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Ready to Walk the Hall: Remembering Canadian Open winner Brendan Macken

October 21, 2021   ·   0 Comments

As we continue to count the days and look forward to the Aurora Sport Hall of Fame Induction Celebration dinner on November 18, The Auroran is going to give you a sneak peek on the Class of 2021.

Steve “The Sarge” Vickers, Lois Thompson, the late Brendan Macken and Colin Graham were accepted into the Hall for this year.

Macken was an Aurora resident from 2010.

According to his daughters Nancy Macken and Helen Conzelmann, he was more than just a familiar face in the community. He was a friend to many, a coach at the local pickleball club and a lively story teller to many people he spoke with.

Most notably, Macken was an exceptional tennis talent. He is most remembered for winning the Canadian Doubles Championship twice, with his brother Jim in 1946, and with Lorne Main in 1951. He won the Canadian Championship Singles in 1950 and walked away with a prestigious prize of a fishing rod – no prize money was available at the time – and made appearances at Wimbledon, Forest Hills, Davis Cup, the Toronto Cricket Club and on the Gordon Trophy Senior Teams.

Macken sadly passed away this past year and according to both daughters he would have been “tickled” to have been the centre of attention this fall.

A child of immigrant parents from Ireland, Macken was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec. He was the second of five children and began playing tennis with his brother Jim and sister Pat at a local club that loved encouraging youth.

But Macken had several health issues as an adolescent and things became quite difficult.

“He had both scarlet fever and rheumatic fever that ended up hospitalizing him for an extended period of time. At a certain point, his parents were told that he wouldn’t have a long life which is interesting because he ended up living until 97,” Nancy Macken recalled.

Dealing with his health issues, Macken attempted to attend McGill University three times and had to withdraw due to his fevers. But once he became healthier, he played in a tournament at the Toronto Cricket Club and met some people from south of the border.

“He met a couple of players from a university down in Virginia, from the College of William & Mary [and] they suggested he go down there. Within a few days he was contacted by their admissions office and sent him down to Virginia,” Helen Conzelmann said.

“He played on the tennis team there. He won the NCAA championship two years in a row. That’s where he met our mom and they were married for 66 years before she passed. That was kind of the beginning of the really intense coaching that he got.”

From the NCAA team, Macken made it to the Canadian Open and his tennis career kicked off.

Having taken a boat overseas to England to play in Wimbeldon along with other players, and with $500 dollars in his pocket, Macken quickly had to shift his mindset.

Back then, nobody played for money and he had a wife, house and kids to pay for. After a short career, he packed it in and, most notably, began his own business when the family moved to Thornhill in 1966. His company was named Brenmac Chemicals Inc., selling industrial equipment and cleaning supplies.

Macken went on to have five children of his own (four girls and one boy). All of his children got into tennis. The boy was the most gifted, according to Nancy and Helen, but unfortunately their brother passed away at 44.

Nancy currently still plays and she can hear her father in her head, giving her pointers on what to do.

Macken, who was known to have had a very well-rounded tennis game, later became the greatest cheerleader in the family. He cheered on his grandkids unconditionally in all the sports they played and loved his condo in Aurora where he resided before his passing.

Both Nancy and Helen said it’s going to be a memorable night for the Macken family on November 18 as a father and grandfather will put the Macken name on display in the Hall of Fame.

By Robert Belardi



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