US SQUASH

Generous Benefactor and National Squash Champion Victor Elmaleh Passes

DSC_0187(1)

In April 2013, Victor Elmaleh became the oldest winner of the President’s Cup when he received the award at the World Doubles: (L-R) James Zug, Gary Waite, Niko Elmaleh, Victor Elmaleh, Peter Lasusa and Morris Clothier.

Victor Elmaleh died Monday in New York. A major benefactor for the game of squash, Elmaleh won the national doubles title with Victor Niederhoffer in 1968 at the remarkable age of forty-nine—still the record for the oldest man to win an open national title. He was ten days shy of his ninety-sixth birthday.

A brilliant left-waller playing at the old City Athletic Club and the Heights Casino in Brooklyn, Elmaleh took doubles titles in more than a dozen other tournaments around the country. On the singles court, he was also accomplished and played in the inaugural U.S. Open in 1954. Elmaleh was a great athlete: he also won a U.S. national handball doubles title.

Victor & Sono

Elmaleh and Sono Osato, a famous ballerina, were married for seventy-one years.

He was equally known for his generosity off the court as a major benefactor for the game of squash. He funded the Elmaleh Project, enabling US Squash to hire a full-time staffer to oversee the game. He helped build two courts, one in Southampton, Long Island, and the other a revolutionary four-glass-wall court in Toronto.

Born in Morocco, Elmaleh emigrated to the U.S. in 1925 and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1942. He worked as an architect, commodities importer (including, most famously, Volkswagen cars) and commercial real estate. He was a watercolorist and pianist and civic leader. In 2013 US Squash awarded him the President’s Cup and, in the current issue of Squash Magazine, Elmaleh is ranked third amongst the nation’s top fifty most intriguing, interesting and influential people in squash in 2014.

A private funeral will be followed by a memorial service early next year.

The Patriarch: Victor Elmaleh Awarded President’s Cup

Squash Magazine’s Top 50 Most Intriguing, Interesting, and Influential People of 2014

Like this Article? Share it!

8 Comments

  1. Clive Leach November 18, 2014 at 2:38 am

    An amazing man who was so talented and committed to everything he did. My real memories of Victor was my time at the CAC where he introduced me to the game of Hardball doubles in 2000.Played the sides game with him and was an absolute pleasure and honor to be on court with. A real legend with phenomenal achievements who had a full life and will be hugely missed. Our thoughts our with Sono, Niko,Tony and family at this time. RIP Victor.

    Clive Leach

  2. Gary Waite November 18, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    I think that what we will find in the coming days, months and even years is that Victor’s ability to connect people without their even knowing through his incessant drive towards innovation and ideas may well be his unsung virtue. His reach extended deeply into sport, music, dance, theatre, real estate, business, innovation of all sorts and so so much more. Knowing him I had the privilege to meet incredible people of all walks of life. It is my suspicion that he may well better these connections even in his passing. Once we realize what we have lost we will want to talk about him to each other, brag about knowing him and allude to whatever understanding we may have of his plethora of endeavours. I suspect this blog alone may well turn into a conversation between friends and acquaintances. He was certainly the glue between you and me Leachy in his admiration of your ability.
    With Victor’s passing I have lost a best friend and a connection to the world that would have been impossible without him. His passing fills me with both sadness and gratitude…both equally overwhelming.

  3. Richard Moseley November 19, 2014 at 4:18 am

    We have certainly all lost a great and irreplaceable friend. I agree with both your well-penned sentiments,Clive and Gary. To Gary’s excellent insight, and to start the ball rolling as it were, I’ll just mention for the record that I did beat Victor once, in one game, in that game of sides (and I’m not sure he ever forgave me). Victor 725.. Richard 1. I’m happy with that.

  4. jim Zug Sr. November 20, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    I was at the 1968 National Doubles in St. Louis and Vic’s win was absolutely amazing. The two Victors won four matches and all were five games. I remember someone saying after the first 5 gamer “well, that will finish Elmaleh off.” And they went on to win three more, including against me in the semis. NIederhoffer was covering most of the court, including behind Vic Elmaleh, but Elmaleh held his own strongly. We could not take advantage of him.

  5. Maurice Heckscher November 21, 2014 at 3:33 am

    Victor was my doubles mentor. After his partner Dave Johnson died suddenly, we were paired at the Merion Cricket Club Doubles way back in about 1970. I knew little about doubles but he taught me in a hurry. He would grimace whenever I hit the tin so I learned quickly not to do that. We actually ended up winning that tournament in our first pairing! We went on to play for several years and did ok. But what I remember most was his “realness” both on and off the court. He would never mince words and you always knew where he was coming from.

    I had the pleasure of spending several weekends at his home in NYC and got to know his beautiful wife Sono. She tried very hard to teach me how to dance but I was so bad that she never could.

    I miss them both. Victor is a huge loss to squash. There are not many people like him anywhere in any sport.

    Maurice Heckscher

  6. Jonathan Foster November 21, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Some of my most vivid memories of squash in NYC in the early ’80s was a weekly doubles game with Victor Elmaleh and Mel Sokolow at the City Athletic Club. I cannot possibly calculate the hundreds of hours Victor and I spend whistling balls up and down the left wall. However, I have no memory of ever actually getting in FRONT of him on the left wall! What a blast!

    Victor was the consumate sportsman, a true renaissance man, and a good friend and wise counselor to a young man in the Big City. He always greeted me with a smile and a warm heart, and when he said, “how can I help?”, he really meant it.

    The world has lost a great man this week but those who knew him will never forget him.

    All my best to Sono, Niko, Tony and the rest of the family,

    Jon Foster

  7. Morris Clothier November 21, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Victor was a multi-talented man with so many interests and he loved squash, particularly doubles. He was an extraordinary role model for our sport in how he gave back. Most importantly, he was a great friend who was a mentor to so many…I will miss him.

    Morris Clothier

  8. Gregg Finn March 9, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    Sorry for the belated post here. When I joined The City Athletic Club in 1985 I had never stepped foot onto a doubles court and played singles only a handful of times. Victor, along with Mel Sokolow both quickly took me under their wings and taught me the beautiful game of doubles and mentored me throughout my squash career. Victor always had a hand-shake and a smile waiting to greet me every time I saw him. I was fortunate enough to play with both Niko and Antonio as well. I miss him dearly but will never forget his warmth and depth of knowledge on so many subjects besides the game of Squash.

    Gregg Finn

Leave A Response