By Jacques Kelly, The Baltimore Sun
4:32 PM EST, December 14, 2012
Ramon "Ray" Santamaria Jr., a retired tennis pro and captain of the 1954 Johns Hopkins University lacrosse team, died of cancer Dec. 9 at Union Memorial Hospital. The Cockeysville resident was 80.
Born in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, he was the son of Ramon Santamaria Sr., who came to Baltimore in 1938 as consul for the Republic of Honduras. His mother, Ramona, was a homemaker.
He lived on Keswick Road in Roland Park and was a 1950 graduate of Polytechnic Institute, where he was class president all four years, played lacrosse and wrestled. A 1949 Sun article noted that while he was class president at Poly, his brother, Angelo, was class president at City College.
He earned a degree in industrial engineering at the Johns Hopkins University, where he was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity.
"Ray Santamaria, a 140-pound midfielder, is one of the fastest men on the squad," a 1954 Sun article said. "Santamaria showed steady improvement all year and closed out the season with a fine performance against Mount Washington."
Robert H. "Bob" Scott, who went on to become the Hopkins lacrosse coach and athletic director, recalled Mr. Santamaria as a Hopkins classmate: "He was an outstanding player. He had speed, toughness and competitiveness. He was an outstanding leader, too. He liked to get the ball to his teammates."
Mr. Santamaria was awarded the university's Erlanger Award for outstanding senior player, the Turnbull Reynolds Award for outstanding leader and the Penniman Award for outstanding midfielder.
He was named an honorable mention All American and was selected to compete in the 1954 North-South game of the U.S. Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association. After leaving Hopkins, he played on the Mount Washington Club lacrosse team.
He became a salesman for Lion Brothers, a firm that manufactures embroidered patches for sports teams, as well as police and fire departments. He worked with officials of the American Athletic Union to develop emblems for its teams.
In 1958, he took a job as an interpreter at a banana plantation in Guayaquil, Ecuador. When the plantation's manager left, he became assistant manager of the operation, owned by the Sewanee Steamship Co., a business that also owned a grocery chain, the Piggly Wiggly stores.
Family members said that after working at Lions Brothers, he modified his career in the late 1960s and took up tennis as a profession, while retaining an interest in monogramming and emblems.
His brother, Angelo Santamaria, who lives in Lutherville, recalled that his sibling "just got into tennis like any neighborhood kid. He was self-taught and a left-handed player. We walked from our house on Keswick Road to the courts at Gilman School. He had a varied life, and tennis was always his first love."
Mr. Santamaria was a charter member and tennis professional at the Homeland Racquet Club, which initially used the Friends School courts. He was later the tennis pro at the Baltimore Country Club and at Baltimore Fitness and Tennis at the Pikesville Hilton.
Mr. Santamaria also had a pro shop, where he restrung rackets for tennis players and sold tennis clothing and supplies. He also operated a monogramming machine and worked with dry cleaners and men's clothing shops, including Jos. A. Banks and Eddie Jacobs.
Mr. Santamaria returned to Hopkins as its tennis coach in the late 1970s and coached for five years.
"He was an ambassador for tennis," said Barry Grube, an official of the Homeland Racquet Club. "He was a guru of clay courts. He knew about their seasonal preparation and their daily maintenance."
Mr. Santamaria kept up this aspect of his business until this year. In early spring, he would recondition the clay courts at the Woodholme, Suburban, Homeland and Baltimore country clubs with a tractor and spreader. He also set the nets and relined the courts.
In a separate business, he also sold rock star posters to local variety shops.
He was also a tennis referee or line judge for the Baltimore Association of Tennis Officials. He played tennis daily, family members said.
Mr. Santamaria donated his body to the State Anatomy Board.
Services are private.
In addition to his brother, survivors include his wife, the former Jeanette Denham; a son, Harry Santamaria of Winter Springs, Fla.; a daughter, Ramona Leitzel of Towson; and five grandchildren.
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