Carole and Chuck Orifici are a force to be reckoned with on the tennis court
By Lynn Gauker
photos by Dave Hassar
The year was 1976. Carole and Chuck Orifici, both aged 29, discovered the beautiful game of tennis.
“We started playing doubles tennis.” Carole’s bright blues eyes sparkle as she recalls her and her husband’s early days playing at the Rideau Tennis Club, located near downtown Ottawa.“What we enjoyed was the electricity in the air, and we really liked the people.”
Fast-forward 40 years. The Orléans couple still enjoys the ‘sport of kings’ – whether played indoors at Rideau in the colder months, or outdoors from May to October at the Orléans Tennis Club (OTC).
The excitement of it all
“I like the thrill of driving the ball across the net and hitting the perfect volley,” says Chuck, a retired school teacher who coached sports, primarily gymnastics, for 47 years in Orléans.“I like the play, as long as it’s equal. It’s a challenging sport.”
The pair took to tennis quickly for several reasons.
“Chuck picked tennis up fast, as he had played baseball and softball and was a shortstop, so it came very naturally to him,” recalls Carole.
Carole, who stayed home to raise their son Charles, liked the movement in tennis.She was also a good skater and enjoyed horseback riding and playing badminton.
“In tennis, when you get a good shot, you can feel it energize your whole body,”says Carole.
“Tennis is a great way to meet people,” adds Chuck. “It became our social life. Our best friends have always been tennis players.”
In 1977, the pair moved to Orléans from Beacon Hill. They joined the OTC a year later and quickly began to participate in club tournaments – Carole in singles; Chuck in mixed doubles.
“I didn’t have the skill to be a singles player, so I always preferred doubles,” he explains, admitting he has always been good at playing near the net.
The following year, Carole won the OTC’s singles tournament.To date, she has garnered a total of 60 trophies, plaques and trays, including the OTC’s esteemed John G. Kirkpatrick Sportsmanship Award in 2013.
Chuck has captured 40 trophies. At the OTC, he earned seven championships and 11 prestigious Davis Cups (which he captained). At Rideau Club, he has won several team tennis championships, including four Davis Cups (which he led), and five doubles championships, many recognizing leadership and organization.
The pair was asked to join the OTC’s board of directors in 1979 — Carole as treasurer and Chuck as vice-president. By that point, the couple was playing the game seven days a week. In 1981, Chuck became club president for a three-year term .After completing two consecutive terms, he took on a third term in 2001.
“We spent 10 years trying to have a clubhouse built — a major undertaking,” he says, primarily because of the City of Ottawa’s amalgamation in 2000, which delayed construction. Chuck served as an OTC board member for 33 years. He was also very involved in developing the club’s Junior Program.
To this day, the OTC remains committed to championing youth. In June, the club held its first concert fundraiser for local youth on the club’s attractive grounds. Proceeds went towards sending designated youth to the club’s summer tennis camps and towards purchasing tennis equipment.
For Chuck and Carole, the health benefits associated with tennis have been great.
“Many doctors, when they counsel someone for stress, suggest you start playing tennis because you have to focus a lot during the game,” says Carole.
“I can go out and shovel snow. I’m not afraid to live when I do sports,” adds Chuck.“You have so many hard things in your life. It’s good to be able to go out and do something fun, like tennis.”
Chuck’s life was not always bursting with good health. The youngest of eight children, Chuck and his family consumed a large amount of sugar-laden foods. He was 30 pounds overweight, he says, from childhood to age 49.
As a result, Chuck suffered from a heart condition in his 40s. His health finally improved when he changed his diet and lost the excess weight just before turning 50. Chuck’s physician told him not to be sedentary and encouraged him to continue playing tennis. “Tennis has kept me alive.”
In addition to frequently hitting the courts, Chuck works out at the gym. The proud grandparents of two also walk together at the mall.
What does the dynamic duo look forward to most when it comes to playing tennis? “When you see older people still playing tennis, it’s encouraging,” says Carole.“I hope to continue playing for as long as I am fit.”
“I think tennis becomes a way of life for people. It’s a game I can play until I’m 80, at least. I’m playing men aged 85,” says Chuck. “But you have to love competition. Competing is everything.” ■