Table Tennis Legend


Eleanor Leonhardt: Table Tennis Legend

A Video, Pictorial and Textual History of Eleanors' Life

In recognition for the extraordinary life of Eleanor Leonhardt. Eleanor was the first woman to be accepted into the Long island Suffolk chapter of the Piano Technicians Guild  (PTG) (in the late 1960s.)  As a piano technician Eleanor was a perfectionist (as we know) she had VERY high standards and would never "settle" for doing a mediocre work. Eleanor passed several tests given to her by Piano Technicians Guild examiners becoming a "Registered Craftsman" member of that organization (VERY few women at that time had ever attained these credentials.) . Eleanor hosted Suffolk chapter of the PTG for at least 25 years.

   Eleanor is also an Evangelist for table tennis. Hundreds of people are enjoying this great sport who otherwise would not had it not been for her efforts the last 45 years. Eleanor has always opened her home to table tennis players of all levels of ability 1-2 nights per week. Eleanor would never buy a home unless it had a 12 foot ceiling in the basement and plenty of square footage. She put table tennis and its players first.     

    When the Huntington Finley club folded, there was no "regular"  table tennis in Suffolk county (I knew of) except at Eleanors home. Eleanor "rescued" 12 tables from the defunked Finley club which we were told were going to be  thrown in the dumpster had she not made the efforts she did. Eleanor organized a crew of 6 using my van and trailer we moved all the tables out to Calverton where one of the players had space to store them. We played at the West Islip Moose club until Eleanor got us East Islip High School . We played at East Islip a few years.  Eleanor got us an even better place and better deal at Connetquot High school which is the current home of the Bohemia table tennis league and tournaments.

    Eleanor has gotten Long Island Table Tennis promoted in Newsday and other media on numerous occasions. Eleanor advertised table tennis on her car , the super market bulletin boards craigslist USATT (you name it.) Eleanor recruited Derek Chang to  create PingPongLongIsland.com (the official website of the Bohemia table tennis club.)  Eleanor encouraged the late Bob Tillinghast to start another succesful  TT club in Hampton Bays and Father Renea to start a table tennis club at the Catholic school in Ronkonkoma which they did.

    Eleanor was a great table tennis player, a several time  Long island and NY State womans champion. Doubles champion. She was one of the best players in the Huntington and Seaford leagues.  The sport of Table tennis is SO much easier to learn today. Just "google" table tennis and whatever you want to learn, go to youtube and search. These tools were NOT available  to Eleanor and others learning the sport at that time. Finding a good coach was very difficult. Eleanor taught herself how to play. Eleanor created the "seemiller grip" not former US champion Dan Seemiller. Eleanor had a very strong mental game (very shrewed strategy) excellent control, a great serve, a VERY heavy push and a "rocket" backhand that usually goes by you before you can start to move your paddle to block.   

 
Bill Maguire    09.08.2013

 

I first met Eleanor when I played in my first table tennis competition, the Long Island Open of 1983; Fred Danner's tournament in Huntington. I got to the final of one section but was beaten early on in another by a woman that I thought would be a fairly easy win for me. Why did I think that ? Well, she didn't move around the table very fast, didn't appear to have much of a forehand and after all, she seemed to have 20+ years on me. Well the only thing I was correct about was the age difference which, of course, meant nothing at all. She didn't appear to move around the table very quickly because she didn't have to move quickly. Everything I attempted to do was easily anticipated by her. It was as I if I were a novice chess player facing Bobby Fischer! Her forehand, while not as thunderous as her backhand (even as a poor basement player in his first tournament, I could appreciate the quality of that shot!), was a stroke that she could place anywhere she wanted (usually to the spot you thought she couldn't hit it to), and she would impart a disquieting and downright annoying spin to it.  

However her greatest weapon was one that I hadn't been aware of right away. That was her concentration, her will to win, her mental toughness. (That quality of Eleanor's was on full display when I watched her 30 years(!) later  win the Bohemia club doubles tournament last year in an extremely  competitive field.)

Many years later when I returned to table-tennis after a 12-year hiatus, it was to the welcoming environs of Eleanor's home. Not only was she encouraging, supportive and seemed genuinely happy to see me, she was the same way with my two children. The instant I saw her, her wonderful smile, her witty remarks, her high intelligence captivated me all over again.  

I like to think that as a society we are still producing women like Eleanor Leonhardt, with her long list of accomplishments ,varied areas of expertise and her kind nature and good heartedness. However, in my lifetime, I don't expect to meet anyone quite like Eleanor again. Thank you Eleanor!

Dave Leone, Sunday, November 10th, 2013