Obituary of James Reffkin
James "Jim" Reffkin, a cherished icon in the world of tennis and a beloved member of the Tucson community, peacefully passed away on August 27, 2023. Born on January 23rd, 1939, in East Chicago, Indiana, preceded in death by his parents, Samuel and Elenore Reffkin. Jim's lifelong passion for tennis guided his journey, leaving an indelible mark on the sport and the lives he touched.
Jim's tennis career began at Marquette University, where his love and passion for the game flourished. After graduating from Marquette, a trip to California led him to Tucson, Arizona, in 1963. Captivated by the desert's allure, its radiant sunshine, and the spirit of the Wild West, Jim found his true calling at Salpointe Catholic High School, where he taught Speech/English and coached the boys’ tennis team, eventually assuming the role of Athletic Director. Driven by a desire to turn his love for tennis into a career, he secured a teaching position at the Tucson Racquet Club. In 1975 he became the Director of Tennis for the City of Tucson overseeing tennis programing and events at the Randolph Tennis Center, where he spent an astounding 42 years crafting a tennis legacy, inspiring countless individuals with his unwavering dedication and expertise.
Jim maintained his role as the tennis coach at Salpointe Catholic High School for the girls' and boys' teams, leading them to secure multiple state championships. Beyond the high school level, Jim coached the Pima Community College Women’s Tennis Team, leading them to two National NJCAA Titles and numerous regional titles. Through his guidance, he instilled in his student-athletes the values of sportsmanship, resilience, and a love for the game, shaping the upcoming generations of tennis talent.
Jim's leadership, dedication, and unwavering commitment to advancing tennis extended beyond any institution. He actively engaged with tennis associations, prominently the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) and the United States Tennis Association (USTA). He tirelessly championed tennis in the Southwest through these affiliations, making it accessible to all and fueling its popularity in the region. His impactful work earned him recognition, including President of USPTA, President of the USTA Southwest Section, and USPTA Professional of the Year. Notably, he was also inducted into the Salpointe Catholic High School’s Sports Hall of Fame, Pima County Sports Hall of Fame, USTA Southwest Hall of Fame, and International Tennis Hall of Fame.
In recognition of Jim's profound contributions to the Tucson tennis community, in 2009, the Randolph Tennis Center was renamed the Jim Reffkin Tennis Center. This change symbolizes his lasting influence, his enduring spirit, and the impact he made on the world of tennis. His legacy will inspire future generations of players, coaches, and enthusiasts who will gather at the Center that now carries his name.
Above his professional achievements, Jim's greatest joy came from his family, the cornerstone of his life. He shared 53 years of marriage with the love of his life, Lu, and cherished his daughter, Amy, son-in-law Greg, and grandchildren Max and Sophia.
Jim Reffkin's legacy is one of excellence, inspiration, and unwavering love. He will be fondly remembered and greatly missed by those who had the privilege to know him. His impact will continue to illuminate the Tucson community, reminding us all to embrace life with dedication, kindness, and an authentic passion for our pursuits.
He is survived by his wife, Lu, daughter Amy Reffkin Ludke, son-in-law Greg Ludke, grandchildren Sophia and Maxwell Ludke, brother Dr. Richard Reffkin, sister-in-law Deanna Reffkin, brother-in-law Anthony Carano and many cousins, nieces, and nephews.
In memory of Jim, a mass and reception will be held on September 21st, 2023 at 10:30 am at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, 5150 N. Valley View Road 85718. In place of flowers, the family requests donations to the Alzheimer's Association, TMC Hospice, or a charity of your choice.To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of James Reffkin, please visit Tribute Store