William Ramsdell Dann, 1926-2006, Buffalo Squash Star Had a Half Century Doubles Partnership by Rob Dinerman

December 18, 2006
-Squashtalk has learned of the death earlier this month of Will Dann, a charter member of the Buffalo Squash Hall Of Fame (inducted in 2000) and winner with left-wall partner and lifelong friend Nelson Graves II of four U. S. and four Canadian National Doubles age-group championships, who succumbed on December 9th after a six-month bout with cancer at age 80.

Dann also was a solid singles player (with five 50-and-over Buffalo city titles to his credit) and noted bagpipe player as well (who performed for years as a member of the Caledonia Bagpipers), but he is best known for the remarkable (indeed, quite possibly unparalleled) longevity of his partnership with Graves, Dann's childhood friend, fellow Buffalo native and Dartmouth '50 classmate (after they had spent two years in the Navy together), with whom he formed a classic doubles partnership, with Dann providing the pace and speed from his right-wall post that set up Graves's exceptional shot-making skills and court acumen.

It was at the suggestion in the early 1950's of Al Malloy, the Buffalo Tennis & Squash Club head pro at the time and later a legendary squash and tennis coach at Penn, that Dann and Graves teamed up on the doubles court, faring well in the invitational tournaments of the day, including the inaugural event hosted by their own club in 1956. When the Buffalo Tennis & Squash Club hosted its golden-anniversary 50th edition of this tourney in December '05, Graves and Dann not only entered the 70-and-over flight but got all the way to the finals, even though they were each just months away from their respective 80th birthdays!

This latter phenomenon underscores the depth and staying power of the degree to which this pair was "joined at the hip": born a mere two weeks apart, each the god-parent to one of the other's sons, they were friends and doubles partners, through good times and bad, through injuries and slumps, for more than FIFTY YEARS, a cautionary and emphatic contrast to today's climate, especially the ever-changing and demonstrably loyalty-free top tier of the ISDA pro tour, where partnerships are known to last fewer than 50 DAYS, and, as one current example should confirm, only two of the top seven teams in this season's upcoming North American Open (Gary Waite/Damien Mudge and Chris Walker/Viktor Berg, who met in the final) are intact from the Open of a year ago.

And there were far more good times than bad for the Graves/Dann tandem, especially when they won the Canadian 40's in '67, the Canadian and U. S. 50's in '78, the U. S. 60's in '87, the Canadian 60's in '88 and the Canadian and U. S. 70's in '97, an especially gratifying achievement in the latter case for occurring on their home courts in Buffalo in front of their enthusiastically cheering friends, family and club members, who turned out in force to cheer these popular protagonists to victory. Seven-time Buffalo city A Doubles champs during their younger years, they played in their club's annual invitational more than three dozen times, the last time, as noted, just last December, a year almost to the day prior to Dann's death.

Dann's life, like his partnership with Graves, was marked by stability and loyalty; he worked in various capacities at Marine Midland Bank for more than three decades prior to retiring in the early 1990's, and was married for the last 57 years of his life to Marian (Taddy) Taylor, who survives him, as do his sons, Jessie and William Jr., and a total of four grand-children.

Even as recently as his last practice game with Graves this past March (in which, as the latter happily noted, they prevailed over much younger opponents), Dann appeared to be in good health. But a bad case of shingles shortly thereafter likely made him vulnerable to the cancer near his lung that followed, and he spent his final few weeks in hospice care near his East Aurora home.

This first appeared on squashtalk.com

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