Memorial for late tennis coach not forgotten

Karin Hedlund and her mother, Joyce Hedlund, a longtime coach at Mercer Island, with dog Acey at the high school. - Contributed Photo
Karin Hedlund and her mother, Joyce Hedlund, a longtime coach at Mercer Island, with dog Acey at the high school.
— image credit: Contributed Photo

Former Mercer Island High School tennis coach Joyce Hedlund was like “a second mom to everyone,” said Matthew Sedlacek, who graduated from MIHS in 2010.

That same school year, in November 2009, Hedlund died suddenly from a stroke at age 66.

It was always her desire to have the tennis courts at the school lit. Sedlacek and another of Hedlund’s players, Gabe Davis, started a fund dubbed “Light up the Courts,” to raise money in Hedlund’s honor.

The estimated price tag at the time was $285,000. The Mercer Island Schools Foundation agreed to handle the money, making it tax deductible, but the young men fell far short of raising that much money.

They graduated and passed the project on to Jared Thomas and Erica Baska, who made it their senior culminating project the next school year.

Carolyn Holm with the foundation said so far about $9,400 has been raised, not nearly enough to light up the courts. Now the project has been taken over by senior Sophia Gage, who is being mentored by Sedlacek, who is still involved, although he is at Washington State University studying finance.

“During our senior year, Joyce passed away and we wanted to honor her,” Sedlacek said.

He said she helped him heal after a bad boating accident he was in, among other things. Not only was she a coach, but a listening ear and someone to talk to if needed.

Gage has also turned the effort into her senior culminating project. The lights have dimmed, however, and now Gage is concentrating on a fitting memorial to Hedlund.

Her plan is to install a large stone from Marenakos Rock Center in Issaquah with engraving, offset by some benches, creating a sort of peaceful place to remember Hedlund.

Gage said she is negotiating with the School Board as to where to put the memorial. She said the board would like to see it near the tennis courts; superintendent Gary Plano said a location has yet to be determined, and the decision on the memorial and its location will need to go before the School Board.

Gage said she plans to contact all the donors to the project to explain where the money is going, since the lights were just too expensive.

Gage met Hedlund when she was just a freshman at MIHS.

“I was fortunate to have her as a coach in my freshman year on the varsity team,” Gage said.

She said she was involved in the project before deciding to make this her senior project. Gage said she hopes this works out soon, as she would like to see it wrapped up before she graduates.

“I really hope to get this done,” she said. “It’s a simple idea, but there’s a lot of checkpoints to reach.”

The district’s head of maintenance, Tony Kuhn, said a grassy area on the east side of the swimming pool near the path to the tennis courts is a likely place for a memorial.

“We always try to place memorials in a place where it won’t be disruptive,” Kuhn said.

“Gabe gave it his all; we had lighting guys come out and everything, but it was just too expensive. It sounds like Sophia is doing her piece; I’m confident I can get this done for her.”


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