Lester Kabacoff

Lester Kabacoff

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In Memoriam

January 29, 1913 – January 25, 2004

Lester Kabakoff was inducted into the Louisiana Tennis Hall of Fame in 1994

EARLY TENNIS YEARS

The following article is from The Daily Star, Long Island City, Queens Borough, N.Y. Tuesday Evening, January 3, 1933.

The junior national indoor title was brought to Queens yesterday by Giles Verstraten of Jackson Heights and the Kelvin School and John Nogrady of Astoria and St. John’s College.

Last year Verstraten and partner Albert Law, Jr. were finalists in the tournament in Baltimore, Maryland, where they were beaten by Bernard Friedman and Lester Kabacoff 7-5, 8-6, 4-6, 1-6, 6-3.

Lester Kabacoff began playing tennis when he was 12 years old, and began playing the junior circuit.  In 1931, at the age of 17, he and his doubles partner, Bernard Friedman, won the national junior indoor doubles championship.  This success resulted in a tennis scholarship to the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.  Kabacoff lettered from 1932-34, was team Captain in ‘34, and received his undergraduate degree.  In 1937 he received his law degree, passed the bar examination, and was hired by the New York firm Garey, Desvernine and Kissam.

A Wall Street lawyer at the outbreak of World War II, Kabacoff volunteered for Army Service.

The following is from an interview posted on nola.com and by T-P writer John Pope.

As a young Army officer he was stationed at the Port of Embarkation (now the Naval Support Activity East Bank).   Kabacoff received an invitation from Lt. William “Slew” Hester, a fellow tennis buff who later was president of the U.S. Tennis Association, to play at what was described to him as “the nicest tennis court in New Orleans.”  It was at Longue Vue, the suburban estate that was home to Edgar and Edith Stern, philanthropists and activists who championed a host of civic, social, cultural and educational causes.

The four became friends and regular tennis partners, forming a group they called the Longue Vue Racquet and Julep Club.  Because the Army didn’t provide housing for the officers, “the next thing I knew, I was asked to come live there,” said Kabacoff.

A year after Mr. Kabacoff had lived at Longue Vue, he caught a ride to work one morning with his commanding general.  Also in the car was Gloria Simmons, the general’s secretary.  That chance meeting launched a courtship that culminated in an August wedding performed by an Army chaplain at Longue Vue.

When World War II ended, he planned to tell his New York law firm he was going to stay in New Orleans and practice law.  Then he got a better offer, to work for Edgar Stern.  “ It took me three seconds to make up my mind to say yes, “ Kabacoff said.

He was assigned to do Stern’s pet projects that included: a television station, build Pontchartrain Park, a Gentilly suburb designed to give black people a chance to own homes. Other project included the Royal Orleans Hotel, the city’s first major new hotel in 42 years. Other followed: the Royal Sonesta, the Dauphine Orleans, and the New Orleans Hilton.

“He can see,” Said son Pres Kabakoff, summing up the essential talent of his father and former business partner.  Walking around the city, Les Kabacoff sees inspiration for civic and business projects where others might see only a row of run-down buildings.”

In 1974 Kabacoff and Morgan Ernest built Beau Chene around 36 holes of golf, including a tennis facility with 10 courts, including indoor courts.

In 1996 Lester Kabacoff received one of the highest awards presented to New Orleanians, the Times-Picayune Loving Cup.  The cup has been awarded since 1901 to women and men who have worked unselfishly for the community without expectation of public recognition or material reward.

His selection left Kabacoff in tears, he said, not only because of the accolade but also because of the memories it triggered of his close association with previous recipients Edgar and Edith Stern, the only married couple who both have won the Loving Cup.

The following article is from The Daily Star, Long Island City, Queens Borough, N.Y. Tuesday Evening, January 3, 1933.

Mobile (UP)

Defending champion Wade Herren of Birmingham meets Lorrin Dennison in the Mobile Country Club Invitation Tennis Tournament.  Herren also teamed up with Eli Tullis of New Orleans to reach the doubles championship round.  The first opponents are Lester Kabacoff and Larry Chopin, both of New Orleans.

In the April, 2011 interview I conducted with Tulane tennis great and New Orleanian Alan Bartlett, Alan shared this answer when I asked the question, What has the game of tennis meant to you?

“Tennis has had a tremendous influence of my life.  I have met and made many friends through tennis.  My wife Jackie and I, with good friends Lester and Gloria Kabacoff, became friends with eight tennis- playing couples from Mexico.  We called ourselves the “Mestre Family.”  Over the years we alternated between the United States and Mexico, playing matches in different cities.  Great fun.  Of course, the winners won the “Mestre Cup.”

The following “In Memoriam” article is from the Penn Law Journal, Fall, 2004.

“Lester Kabacoff, a native of New York City and the son of Russian emigrants, started playing tennis when he was 12 years old, and began playing the junior tennis circuit.  In 1931, at age 17, he and his doubles partner, Bernard Friedman, won the national junior indoor doubles championship. This success resulted in tennis scholarships to the Ivy League University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Kabacoff lettered from 1932-34, was team Captain in ’34, and received his undergraduate degree.  In 1937 he received his law degree, passed the bar examination, and was hired by the New York firm Garey, Desvernine and Kissam.  A Wall Street lawyer at the outbreak of World War II, Kabacoff volunteered for Army service.  The New York native was stationed in New Orleans, where he remained after the war.  During the next half-century, he helped launch New Orleans’ first television station, WDSU, and as a real estate developer, built the Royal Orleans Hotel, the New Orleans Hilton and the Riverside Shopping Center, all of which revitalized the waterfront area and boosted tourism.  He also had a hand in bringing the World’s Fair to New Orleans in 1984, and in the development of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

In recognition of his contribution to the city, the University of New Orleans named a school in his honor, the Lester D. Kabakoff  School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourist Administration.  He served more than three decades on the board of Dillard Univesity, which established a professorship in his name.  Among his other accomplishments, he helped establish such civic organizations as the Council for a  Better Louisiana, the Public Affairs Research Council, the Police Foundation and the Metropolitan Area Committee.

Kabacoff was survived by his wife, Gloria; a son, Pres; a daughter, Margot K. Peters; a sister, Helen Davis; four grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.”

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