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When 59-year-old Sedona resident Mel Levine received the Dianne Miller Courage in Tennis award last month, he was able to reflect on how far he’s come in such a short time and how lucky he is to be alive.

Sedona resident Mel Levine received the Dianne Miller Courage in Tennis award in November, which awards a player who has overcome a severe personal disability to give back to the tennis community.“It’s a great honor to receive this award,” Levine said. “I never really thought about getting this award. I just like tennis and being involved in it as much as possible.” 

In 1997, Levine was diagnosed with a cavernous malformation, a bleed in the brain, leading doctors to believe at the time Levine could wind up in a vegetative state.

“I was completely fine and than one day, it just came on and hit me,” Levine said.

Once a great baseball player, Levine faced the biggest Mike Mussina knuckle-curve ball that could ever be thrown at a person. Doctors figured at best, Levine would regain 60-percent of his mobility back.

After the operation, Levine had severe trouble with speech and his coordination but the determination he once showed for the Queens College baseball team, an NCAA Division II program in New York, was no finer remedy for his illness.

Originally from New York, Levine was born three blocks from the great Yankee Stadium. As a kid growing up in one of the harshest neighborhoods in America, Levine became a Yankees fan, a Giants fan and a Knicks fan almost immediately.

“I don’t mean to disappoint, but I am a Knicks fan,” Levine said laughing. “I grew up watching guys like Bill Bradley and Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe play basketball. It was a great time for New York basketball.”
After Queens College, Levine had a chance to go play rookie baseball and get paid for it, but he added, “My dad would have killed me. He wanted me to be a lawyer.”

Levine chose to be a tax lawyer and a certified public accountant, something he did for over 40 years and continues to do periodically.

Once Levine was diagnosed, he got out of the CPA business, but after years of therapy, Levine was able to return to work on a part-time basis.

“After the operation, I was just glad to do anything at all. I did return to the business, but now I’m trying to get back out of it again and just enjoy life,” Levine said.
Levine and his wife, Marian, of 19 years moved to Sedona in 1998, shortly after he was diagnosed with the malformation.

These days, Levine and his wife spend their time entertaining guests and being involved in the Sedona tennis community.

“My wife is from the Netherlands, which pretty much means we have to have people over at the house all the time,” Levine said with a big smile, making sure the words “all the time” would be emphasized.

Levine is a big part of the Northern Arizona Tennis Association and is currently the treasurer, league coordinator and on the audit committee.

Levine began playing tennis nearly five years ago after doctors suggested it to him for physical therapy as a way to help regain his mobility and coordination.

Levine still has trouble in the late evenings with his speech, but it isn’t something that affects him too badly.

As for tennis, there are 17 districts in the United States for tennis associations, one of which includes Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The Dianne Miller Courage in Tennis award recognizes an individual who overcomes a severe personal disability to give back to his tennis community.

This award is not handed out annually. In fact, the last time it was given out was a few years back, making it even more special for Levine.

“It’s a big deal even to be nominated. It’s nice to be appreciated,” Levine said.

With his name thrown into the hat for the award nationally, Levine isn’t too concerned about it, especially since the New York Giants aren’t playing that well.

For now, Levine will continue to try and retire from the CPA business and play tennis for his health and happiness, but in the future, he hopes to live a long and prosperous life with his wife by his side and his friends constantly visiting, “all the time,” he said.

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  • Tony De Luz

    What a wonderful story... Congratulations Mel!

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