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T. James 'Jimmy' Hense Jr., a Baltimore businessman and squash champion, dies

T. James 'Jimmy' Hense Jr., a Baltimore businessman and squash champion, dies
T. James “Jimmy” Hense Jr. worked in sales for Pierce Leahy and founded the T.J. Hense Packaging Co. He was a nationally ranked squash player who championed the participation of women and children in the sport. (Courtesy photo)

T. James “Jimmy” Hense Jr., a Baltimore businessman and champion squash player who played the sport for 40 years, died June 15 at Union Memorial Hospital of a stroke. The Cross Keys resident was 74.

“To sum up his life, Jimmy was a successful businessman and helped women and children learn the great game of squash,” said John Voneiff, a close friend, who had been Mr. Hense’s national doubles squash partner for 20 years.

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“The two of us were always in the top 10 during the time we played together and often in the top five,” Mr. Voneiff said. “We have won a good number of state championships together, and Jimmy has won others on his own.”

Thaddeus James Hense Jr., the son of Thaddeus James Hense Sr., an attorney, and Ann C. Hense, a stay-at-home parent, was born in Baltimore and spent his early years in Granite before moving with his family to Villa Nova in Baltimore County and finally to a home on West Joppa Road in Ruxton.

“He never used his first name and had it legally changed to James Hense Jr.,” said a sister, Ann Hense Stucker of Naples, Fla.

Mr. Hense was a 1963 graduate of Calvert Hall College High School, where he had been an outstanding tennis and lacrosse player and overall athlete.

He attended the University of Baltimore, and after college, worked in sales and then founded a sports equipment company with a friend selling lacrosse gear, tennis racquets and sports apparel.

In the 1990s, he worked in sales in the New York office of Pierce Leahy, a Philadelphia-based archival company.

“Jimmy was a great salesman who could sell anything to anybody,” said Leo Pierce, former vice president of contract administration for Pierce Leahy. “He was just a great guy.”

When the company was sold and merged into Iron Mountain in 2000, Mr. Hense returned to Baltimore, where he established T.J. Hense Packaging Co., which sold packaging materials and equipment to such clients as the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing and McCormick & Co., and was still operating the business at his death.

Mr. Hense started playing squash in the early 1970s and continued to do so for the next 40 years until failing health ended his career.

“He became well-known in the squash world and across the United States,” said Bob Travers, a longtime friend and squash player, who is a member of the board of Maryland State Squash Inc. “He was a great player who always rose to the occasion in tournaments.”

Said Mr. Pierce: “Jim was a fierce competitor, a fine sportsman and a true champion for the game of squash.”

Perhaps his legacy in squash will be not his lasting success as a high-level player but his advocacy of the sport for women and children.

“For years, squash had been an elitist sport that was played at a handful of clubs and Ivy League colleges,“ Mr. Voneiff said.

“Jim’s greatest contribution was how much he accomplished for the advancement of junior and women’s squash in Maryland and across America,” he said. “In addition to being elected to the Maryland State Squash Inc. Hall of Fame in 2005 along with my brother-in-law, the late Jervis Finney, Jim has won many state and national awards for his volunteer contributions to the game of squash.”

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Mr. Hense, a former president of Maryland State Squash Inc., was one of the founders of High School Junior Squash in Maryland, which is now played in all schools as part of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association.

“Jimmy’s steadfast devotion to the game has contributed in a profound way towards the explosion of junior squash in the state and nationally over the past 30 years,” Mr. Voneiff said. “Squash is now a major Division I-A college sport.”

Peter Hefferman, president of Maryland State Squash, heads the squash program at Meadow Mill Athletic Club in Woodberry, which is the home of SquashWise in Maryland, a program for disadvantaged city kids, and where more than a 1,000 juniors play the game.

“Jimmy loved the game. He played at a very high level nationally during his competitive career, but more importantly, he gave back so much more to the up-and-coming junior players of our Baltimore community, certainly no small accomplishment.”

In 1996, Mr. Hense was presented the Maryland State Squash Outstanding Achievement Award, and at the time, Bob Everd, who was then president of Maryland State Squash said, “Few people have contributed more to a sport in a positive and compelling way than our good friend Jimmy Hense.”

Mr. Hense was also the recipient of The Jesters Cup, which is presented by the Jesters Club, an international society that “underpins and champions racquet sports throughout the world and especially squash,” Mr. Voneiff said, for his leadership in junior squash and as a referee.

Last year, at the 25th anniversary celebration of the Meadow Mill Athletic Club, the president of U.S. Squash, Kevin Klipstein, presented Mr. Hense with its W. Stewart Brauns Jr. Award for his “extraordinary contribution off the court and in particular his impact on advancing national squash among juniors.”

During his playing years, Mr. Hense had battled numerous sports injuries and undergone corrective surgeries, and for the past decade he suffered from progressive Parkinson’s disease.

“When he could hardly walk and up until the end of his life, Jimmy was still actively involved in supporting Maryland Squash Inc. and its great squash-playing high school and junior athletes,” Mr. Voneiff said.

Mr. Hense was a member of the Baltimore Country Club and the Johns Hopkins Club.

A memorial Mass will be offered at 11 a.m. Sept. 14 at The Church of the Immaculate Conception at Baltimore and Ware avenues in Towson.

In addition to his sister, Mr. Hense is survived by his son, Peter Gentry of Spotsylvania, Va.; another sister, Mary Helen Fitzpatrick of Ruxton; and three grandchildren.

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