For all those who read the first edition of The Great Fletch here is an update on some of the amazing things that happened since ABC Books first published that book in 2008.
Five years after The Great Fletch was published, I received a letter from Jeannine Fayolle, the French girl who Ken fell in love with at Montana-Vermala in 1967 [see page 92]: ‘I was literally subjugated by his beauty, its look, its nature, its charm … among the most beautiful days of my life but which ended in a big crying fit when that he left. I always kept a very strong feeling for Ken and a place in a privileged corner of my heart. Last June I learned, my God with so much delay the sad news. I ordered your book and read it, and still read it … oh that yes, dear Hugh, Ken’s heart beat very very strongly in your book, it is why I do not manage to close it. By reading it I have mouse [smile] sometimes. I shivered, the sadness invaded me … I was crazy about him, about his charisma, about his courage, about its humour, about its kindness, about his strength and his sweetness, All that I had felt inside him and I love him profoundly. My prayers accompany Ken and you all who were near him. Jeannine.’
Readers may remember that at the end of the book I called for Australian tennis champion Ken Fletcher to be put into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame in Melbourne – listing all the reasons why he deserved to be there.
On the evening of Australia Day 2012, Tennis Australia, having read the book, did induct Kenneth Norman Joseph Fletcher into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame during the Australian Open in Melbourne at a special ceremony on the centre court known as Rod Laver Arena. Rod Laver himself, Roy Emerson, Neale Fraser were in the packed stadium to witness Ken’s two children, Julien and Jennifer, unveil a bronze bust of their father on the court while Beven Addinsall belted out an appropriate rendition of I Did it My Way.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal stood by watching, waiting to play the Final before the packed stands. A Tennis Australia video played on screens above the court showed Laver, Alan Jones and Roy Emerson talking about Ken. Emerson said: “I toured the world with Fletch. He was such a fun guy, every time I saw him I started laughing. All I can say is ‘read Hughie’s book’.”
Tennis Australia invited my wife Helen and me down for the event.
At the President’s Dinner beforehand, I spoke about Ken to an audience which included many characters from the book: Julien and Jennifer, Ken’s girlfriend Cathie Creagh, Billy Lee Long, “Concentrate Susan”, Jimmy Moore, Ken and Wilma Rosewall, Jimmy Shepherd, Colin Stubs, Laver, Ashley Cooper, and Neale Fraser. Kenny’s long-time friends, American philanthropists Chuck and Helga Feeney, flew out especially from New York for the occasion, slightly delayed because Chuck had just bought at auction half an island in New York to give to his alma mater: Cornell University. Even Greg Chappell was there, as were the Governor of Victoria and the vice-chancellors of Monash and Melbourne Universities. Helen and I were lucky enough to be seated at a table with Chuck and Helga next to Roy and Joy Emerson. Realizing after a while who the American was on his other side, Roy Emerson exclaimed: “Hey, you’re that bloke from Hughie’s book!”
After reading The Great Fletch, Brisbane businessman Peter Rasey began a tireless campaign that has resulted in The Brisbane Tennis Trail which honours the city’s significant players and events. Tourists and fans can now re-live tennis history at sites signposted by the Brisbane City Council. https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/things-to-see-and-do/outdoor-activities/tennis-courts/brisbanes-tennis-trail
In December 2012, Chuck and Helga Feeney planted a banksia tree in the 7 acre KEN FLETCHER PARK on the Brisbane River at Tennyson in front of Pat Rafter Arena at the Queensland Tennis Centre.
On 29 December 2013 Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk unveiled a bronze bust of Fletch – paid for by public subscription – adjacent to the tree.
In the first edition of The Great Fletch, I wrote [p.335] that Chuck Feeney had donated $3.7million to the Royal Children’s Hospital Foundation in Brisbane, but it was to the hospital in Melbourne. In all Chuck donated $549million to science and medicine in Australia to improve people’s lives – most of it in Ken Fletcher’s home town. A few years ago, Chuck finally achieved his ambition to give away his fortune in his own lifetime. Well done Chuck and Helga