Colette Evert, the mother of Chris Evert, died peacefully on 5 November at the age of 92, and many will remember her as the matriarch of one of the sports greatest tennis families.
Our mother was loved by everyone who knew her. She was gracious, kind and nurturing. My brothers, sisters and I couldn’t have asked for a better role model or mom. We will miss her dearly. She never had a bad word to say about anybody and would often cheer for our opponents when they played well against us. If there is a Hall of Fame for Tennis Moms, she was undoubtedly the first inductee. Chris Evert
Born in New Rochelle, New York, Jeanne Colette Thompson was known by her middle name and was the youngest of 10 siblings and attended the Ursuline Seminary in New Rochelle, and the Katherine Gibbs School.
In 1952, Colette Thompson married James Evert, a tennis teaching professional she met at the wedding of a mutual friend.
Steve Flink writes on The Tennis Channel: The fates decreed that she would cross paths for the first time with Jimmy in 1950. As Evert would recall nearly 40 years later, he had accepted a year-round position at Holiday Park (in Fort Lauderdale) a few years earlier but was then told sometime later by an authority figure “our budget is very low. Would you like to go north for the summer?”
Jimmy did just that, which led him to Colette Thompson. The rest was history.
As Jimmy mused in 1997, “I have often wondered what my life would have been like if I had not gone to New York that summer. For it was in New York that I met Colette at a wedding. Two years later we married and then started a family.”
The Everts moved to Florida, where for 49 years, Jimmy was the city of Fort Lauderdale’s tennis director and became a fixture at Holiday Park, fittingly renamed the Jimmy Evert Tennis Center in 1997.
The Everts raised their five children, Drew, Chris, Jeanne, John and Clare, in Fort Lauderdale and tennis played a big role in the family, with each of the children reaching the final of a United States national championship.
Chris famously won 18 Grand Slam singles titles and spent 260 weeks as the WTA World No 1 and Jeanne also spent time on the fledgling women’s tour in the 1970s.
While traveling with her children over several decades to junior, amateur and professional tournaments, Colette Evert became a well-respected and admired fixture at tournaments around the world.
Whether at a 12-and-Under USTA tournament in the United States or a Grand Slam championship, such as Wimbledon, she was embraced by players, tournament directors, television commentators, the media, coaches and fans alike.
Known for being a caring, thoughtful and accepting person, Colette was a beloved wife and devoted mother to her children.
She was an active, energetic participant in the Fort Lauderdale community who embraced an endless array of friends from all walks of life and shared with them her infectious, positive perspective for life.
“Our mother was loved by everyone who knew her. She was gracious, kind and nurturing. My brothers, sisters and I couldn’t have asked for a better role model or mom. We will miss her dearly,” said Chris Evert. “She never had a bad word to say about anybody and would often cheer for our opponents when they played well against us.
“If there is a Hall of Fame for Tennis Moms, she was undoubtedly the first inductee,” she added.
Flink, a close friend of the family, recalls: In 2001, I sent Colette and Jimmy a copy of a book I had written called The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century. She replied a few weeks later with a letter which I will always cherish.
In my inscription, I said, “To Colette and Jimmy Evert, the greatest tennis parents I have ever known.”
Colette wrote back, “Jimmy joins me in thanking you so much for your book, and, in particular, your beautiful inscription to Jimmy and me inside the cover. How thoughtful and kind of you, Steve! We will always treasure those wonderful memories over those years when you and Chrissie were embarking on your tennis careers; you in your writing and her in playing the game (and us with butterflies in our stomachs and trying to look calm and placid!!!!!)”
Colette continued, “We have your book on our coffee table in our family room and we are enjoying it immensely. In fact, we have to take turns reading it. One day we almost got into a fight because we both wanted it at the same time!! We thank you again for our great gift, Steve.”
I thank Colette Evert for her contribution to my life, for enhancing the tennis landscape immeasurably, and for standing so staunchly behind her principles. She leaves behind a legacy of honor.
Along with her deep commitment to her family, Colette also had a deep commitment to her faith, and her ‘home away from home’ was St Anthony’s Catholic Church, where her children attended grade school.
Later, she became a Minister of the Eucharist, bringing the Sacrament of Communion to Catholics in area nursing homes and assisted-living facilities who were ill or otherwise unable to attend mass.
Colette Evert was pre-deceased by her husband Jimmy in 2015 and her daughter Jeanne Evert Dubin, who died earlier this year after a long struggle with ovarian cancer, aged 62.
She is survived by sons Drew and John, daughters Chris and Clare and their families, including 10 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.
Her wish was that in lieu of flowers, family friends would donate to the Jimmy Evert Merit Scholarship Fund, which is administered by the USTA Foundation.