A young man who died in a tragic accident may be memorialized forever in his hometown if all goes as planned.
The family of , an Oxford native and mechanical engineer who died in a car accident in December 2010 at age 23, wants to construct tennis courts in Oxford in their son’s honor.
“We are a tennis family,” said , Ryan’s mother, who lives in Oxford. “It’s one of the things we always did together. Ryan liked tennis, it was a big part of his life. This is a way to give back to the town in his honor and it seemed like a natural fit.”
Currently, Oxford has public tennis courts at Posypanko Park, but many say the surfaces on those courts are in poor shape and it would take serious repairs to bring them into a good condition. There are tennis courts at the but those are private.
Nancy VerNooy, who frequently plays tennis in Milford, said she saw tennis courts there were named after someone and that is where she got the idea.
She plans to build the courts here through private funds, and said they would be constructed across from , which is located at 30 Great Oak Road. She has filed plans with the town’s land use departments and is waiting on approvals.
The goal, if all goes as planned, is to have at least two courts, and possibly up to four, constructed by Sept. 27.
“That is Ryan’s birthday, and I would love to dedicate them on that date,” she said.
The engineering plans, which are on file at and are being designed pro bono by the Woodbury-based firm Civil One Engineers, call for lights and landscaping around the facility.
Nancy VerNooy said she’d love to have six courts so could one day have a tennis program that could compete there. Six courts are needed for competition, she said.
Currently, the budget for the project allows for two courts and four would be possible if enough grant money comes through. Then, down the road, an additional two courts would be added if the family secured more grant money or possibly donations.
“People have been exceptionally supportive of this idea,” Nancy VerNooy said.
Once the courts are in, she plans to give people the option of purchasing park benches in memory of loved ones.
The VerNooys have a similar bench with Ryan’s name on it at Southford Falls State Park in Southford – between Southbury and Oxford.
Ryan’s friends have also memorialized him through a road race in which people dress as superheroes – Ryan, who was a volunteer with the Association - was a fan of them. Last year, , which will be an annual event, raised tens of thousands of dollars for the Hole in the Wall Camp founded by actor Paul Newman to provide a free camp experience to children with serious medical conditions.
The tennis courts, Nancy VerNooy said, is one more way to memorialize her son, who was beloved by many people in this community.
“We’re trying the best we can to turn something that is really awful into a positive blessing,” she said.