In Memory

Jerry Hirst

Jerry Hirst

See the very interesting and insspiring  obituary for Jerry which I have copied as a comment.

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07/28/21 10:36 AM #1    

John Couch

Harlingen, Texas - Coach Jerry Hirst, 79, died peacefully surrounded by his loving family on March 16, 2021. Born in San Francisco, CA, on January 22, 1942 in the middle of a blackout, Jerry was the second son of Minerva (Gundersen) and Wayne R. Hirst. Jerry's family moved to Oklahoma where he found his love of tennis in middle school. He and his older brother Wayne began going to a park near their home where men like Thurston Land, Colonel Drake and Colonel Stephenson showed them how to play tennis after noticing that the brothers were playing according to ping pong rules. Jerry and Wayne made a promise to each other to practice every day, even if it meant shoveling snow off the courts, and eventually won the Oklahoma State Doubles Championship two consecutive years representing Harding High School. Jerry was then crowned the State Singles Champion his senior year. As a nationally ranked tennis player, Jerry was awarded a full scholarship to East Texas State University in Commerce, TX where he and Wayne led the Lions to multiple Lone Star Conference Championships and the NAIA National Championships. Jerry graduated from ETSU with both a bachelor's and master's degree.

While at East Texas State, Jerry met the love of his life and wife of over 56 years, Alice Etter Hirst. After graduating, Jerry began his career as a public school educator. Over the next 5 years he coached high school football, boys' and girls' basketball, and boys' track.

Jerry became the Head Tennis Coach at Harlingen High School in 1966. He worked tirelessly to promote and grow the game of tennis in Harlingen and the entire Rio Grande Valley. The Cardinal Tennis Team won 29 District Team Championships and numerous individual championships during his career. A special highlight was when the 1991 Cardinal Tennis Team reached the finals in the State Championship Tournament. He was instrumental in establishing the South Texas Tennis Coaches Association where he served as President and Treasurer. He also helped form the Greater Harlingen Tennis Association and served on the Board of Directors for many years. Both organizations were established to promote tennis in schools and community for students and adults. Coach Hirst retired from Harlingen High School in 2004 after 39 years of service. During those years, he had 36 tennis players receive tennis scholarships to various colleges and universities. In addition to the athletic scholarships, he and his former player Walter Ingram created the Dorothy Ingram Scholarship to raise money for Cardinal tennis players to go to college. Coach Hirst never forgot his roots and how much his life changed because of the group of men that spotted a couple of boys playing with ping pong rules on public courts.

While serving as coach for the Cardinals, Coach Hirst was awarded:

- Texas Tennis Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 1989

- East Texas State University Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991

- Rio Grande Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 1994

- Texas Tennis Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2005

- Missouri Valley/Oklahoma Tennis Hall of Fame in 2008

In July of 2000, Jerry was invited to represent the United States of America as a member of the Gordon Trophy International Team. He remained a member of the team and enjoyed the annual competition with the Canadian National Team. He also played national Father/Daughter tournaments with his daughter Katy, and Father/Son tournaments with his sons Steve and John. He was extremely proud that he was able to achieve national rankings with each of his children. In 2009, Jerry founded the South Padre Island Hirst Tennis Classic for senior men's tennis - an event whose proceeds supported the Gordon Trophy. The 13th annual "classic" was held February 19-20, 2021 in spite of the extreme cold weather!

Jerry was the devoted husband to Alice Etter Hirst for over 56 years. He had the great fortune to coach both his younger brother Dan Hirst, daughter Katy Lucci, son Steve and Howard Kasanoff on his Cardinal Tennis teams. His older son John chose to follow his father by coaching basketball. All of his grandchildren and their friends called Jerry "Coach". He was blessed with seven grandchildren: Jordan Hirst, Neely Kasanoff, Jacob Hirst, Merrill Kasanoff, Mary Alice Hirst, Charlie Hirst, and Evaline Hirst. He loved nothing more than spending time with each of them and following all of their successes. In addition to his grandchildren, he is survived by John (Christie) Hirst, Katy (Tom) Lucci, Steve (Kay-Lynn) Hirst, Dan (Gena) Hirst, and Glenn (Imelda) Hirst.

