Benny Still Serves, Volleys At 83
I was at Central Oahu Regional Park recently and fortunate enough to run into Benny Quiseng, an octogenarian from nearby Wahiawa who plays the sport of tennis on nearly a daily basis. “He’s 83 years old,” a local tennis referee tells me, “and he can really play!”
I watch Quiseng for a few minutes during a friendly game of doubles against some of his senior citizen friends and the declaration is confirmed. Quiseng has game!
“I play practically every day. That’s my survival,” he says with a smile.
Over the past 15 years, Quiseng has become a star in the local Hawaii Senior Olympics, winning gold medal after gold medal in his age group for singles. In doubles, he partners with another octogenarian, 81-year-old Norberto “Doc” Baysa. Not too long ago, Quiseng and Baysa won the silver medal in their age group at the National Senior Olympics at Stanford.
“We’ve played nine Senior Olympics, from Florida to Louisiana to California – all over,” Quiseng says.
“He has so many beautiful medals. I’m really proud of that,” says his wife Linda. “I still have the first two trophies he won back in 1960, just after we got married.”
Benny and Linda were both in the Army, stationed in New Mexico, when they met and married. She’s from Indiana, and he was born and raised in Wahiawa, where they eventually made their home. Quiseng’s father, a local barber, moved to Central Oahu from the Philippines, and he and his wife raised 10 children.
Benny is the oldest son. “His dad’s name was Delfin,” Linda says. “He was a good tennis player, too. I used to shine up the trophy he won in 1932 from the Wahiawa Tennis Club.”
If you take a few moments with Quiseng, he’ll fill you with stories of his memories of growing up in the small country town.
“Wahiawa is a nice quiet place, but on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, I was 11 years old and playing marbles with another boy when we saw these planes come over and start strafing Wheeler Field,” he recalled. “I remember thinking, ‘Hey, we got some new airplanes. They must be practicing.’ Then, my friend’s dad ran out of the house. He was an officer and he yelled, ‘Get in here’! A little bit later he came over to our house and said we were at war with Japan. I could see the smoke rising from Pearl Harbor in the distance.”
After graduating from Leilehua High, Quiseng later served in the Navy for four years, and then in the Army for 16 more, before working in the Pearl Harbor shipyards until retirement. “When I was younger, I used to box,” he says. He fought a number of civilian and Army bouts, none professionally, and was pretty good at it. “I was runner-up a lot. I won most of ’em, but couldn’t beat the champion. I boxed until I was 32 years old.”
At age 30, after playing tennis for fun a number of years, he got serious about the sport. His natural athleticism and competitive spirit helped him develop a game that would become a big hit by the time he reached his golden years. He’s been the Hawaii state champion in his age group a number of times.
He’s also an outstanding sportsman and a true gentleman on the court. Just a few years back, he and Baysa were honored with the first ever Brian Miyagi Sportsmanship Award for their efforts in the Hawaii Senior Olympics.
“I love the challenge,” says Quiseng.
And with that, the 83-year-old is off to the tennis court yet again.