Brenda DeCesare

Brenda DeCesare (Baltimore Sun / August 10, 2013)

Brenda DeCesare, who was the general manager for tennis at the Columbia Association, died of breast cancer Aug. 2 at her Ellicott City home. She was 56.

Brenda Derry was born in Baltimore and raised in Mount Washington. She was the daughter of James Derry, the grounds and maintenance director of the old Bonnie View Golf Course, and the former Tommie L. Harper, a bookbindery worker.

She attended Northern Parkway Junior High School and was a 1975 graduate of Towson High School, where she ran track and played on the softball team. She was also a speed skater and competed at the former Meadowbrook rink.

"She was outgoing, friendly and a happy person," said Patricia Otto, a friend for many years who lives in Towson. "And she was always athletic."

She lived in Ocean City for a few years, where she was a lifeguard and worked in the local shops. Family members said that age 22, she sold her possessions and moved in Hawaii, where she lived with a friend for a year. They said she never forgot the experience and often spoke of it.

"She lived for the moment. Everyone in the world was Brenda's friend," said her husband, Robert "Rob" Goldman, chief operating officer of the Columbia Association. "She just had a way of, wherever she went, she would begin talking to the people around her and strike up a conversation and a friendship."

Her husband said that when they went to a restaurant, by the time they were getting ready to leave, his wife would be making friends and delaying their departure.

She moved to Columbia after living in Catonsville and worked at Kahler Hall. She then took an entry-level job at the Columbia Association's tennis department and began to learn the game.

"On the court and off the court she was friendly," said a close friend and tennis partner, Lorene Cannella, who lives in Mount Airy. "She could always make you laugh and smile. She had a huge heart."

While there, she worked at the reception desk at the tennis clubs while she learned. Ms. DeCesare was promoted to supervisor and then assistant general manager, and then general manager. Her husband said that for the past 12 years, she was the general manager of all Columbia Association tennis programs, which include nine indoor courts and 24 outdoor courts.

"At the same time she started working for tennis, she started playing tennis and became progressively better," her husband said. "She was competitive and did very well in U.S. Tennis Association league tennis. She was also a social person, and tennis is a very social game."

He said that she used her skills to meet people and socialize.

"Tennis combined two of her greatest traits, which were her competitiveness and how much she liked people and socializing," he said. "She just loved life. Anything we did she wanted to enjoy it to the fullest, whether it was a meal out or playing tennis together or cooking a meal for the kids at home."

The couple married at a resort in the Dominican Republic.

"I think about 35 family or friends joined us," he said. "It was like a one-week party and celebration of our love."

He said they took vacations in the Caribbean with their extended families.

A life celebration will be held from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Aug. 18 at Historic Oakland, 5430 Vantage Point Road in Columbia.

In addition to her husband of 10 years, survivors include a son, Victor G. DeCesare of Columbia; a daughter, Rebecca Lee DeCesare of Columbia; three stepdaughters, Stephanie Goldman of Cincinnati, Jennifer Eikenberg of Hampstead and Cassandra Centers of Columbia; and two grandchildren. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com