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Longboat Key Tuesday, Mar. 3, 2020 2 years ago

Donna Schlorf was a matriarch of Longboat Key Tennis

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Longtime resident was instrumental in securing the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center. She died at age 86 on Feb. 26.
by: Whitney Elfstrom Staff Writer

Donna Schlorf set out to ensure that anyone she met with felt welcome.

Whether it be at the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center, St. Armands Key Lutheran Church or just someone she passed at Publix, Schlorf made it a point to talk with them.

“Donna was just one of those wonderful people at the tennis center,” said Kay Thayer, tennis center manager. “She just made everybody feel welcomed who came here. She would play with anybody, whatever level [they were]. You just always felt welcome with Donna.”

Schlorf, 86, died Feb. 26. She was one of the founding matriarchs of the Longboat Key Tennis Center, alongside her surviving husband of 59 years, Richard, and John and Phyllis Mrachek.

She’s also survived by two sons, Jay and Todd, and her five grandchildren, Emily, Clare, Sophia, Noah, and Abby. A private service will take place this summer. 

Originally from St. Cloud, Minn., the Schlorfs permanently moved to Longboat Key in the late 1980s. It was there that the Schlorfs became close with the Mracheks as they bonded over their love of tennis, Minnesota roots and being new to the Key.

Years later in 1998, the couples became the instrumental factor in securing the now stable Longboat Key Public Tennis Center after years of uncertainty.

John Mrachek credits Schlorf with playing a significant role in seeing the tennis center through to the complex it is today. Something of that level didn’t just happen due to the hard work of 1998; he said that the efforts began as early as 1988. The will to keep going came partly from Schlorf’s support, faith and hard work, Mrachek said.

“That was one of the things that Donna was always capable of doing,” he said. “Volunteering her time, whether it was something that was real or something that we were hoping to happen. She did it throughout her years at the tennis center and continued on until she was no longer able to do that.”

Following Schlorf’s death, the tennis center sent to its members a remembrance email to honor the founding member. In it, Schlorf is remembered as a “gracious, welcoming, joyful spirit and a humble lady” who was ready to serve in whatever manner needed.

Thayer echoed Schlorf’s dedication to the tennis center and remembered when Schlorf asked her to come work for the town.

At the time, Thayer was a tennis pro coach at the Colony Beach & Tennis Resort, and Schlorf walked up to her and asked if she’d considering moving over to the soon-to-be municipal tennis center across Gulf of Mexico Drive and down Bay Isles Road.

“She was the one that kind of started it along,” said Thayer, who has worked at the center since 1998.

“Donna was just somebody that was always here to help everyone,” Thayer said. “She was a great tennis player and just an all-around great person. She was someone that everyone knew and loved here on Longboat Key.”

Jack Daly, a Longboat Key town commissioner, watched as Schlorf shared her passion for tennis with his late wife, Jane.

As a member of Club Longboat, Jane sponsored a women’s tennis invitational tournament. Daly said Schlorf was influential and helpful in organizing the tournament with his wife.

“Donna was a much better player than my wife was,” he said with a laugh. “But they both enjoyed tennis.”

He said Schlorf helped rally the women of Longboat to come out and play in the tournament, something he said many of the women wouldn’t have known about if it wasn’t for her help.

“It was very typical of the contributions that Donna made,” Daly said. “Not only to the tennis center but likewise to ladies tennis here on the Key. She did not miss an opportunity to support, nurture, participate and help people enjoy tennis on Longboat Key. She will really be missed."

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I’m the Sarasota community reporter, which means I cover the people, places and things of Sarasota. I graduated from the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with a degree in journalism and digital communication and a minor in English. 

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