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Del Shoenberger was an ace on and off the courts

Former Longboat Key tennis pro Del Shoenberger, 57, died July 29.

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  • | 6:00 a.m. August 12, 2015
Del Shoenberger, 57, died July 29.
Del Shoenberger, 57, died July 29.
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Longtime Longboat Key tennis instructor Del Shoenberger, of Bradenton, died July 29. He was 57.

A Sarasota native, Shoenberger began playing tennis at a young age and played on his high school team in Venice. He joined the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort in 1980, where he served as a tennis pro.

It was at the Colony that Shoenberger earned the nickname “Teddy Bear.”

“He was very sweet and very caring,” Longboat Key Club tennis pro Sammy Aviles, who also worked at the Colony, said. “He was always smiling, and he was a person who would never say no to you. The thing I remember is, every time we had a get together, he was the first one volunteering to get things to help you.”

Shoenberger worked at the Colony for eight years. In 2002, he returned to the Key and worked as a tennis pro at the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center until 2009. He also freelanced his skills and worked at the Key Club on an as-needed basis in recent years.

During his many years as a tennis pro, Shoenberger became the kind of coach people adored.

“He was just a really, really good pro,” Tennis Center Manager Kay Thayer said. “When you took a lesson from him, it was like he could read people. He knew what kind of lesson they wanted. He kept up with a lot of people and was friends with a lot of his clients.”

In addition to his kind demeanor, Shoenberger was known for his sense of humor and, along with Aviles, frequently played practical jokes on other tennis pros.

Off the court, Shoenberger wrote tennis how-to columns for the Longboat Observer in 2005.

He maintained friendships with many of his clients and became well-known among Key tennis players.

“Really, a lot of people on the island knew him because he had been here for so long,” Thayer said. “He was just a nice guy and a good person. He truly cared about his clients and was very well-liked all the way around.”

But despite his aptitude as a tennis player and coach, Shoenberger’s clients and co-workers will remember him more for his personality than his tennis skills.

“He was just that type of person,” Key Club pro shop employee Polly Githler said. “He was a super nice person and was warm and friendly. He was a good, solid person and really down to earth. Many, many people will miss him.”

Shoenberger is survived by his sister, Linda Iribarren, and many good friends.

A memorial service will be held at a later date.



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