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Beloved Alma Tennis Coach, Mentor Toney McMurray Honored 8/24/21

Beloved Alma tennis coach, mentor Toney McMurray honored

By Kevin Taylor

Alma Schools 

 

For all his accomplishments, there’s one thing Toney McMurray wasn’t able to do — beat brothers Teddy and Tommy on the tennis courts.

“I don’t think he ever beat Teddy or me when we were kids,” Tom McMurray said. “We used to play all the time. Ted and I were dominant.”

Monday, Alma mayor Jerry Martin and Alma administrators officially dedicated the city courts as the Toney McMurray Memorial Courts. 

The late Toney McMurray served as Alma’s tennis coach and was the voice of the Airedales for three decades when he succumbed to cancer in March 2020. 

“We had planned to do this last year, but because of COVID, we rescheduled it when we didn’t have so many restrictions,” Alma Athletic Director Doug Loughridge said. “The mayor worked really hard to get a new court (surface) and windscreen.”

McMurray’s spirit was with his three boys, Stephen, Clayton and Jackson, on Monday. Stephen coaches football at Hackett and Clayton is a first-year teacher in Van Buren. 

Youngest son Jackson, an Alma sophomore tennis player, said he didn’t begin playing tennis until 2020. 

“I would go to a lot of the matches with him, (but) I actually picked up the game last year,” he said. “I practiced a few times with them and played some at First Serve, but I never really got into the game until last year.”

“This a true honor,” Stephen McMurray said. “We’re thankful to the city and coach Loughridge for setting this up. Dad would be extremely proud. He dedicated his whole life to becoming an Airedale and embodied everything that meant.”

Jackson concurred. 

“It feels great to know that he’s been honored,” he said. “It feels great to be able to continue his legacy and play for the team”

Both Teddy and Tommy, who retired this spring from Van Buren and Alma schools, respectively, both agree Toney wouldn’t have wanted all the attention Monday’s dedication garnered.

“Toney didn’t want to bring attention to himself,” Teddy said. “But this is big for us; I know this would be very special to him.”

“It’s a special day; the family appreciates it,” Tommy McMurray said. “But I’m like Ted, this wouldn’t be Toney’s cup of tea. He wouldn’t want to bring attention to himself. 

“But what the city’s done for him, and what the school has done, it's very special.”

Karla McMurray had a difficult time getting the words out. 

“I don’t know how to put it into words, actually,” she said. “Toney loved this town; this is very special.

“It shows how much he means to the whole town - he put a lot of time into this school.”

A lot of it for free, too.

Toney McMurray took the reins of Alma’s tennis program in 1987. Charles B. Dyer was the superintendent and Jerry Valentine was just completing his first year as the school’s principal. 

“When Stephen and Clayton were little, Toney took a break for a few years to be home with the boys,” Karla McMurray said. “Alan Love, who was at the bus garage, took over for about four years. The first year on his contract was 1987, but he could have done it before that as a volunteer.”

In all, Toney McMurray served 27 years as the Airedales’ tennis coach. 

“Tony worked hard to get the tennis courts built,” Karla McMurray said. “He couldn’t host home matches at the old courts, because there were only two courts. So he worked with the City of Alma and and the (Alma) administration to get the new courts.”

Toney worked hard to get the Tennis courts built.  He couldn’t host home matches at the old courts because there was only 2 courts, so he worked with the City and Alma administration to get the new courts.

McMurray’s lasting impact didn’t just affect those kids he taught on the tennis court. He impacted their lives in the classroom, too.

“I know he would love everything to do with this court,” said former player and tennis standout Dalton Webb. “It was his passion to come out here and help everybody.”

A 2018 Alma grad, Webb recently switched his college major from graphic design to history. 

“He made everybody (students) feel comfortable,” Webb said. “He made everything interesting. He really made me enjoy history.”

So much so, Webb confessed, he hopes to one day teach history and, if the dominos were to align, take over as the Airedales’ tennis coach.

“T-Mac is known so widely in Alma.,” former student and tennis player Chloe Ray said. “To remember him like this is so special.”

“I didn’t even know anything about the game (of tennis),” remembers 2011 Alma grad Courtney Craft. “He told me, ‘If you can hold a racket and you can run, you can do this.’ 

“Here I am 15 years later still playing.”