Everyone who knows Connie Kormanyos expected a few unscripted moments during her retirement luncheon on Tuesday, and Kormanyos did not disappoint. Those who expected a few tears were not disappointed, either.
What started as a small tribute by friends of the Greater Marco Family YMCA tennis director grew to an impressive ceremony recognizing one of the area’s best-loved contributors to the sport.
Mary Beth Exposito, conference planner of the Marco Island Hilton, was initially instructed to plan for no more than 60 to 70 attendees, but Tuesday’s luncheon attendance eventually topped 225. “I don’t know her,” said Exposito, “but it’s a tribute to this woman who did so much for the community that so many people wanted to honor her.”
Ernie Bretzmann, Kormanyos’s first boss at the Marco Y and president and CEO of the United Way of Collier County, referred to Kormanyos as an icon. “Beginning with minimal resources,” he said, “Connie developed the finest YMCA tennis program in the country.”
The love of tennis has always been close to Kormanyos’s heart. She attended West Kentucky University, where she majored in physical education and played tennis at a time when there were no women’s teams. “There was a men’s team, but for me, it was intramural competition,” she said.
Kormanyos was not deterred by the lack of recognition for women and competed fiercely. However, that tenacity belied her nature. She admitted that off the courts, she was so timid she chose the safety of teaching after graduation, rather than try to compete professionally. “I started teaching school in LaCenter, Ky.,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done without that job, because I was very shy and it was a safe place for me.”
Kormanyos realized she wanted to play and coach tennis rather than be a teacher. Moving to Collier County more than 30 years ago made that dream possible. In 1978, she created the Collier County Tennis Association, now the Collier County Women’s Tennis Association, catching the eye of Bretzmann, who later asked her to work for the fledgling Marco Y. “When I started at the Marco Y, there were only four players,” Kormanyos said. “Now, there are hundreds, with 400 to 500 players during season.”
Originally, the Y consisted of four hard courts and a rusting trailer. Now, the facility includes eight state-of-the-art clay courts, multiple athletic buildings and a pool.
Kormanyos admitted that she has always been driven by one goal: putting people on the tennis courts. To that end, she has been tenacious and creative. She co-chaired the Hurricane League’s first interclub programs, ran the Patron’s League for more than 10 years and started the senior Olympics program and the first wheelchair tennis program in Collier County. She also successfully ran the For the Love of the Y tennis tournament for 21 years.
During her early years in Collier County, Kormanyos opened the Collier County Racquet Club, now the Marco Island Racquet Club. She coached numerous 2.5 women, the first level of United States Tennis Association league play, who competed at the local, regional and state levels, with two teams making it to nationals. “I worked them to death,” she admitted.
“I’ve done all I could do here,” said Kormanyos summing up her years of coaching. “Tennis is as successful as I can make it. I’ll miss the people. I’ll even miss all the phone calls I make. I’m a workaholic, like my dad.”
During the luncheon, Kormanyos was applauded for her work with area charities such as St. Matthew’s House, Project Help Crisis Center and the Special Olympics. Cindy Love, CEO of the Marco Y, agreed that filling Kormanyos’s shoes will not be easy. “She was the foundation of the Y and we built the tennis program around her,” Love said. “We’re going to continue to build on that foundation as we move forward.”
Friends of Kormanyos know that what can never be replaced is her quick wit, genuine kindness and the love and respect she has shown for everyone she meets.
John Wood, a past director of St. Matthew’s House, dubbed her a hero. “She is so talented, with a heart of gold, with courage and self-discipline,” he said. “She has a large, spiritual, heart and is always giving back. She will never quit (doing that) as long as she lives. It is a precious honor to have Connie as a friend.”
Carol Hillenbrand summed up the feeling all around as she addressed Kormanyos at the luncheon. “Your are very special to all of us,” she said. “We will miss you always.”
Kormanyos was honored by the Marco Island Hilton Resort with gift certificates for a two-night stay in Orlando and a two-night stay in Georgia, to use as she travels to see her 89-year-old mother, Clarise Moore, who lives in Kentucky.
The luncheon was organized by Hillenbrand, Joe Clark, Maureen Arzig and John Ritchie with the help of Mac Chaudhry, of the Hilton, and Autumn Golden, of the Marco Y.