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For half his life Norm Dougherty has devoted much of his time to promoting tennis in the Swannanaoa Valley.

So the 80-year-old’s retirement from the Black Mountain Tennis Association, which he announced at the organization’s February meeting, will leave a big void.

Dougherty, a Black Mountain native, has been a member of the organization since it began 40 years ago. He was the president at organization prior to Judy Eubanks, who began serving in that role in 1993.

“I used to win a lot, now when I go out and play tennis, I get beat a lot,” he said. “I’m about ready to quit, since I’m going on 81 years old.”

With more than 100 members, the Black Mountain Tennis Association is a nonprofit organization that promotes the sport locally. Dougherty has played a major role in its growth, according to Eubanks. 

"He's gentlemanly and mild-mannered," Eubanks said. "He's really been a great ambassador for the sport."

Before he stepped down, Dougherty was the last charter member of the association board, Eubanks said. Most recently, he was responsible for organizing the Wisemen’s group, which meets in the mornings on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The group is a dedicated one, Dougherty said. 

"We just played a few mornings ago, and it was 18 degrees," he said. "It's a dedicated group."

Of course, participation in the association swells in the summer months, Dougherty added. "We have a lot of people here who like playing tennis," he said. 

The organization has members from as far away as Madison County and Marion, Eubanks said, and Dougherty is respected by them all, she added. 

Allan Jones is currently a member of the tennis association board. He believes Dougherty embodies the organization's purpose. 

"But the greatest gift Norm brings to the tennis community in Black Mountain is his profound sense of kindness, courtesy and fairness for all," Jones said. "Whether behind the scenes or on the court, he brings that highest level of class, dignity and kindness."

Marilyn Walker has been the secretary for the association for 13 years. In that time she's gotten to know Dougherty well. 

"He was one of the first to welcome me with that big, friendly smile," she said. "He's a friend you can always count on."

Dougherty, who once appeared in the Nationals of World Team Tennis, may be near the end of his career in the sport, but he thinks the organization he helped build is in capable hands. 

"Judy Eubanks does an amazing job with that organization," he said. "I'm proud to have been a part of it."

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