These are only a few of the words used by loved ones to describe the Longboat legend Richard “Dick” Schlorf, who died at 85 on Feb. 2. A few more would be hard-working, involved and mediating.
Schlorf and his wife, Donna, along with John and Phyllis Mrachek, were instrumental to the founding of the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center. Dick is survived by two sons, Jay and Todd, and five grandchildren, Emily, Clare, Sophia, Noah and Abby.
Jay and Todd described their father as a humble but ambitious man. Schlorf was born in Staples, Minnesota. He originally wanted to be a pharmacist but then decided to become an ear, nose and throat doctor. Dick served in the U.S. Air Force in 1971 and 1972. He lived with his family in St. Cloud, Minnesota, until retiring full-time to Longboat Key in 1994.
“His discipline was incredible,” said Todd. “Regardless of whether or not he was feeling well, he was up every day. He would work hard every single day and make no excuses, which is so hard to do. He put that into everything he did and really stuck to his regimens of reading, self-education, physical fitness and proper eating. He was very focused on taking care of himself and providing for those around him. That is what impresses me the most about my dad.”
Dick had been coming down to the area since the 1980s due to his passion for tennis. His sons said the Colony Beach and Tennis Resort and the multitude of tennis opportunities drew him to the island.
The Schlorfs met the Mracheks in a Minnesota tennis resort while playing in a tournament. Coincidentally, the couples both decided to retire in Longboat Key; this grew their friendship and partnership on the court.
In 1988, the town of Longboat inquired about the possibility of a public tennis facility. Residents were asked to pay one year’s dues to indicate this was something they were interested in. Mrachek said that the town wasn’t expecting such a big response — 330 people sent in money for dues.
After a period of inaction from the town on the public tennis facility, Dick and Mrachek took it upon themselves to see it through.
In 1996, Schlorf and Mrachek submitted a proposal to the town to build a six- to eight-court public tennis center with private funds they raised from their fellow Longboaters who also felt passionate about the project. After 10 years of back and forth with the town, the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center opened in November 1998.
Mrachek said this was the first of many accomplishments they achieved for the tennis center. With the help of their wives, they made the perfect team to grow the center and the opportunities for tennis on the island. Mrachek’s dedicated organization combined with Dick’s calm attitude and determined spirit worked together. They also continued to be tennis partners in tournaments and kept a friendly competition going between each other on other occasions.
“That was the beauty of Dick,” said Mrachek. “He was the calming body we needed for meetings or when any problems arose. He would listen a lot more than he would talk. But when he spoke, you wanted to listen to what he had to say.”
As Mrachek went on to be the manager of the tennis center, Dick wanted to focus more on the volunteering aspect. He was the president of the nonprofit Friends of Tennis, which raised money for any enhancements the tennis center needed. He also founded and directed the Longboat Key Senior Level II Tournament at the center.
“It's a big loss for the center and a sad loss,” said tennis center Manager Kay Thayer. “Even though he wasn't really playing the last year or so, he still would stop by and everybody knew him. Through the years, everyone would always call him when they came into town, and Dick always found a match for them. He did a lot of things behind the scenes. And the way that both Dick and John worked together as a team. I think that is what made them so impactful.”
“I admire the fact that he grew up with nothing,” said Jay. “Through hard work, education and a little bit of smarts, he ended up living on Longboat Key. Then, he was able to build this whole legacy of the tennis center and made tennis better for everyone who comes to Longboat. I loved that he was passionate about contributing in such a big way like that. He really lived the American dream.”
The Longboat Key Public Tennis Center will hold a celebration of life to commemorate Schlorf and his wife, Donna, who died in 2020, at 4 p.m. on Feb. 17.
Petra Rivera is the Longboat community reporter. She holds a bachelor’s degree of journalism with an emphasis on reporting and writing from the University of Missouri. Previously, she was a food and drink writer for Vox magazine as well as a reporter for the Columbia Missourian.