Cypress Lake member, and don’t
The late Charles "Van" Middlesworth with
Alex Hermeto (right) at an FGCU Eagles match
know Alex Hermeto, Cypress Lake’s new Director of Tennis, from Pro League, this may be as good an opportunity as any to meet one of the area's most decorated tennis professionals. And, former Head Pro Terry See is always happy to share some smiles and his “firm-ish” handshake with everyone. Hope to see you there! Game, set, match...T. A.

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