He was a friend to everyone he met, a mentor to all he taught, a fierce competitor, a champion in every field of endeavor and a best friend to each member of his family. "They say you only live once, but if you live like me, once is enough." Frank Sinatra

A Memorial Gathering with the family present will be held at the Buck Ashcraft San Benito Funeral Home in San Benito from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 27, 2021.

In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to the Coach Jerry Hirst Memorial Scholarship Fund through the following GoFundMe link located on the Buck Ashcraft Funeral Home website or a charity of your choice

Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Buck Ashcraft San Benito Funeral Home, 1400 W. Business 77, San Benito, Texas 78586. 956.361.9192

All guest should wear a facial covering and practice social distancing while visiting the funeral home.

To plant trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.

Published by Valley Morning Star on Mar. 21, 2021.


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9 Entries

I was sorry to hear that your dad had passed away. my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this time of grief and sorrow. Coach Griffin

Jim Griffin


March 23, 2021

Our family is grateful to Coach Hirst for encouraging our sons Jose and Fernando Schroeder into tennis during their years at the Harlingen High School. We want to Thank you for your interest and dedication.
Our condolences to his wife and family. Now he is resting in peace in the Kingdom of God.
With love, Maria and Fred Schroeder and family.

Jose Schroeder


March 23, 2021

Sad to hear of Jerry's passing. I was a year behind Jerry at Harding High School, along with my best friend, David Longmire, one of Jerry's close friends. I can't tell you how many fun stories from Longmire about their travels on the road from game to game. He taught Longmire not only how to be the best in tennis, but how to live life to its fullest.

Jerry will be remembered for not only coaching tennis, but building character for his students.

Jon Spence

Jon Spence


March 23, 2021

Jerry helped so many tennis players and their families that could not afford college scholarships reach the tennis level to play college tennis ... and receive a tennis scholarship... a lot of people owe Jerry their livelihood. He was a great coach and great family man. His "give a 100%" attitude lives on in each one of his players.
Our sympathies to Mrs. Hirst (Alice), Danny, John, Steve and Katy
Miles Reynolds
Mexico City

Miles Reynolds

March 22, 2021

Coach Hirst was my tennis coach in 1966 and 1967 at HHS. I have nothing but very fond memories of his style and personality. He was definetly a people person and a really great coach to us all.

Rick Weed

March 22, 2021

When my brother moved to the Valley and bought a house with a tennis court we became friends with Jerry. The good old days of his broken jaw wired shut and CB radio mania. Both my brother and I had a sports background and thought tennis would be easy. Jerry told me however that it would take 5 years to learn the basics. For him maybe, for us more like ten. Jerry had amazing quickness for someone his size-the kind of quickness you see only in the NBA or NFL. To put into perspective his level of talent I note that he and his brother were nationally ranked in tennis and I recall his brother lost a tough quarterfinal to Jimmy Connors in NCAAs in Corpus. Jerry built the Harlingen Easter tennis tournament to being only second in number of entries in Texas to the Houston Pepsi Open. While Jerry will be remembered as a great tennis talent and coach many of his friends will better remember Jerry just as a great person. Condolences to his family. Denis Downey

Denis Downey


March 21, 2021

The Bryant family has many wonderful memories of Jerry and his beautiful family. So sorry Alice for your loss.

Janet & David Bryant


March 21, 2021

To my beloved american dad... you will never be forgotten!
Jeromski and the Gintracs

Jérôme Gintrac


March 21, 2021

Hello Alice. This is Karen Baxter, Stacey’s mom. I am sorry to know Coach Hirst has passed. He led an amazing life.

Warmly, Karen

Karen Baxter


March 21, 2021

Showing 1 - 9 of 9 results

07/29/21 08:48 AM #2    

Lynda McFarlane (Haller)

So sad to learn of Jerry’s passing. Enjoyed reading about his many accomplishments. The Hirsts lived just around the corner from me and we grew up together. His older brother Wayne passed a few years ago. Jerry was a great guy. Always had a big smile. My brother Jim played tournaments with Wayne. 

07/29/21 10:11 AM #3    

Jacqueline Hamilton (Taylor)

I have only positive memories of Jerry. His wonderful smile was extraordinary!

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