Anybody who knows New York City tennis is familiar with the life and work of Howie Arons. The longtime Coach at Benjamin Cardozo High School in Queens anchored a dominant run that spanned nearly four decades, winning 584 matches and 18 city titles.
Howie was more than just a Coach. He was also an English Teacher at Cardozo and would later become a dean at the school, balancing many jobs on his plate in addition to being a top flight Coach.
“My dad had a ton of energy, enthusiasm and dedication for everything he did,” said Howie’s son, Ian. “He would start every day at the crack of dawn and drive out to Queens to get there for the early periods as a high school English teacher. In the afternoons, he ran the tennis program. He was a very dedicated, hard-working, and great guy.”
Arons, affectionately referred to as “Big H,” carved out a successful career in tennis which included working his way from being a Tennis Pro to a Club Owner and his four-plus decades of coaching at Cardozo.
“His players loved him; they were an extension of our family,” said Howie’s son Andrew. “They would come over to the house for pool parties and BBQs. He loved helping people, whether it was tutoring for Regents Exams or talking to college coaches on behalf of his players. He would always happily write recommendation letters for his students, even those who didn’t play tennis for him.”
“He was selfless and always looking to help out anyway he could,” Ian added.
In 2015, “Big H” went in for a routine prostate exam and his blood work revealed he had cancer. After a few months, the family learned that he had Cancer of Unknown Primary, an aggressive unknown form of metastatic cancer.
“Over the course of the next 15 months, he underwent six different chemotherapy treatments, radiation, biopsies and immunotherapy. Nothing worked,” Ian said. “Throughout it all, dad was so brave and upbeat and fought to the end.”
To embody his spirit and passion, the family subsequently started The Big H Foundation, whose goal is to support a wide variety of programs, research and studies designed to advance the science of early cancer detection.
“We knew we wanted to keep my dad’s spirit and energy alive in some way. We just didn’t envision exactly what that would be,” Ian recalls. “There is a lot of research and funding going into how to treat and cure cancer, and so we wanted to do something a little different. There was nothing that could stop or treat my dad’s cancer because it was so advanced. We wanted to find promising research and science going behind early detection. The statistical differences in life expectancy between early stage cancer versus stages 3 and 4 are staggering. Whether that’s blood tests or genetic testing, we are still doing research and speaking to leading oncologists to establish where we want to send funding to in the coming years.”
The organization has already held a tennis event to raise money with a kickoff back in September.
“We played a bunch of round-robin baseline games which included several of my dad’s former players. It was high quality tennis and we had personal friends come and watch. We are going to keep trying to do things like that,” added Ian. “That’s the goal. It was nice to have the event which really kick started things and we have also now established a Web site at BigHFoundation.org. We’re going to be spending our time and energy looking for the most promising places to donate money for early detection.”
The Arons Family and Big H Foundation are in the early phase of its fundraising, but have already raised more than $60,000 in its first few months, and plan on continuing to do more in the months and years ahead.
“He was an incredibly passionate and positive person, and he instilled that in me and my brother,” said Andrew. “The outpouring of love and support after he passed away reinforced just how many lives he touched, and we want to keep his memory alive and continue to make a difference.”
You can learn more about the Big Foundation by visiting www.BigHFoundation.org.
Brian Coleman is the Senior Editor for New York Tennis Magazine. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org