August 1, 2004

My Mom

"I can't play in the senior tournaments anymore, because there is no one in my age category."

"YOU LIVE LONG ENOUGH and you get noted just for showing up," said my mother when commenting on her recent appearance in her home town paper, The Chico Enterprise.

I've written about this remarkable woman before ( "My Mother at Ninety " ) but I'm putting this story in here so people can see I don't admire her just because she's my mom.

A little tennis, volunteering, travel ...
BY MARY NUGENT -- Staff Writer

Lois Van der Leun plays tennis, volunteers at an elementary school, plays bridge and wears a stylish haircut. At Chico Racquet Club, everyone greets her and kids around with her. She is one of the club's founding members.

Van der Leun is 90 years old. People say she is unusual for her age, but to Van der Leun, she's just living her life.

One hot Thursday morning after a couple of hours of tennis, she sips iced tea and talks with the E-R about her life.

"I have good genes. My mother lived to be 99 and her niece was 107. I have relatives

in Minnesota who are up in their years."

Good genes aside, Van der Leun also likes to stay busy and in touch with people. A lifelong interest in tennis probably hasn't hurt her, she said, but admits her knees give her trouble. "And I can't run anymore," she said.

Van der Leun was born Nov. 30, 1914 in Fargo, N.D.

Her brother and father played tennis and at 14 she joined them. "We had clay courts," she said, explaining those have mostly been replaced by asphalt.

"Clay courts are softer and you can slide into your strokes. You can't do that on a hard court. The French Open still uses clay courts."

She attended a teacher's college in Moorehead, Minn. and went on to teach at Minnesota elementary schools.

"I came to California during the war for a war-time job. I went to East L.A. and got a job at California Testing Lab. I met my husband there."

Albert Van der Leun was a chemist. They married in 1944 and moved to Chico after visiting his parents, who lived in Paradise. "We thought this was nice place to raise kids."

They had three sons, and Van der Leun has three grandchildren and a great-grandchild. Albert Van der Leun died in 1971.

Through the years -- except when her boys were young -- she has played tennis for fun, and in tournaments. "I used to compete in tournaments all over," she said of the time she spent in North Dakota and Minnesota.

"I competed here too, but I got to where I didn't win a lot. I'd get to the finals and lose. I friend told me I didn't have the will to win, but I started thinking of it more for fun. I can't play in the senior tournaments anymore, because there is no one in my age category."

Van der Leun was instrumental when Chico Racquet Club was founded. "There was a group of us who played at the college. Jim Wilson of Yuba City actually started it. I was the first manager of this club in 1973-74."

Van der Leun plays tennis in the mornings, and volunteers in the afternoons in Carol Masters' second grade classroom at Chico Country Day School. It's a program of the Foster Grandparent program at Passages Adult Resource Center and Van der Leun has helped in Masters' class for six years.

"I used to teach elementary-age kids. I so like little kids. They call me 'Grandma Lois,' " she said. "It's nice for some kids, who don't have grandparents. For my 90th birthday they had a big celebration for me."

Family and friends also hosted a party for her at Community Center in honor of her 90th.

Van der Leun also plays bridge regularly. "The only trips I really take are to see my sons," she said. "I never wanted to go on a cruise. I hear it's all about food ... but I think I would like to take an Alaskan cruise. I understand it's beautiful."

Most days, after a morning on the tennis court and an afternoon with second graders, Van der Leun follows her instincts.

"I read and then I take a nap."

Posted by Vanderleun at August 1, 2004 11:09 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

All this AND the proud mother of the Billboard Boys...

Posted by: Deborah at August 1, 2005 1:15 PM

Your mother is beautiful.

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