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03-31-2012, 01:08 PM #1
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Tribute to Mr. Badminton (of Chicago): James D. Wigglesworth, 1923-2012
Known in the Chicago area as 'Mr. Badminton'
James D. Wigglesworth Jr. was 10 when he picked up a badminton racquet for the first time and launched a shuttlecock. It was love at first flight.
Mr. Wigglesworth went on to win the Chicago District Badminton Singles Championship in his age group during the 1930s, the first of many titles that included a national senior men's doubles title in 1985. He was known in the Chicago area as "Mr. Badminton," said his son, Jamie.
"He introduced badminton to a whole generation of kids," his son said. "He helped legitimize the sport by putting the focus on the competitive game, as opposed to the backyard game."
Mr. Wigglesworth, 88, a former president of the Skokie Badminton Club and the Midwest Badminton Association, died of congestive heart failure Sunday, March 18, at Brandel Care Center in Northbrook. He was a longtime resident of Northfield.
"He was a generous player, a gentleman on and off the court," said Tom Carmichael, president of the United States Badminton Association in the 1970s. "His enthusiasm for the sport elevated everyone's game.
"He was just plain fun to watch. He'd always dive for the bird. But once, when he didn't make it, I heard him say, 'You know, had I worn sneakers on my rear end, I'd have gotten that one!'"
Born in Oak Park, Mr. Wigglesworth grew up in Winnetka and was introduced to badminton at the Winnetka Community House. He graduated from New Trier High School in 1941 and attended Purdue University but left in his junior year to enlist in the Army Air Forces.
Mr. Wigglesworth trained as a navigator and served for three years at military bases in Florida and South Dakota during World War II. After the war, he worked for his uncle, a machinery broker in Cleveland, before returning home.
In 1948, he started his own company, J.D. Wigglesworth Machinery in Chicago. He later purchased Hill-Clark Machinery, a Chicago company that his grandfather had co-owned. He closed the companies and retired eight years ago.
"The best thing about being his own boss was that he set his own hours and made time for badminton," his son said.
Mr. Wigglesworth combined a mastery of badminton strategy and technique with a strong sense of style, according to his competitors.
"He was a showman, and his love of the sport always came through," said Bruce Pontow, of Orland Park, a USA Badminton six-time men's doubles national champion. "He was a flamboyant player who'd dive, jump, bounce up in the air — do whatever it took to make his plays."
During the 1970s and '80s, Mr. Wigglesworth conducted clinics and organized exhibitions at many Chicago-area middle schools and high schools.
"If he met someone with talent, he'd help foster that," Pontow said.
Mr. Wigglesworth freely provided pointers to those he competed against.
"What I appreciated about Jimmy is that if you got the daylights beat out of you by him, he'd always pull you aside afterward to give you some tips," Carmichael said. "He really wanted you to learn."
A member of the Union League Club in Chicago, Mr. Wigglesworth was also a former president of the Machinery Dealers National Association.
Mr. Wigglesworth also is survived by his wife of 63 years, Jean; a daughter, Janet; a sister, Nancy Anderson; a stepbrother, Don Proven; and two grandchildren.
Services have been held.
03-31-2012, 01:45 PM #2
RIP Mr Wigglesworth.
I wish we had more of his ilk everywhere
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