Art Richards serves a smorgasbord of tennis in Rotonda West, the beach community in Charlotte County, Florida, just north of Ft. Myers.
Tennis for beginners and advanced, both children and adults. Adaptive tennis (for deaf, sight-impaired, blind and wheelchair players), Masters Tennis and POP Tennis on short courts for older (and younger) players, red-orange-green ball tennis for young beginners, featuring racquets of all sizes. “Rally the Family” formats for family play. You name it, he has it.
Richards says the informal “easy-on, easy-off” format encourages players to jump in and leave whenever they want.
“I encourage all players, ‘Don’t be afraid to step outside the box’ and try,” Richards says.
It’s blind tennis where Richards has really broken ground. The long-time teaching pro boasts the only blind tennis program in Florida held on public courts at Rotonda Community Park. He uses different size and color sound-emitting balls, and has studied the work of Japan’s Blind Tennis Association, which organizes hundreds of players competing in tournaments throughout the country.
It was in 2015 that Richards decided to add tennis for the blind to his menu of tennis options.
“I was thumbing through a issue of Harbor Magazine and came across a story titled Blind Tennis-Playing by Ear, written by USPTA pro Jack Beardsworth out of Punta Gorda,” he said. “I did some research and said, ‘Now there’s something that will fit right in with my deaf/Hard-of-hearing and wheelchair programs.’ I did the first clinic here in Charlotte County at the Rotonda Community Park in October of 2015, and that started blind tennis here and ultimately elsewhere in Florida.”
Saskatoon police said in an emailed statement that officers are trained to “preserve the scene, question witnesses and collect information” quickly in response to a sudden death. That way, if the death is determined to be suspicious, no information is compromised.
Police have passed the case on to Crown prosecutors to decide if any charges will be laid.
Dunn said police officers he dealt with on the day of his wife’s death treated him with respect and compassion — one of them even let him use their cell phone to call his youngest child to give him the news while he was still in custody.
Dunn said his wife should have been eligible for the Medical Assistance in Dying program, and that police should never have needed to be involved.
“I don’t know why she was (refused),” he said. “There’s something wrong, and it needs to be fixed.”
Chmura pursued assisted dying when chronic pain from fibromyalgia became too much to bear. One of the criteria to be eligible for assisted death is to be suffering from a “grievous and irremediable medical condition.”
Dunn said his wife was denied access to assisted death because her death was not considered “reasonably foreseeable” — one of the necessary conditions laid out by the government.
But Dunn also said he has seen cases from other provinces where people with similar circumstances to his wife’s were approved.
“It’s not consistent,” he said. “The only difference that I could tell … is their age and province of residence.”
Dunn said being denied access to assisted dying added a frightening level of “unknown” to his wife’s case. He said she feared something going wrong if she attempted suicide, which might lead to a slow death in the hospital because of her do not resuscitate orders.
“Nothing changed other than she had to do it herself, and she didn’t know if it would work,” he said. “If she woke up, she would have probably tried it again. If she didn’t wake up, then that would have been … like two weeks, for her to die.”
According to Statistics Canada, there were 1,982 medically assisted deaths in the country during the first year the legislation was in effect.
The same report indicates there have been 77 requests for assisted death in Saskatchewan during the same time period, 29 of which received a medically assisted death.
During the first year, less than seven requests were declined in the province.
Dunn said after being denied, Chmura began making her own plans to take her life. In the end, being at home with him was what his wife wanted when she died, he said.
“It’s not about me … I was just doing what a loving husband would do,” he said. “I hated it, of course. I miss her every day. But … her quality of life just sucked.”