By Brian Biggane
DELRAY BEACH — Jeanne Evert Dubin of coastal Delray Beach, who enjoyed a stellar tennis career early in life and later became a driving force in the growth of the sport in Delray, died of ovarian cancer Feb. 20. She was 62.
The younger sister of 18-time major singles champion Chris Evert, Dubin was predeceased by husband Brahm Dubin in 2006.
“Jeanne was selfless, caring and kind,” Chris Evert said. “As a sister, I admired her stellar character and her unwavering devotion to her loved ones. She fought a brave battle and now heaven is lucky to have her.”
Born Oct. 5, 1957, in Fort Lauderdale as one of five children to Jimmy and Collette Evert, Jeanne grew up hitting balls at Holiday Park, where Jimmy was head instructor. She attended St. Anthony’s grade school and St. Thomas Aquinas High School.
Jeanne enjoyed great success on the court in her early years, winning both singles and doubles at both the U.S. National 12 and 14 events, and was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in junior singles in 1972. She defeated veterans Rosie Casals and Margaret Court, then ranked No. 1 in the world, that same year.
She turned pro in 1973 and became the youngest player ever to represent the U.S. in the Wightman Cup matches. In 1978 she achieved her highest ranking, at No. 28 in the world.
“I met her when she was still playing,” said Peggy Gossett-Seidman, a former tennis reporter for The Palm Beach Post. “She was so perky and upbeat, but also enjoyed the actual process: the travel, the people. She knew how to have fun aside from competing. She just enjoyed life.”
That same year she met Dubin while playing in a Rogers Cup event in Montreal.
“I want to say it was almost love at first sight,” said Merilynn Rubsamen, a close friend and neighbor for the past 22 years. “He sent her red roses during the tournament and I don’t think she ever looked back.”
The two were married in 1979 and lived in Deer Creek in Deerfield Beach for a time, working for sports promoter George Liddy. In 1987, the same year they moved to Delray Beach, Brahm founded Dubin and Associates, which soon became JCD Sports, an acronym for Jeanne Collette Dubin.
A short time later, they adopted two children, Eric and Catie.
“She was so thrilled about it,” Gossett-Seidman said. “When she got Eric it was like her life was complete: She had Brahm and the baby.”
Another close friend, Barbara LaPorte, recalled that Jeanne had only three days’ notice prior to Catie’s arrival.
“She accepted it very calmly, and all of a sudden a new baby was in her arms. She was always very calm, never panicked, like a rock. When her husband got sick, she never complained or wavered in her care for him. She was an amazing person, but also a lot of fun,” LaPorte said.
In 1994 JCD Sports Group was awarded the contract to manage the Delray Beach Tennis Center. While Brahm got busy bringing major events such as the Davis Cup and Fed Cup to the facility — a plaque outside the pro shop still recognizes his contributions — Jeanne gave lessons and clinics and helped oversee leagues.
“She was very influential with many of the young players,” said Sharon Painter, CEO of JCD Sports Group. “She had a very smooth stroke so she was more of an old-school player. She had a calm demeanor,” which “made her popular.”
She became more involved in running the tennis center after her husband’s death.
“That was her area of expertise,” Painter said. “She wanted to do the job for the legacy of Brahm.”
Jeanne picked up the nickname “The General” along the way for her willingness to take charge of situations.
“She was definitely the one to take charge and we all knew it,” Rubsamen said. “It was done in a (nice) way, but she did often live up to that name. It was never mean; it was just, ‘No, this is the way it’s going to be.’”
Rubsamen, who had children about the same age as Eric and Catie, recalled many happy days full of children playing on the cul-de-sac where both families lived.
“She was very loving, very protective,” she said. “I wouldn’t call her strict but she wasn’t over-protective. She was a wonderful mother.”
“She was just a great person,” Gossett-Seidman added. “Never had a bad word for anyone; she always accented the positive. Losing Brahm was hard, but her years with the tennis center and raising the kids with Brahm were excellent. She was good with everyone, just a people person.”
In late 2017, around the time of her 60th birthday, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
“She would never complain,” LaPorte said. “She fought it like it was a tennis match. There were ups and downs, but she always came back and fought harder. That was one reason she was able to live so well and so long after the diagnosis.
“Anyone she met, she was like a magnet. People were drawn to her. It’s a huge loss. So many people now are numb, in shock, even though we knew she was struggling.”
“It’s just a huge loss to her family, her friends and the whole community,” Rubsamen said. “She was really a part of it.”
Mrs. Dubin was predeceased by her father in 2015. She is survived by her partner, Tower Krauss; her mother, Colette; her son, Eric (Janice Kirk) of Delray Beach, and daughter, Catie Dubin (Matthew Aspenwall), and four grandchildren, Hailey, Savannah, Mason and Olivia Aspenwall, of Delray Beach; two sisters, Chris Evert of Boca Raton and Clare Evert-Shane (Steven) of Aspen, Colorado; two brothers, Drew (Penny) of Delray Beach and John (Mary) of Boca Raton; nieces Anna, Lauren, Siena, Tatum and Remi, and nephews Alex, Nicky and Colton.