(by Steve Hopkins)
The PongNOW interview series discusses table tennis with some of the best players and personalities in the sport.
In this edition, Dean Johnson shares stories about the table tennis scene in New York City in the golden era for the sport in this country, about his potential role in a Stellan Bengtsson remembrance in Sweden, and he discusses how a table tennis book was responsible for meeting his wife (and best friend). YouTube users can Subscribe to receive notices when future PongNow videos post.
By 1957 Dean had returned home from serving abroad as a Army Stars and Stripes photographer. While visiting a bookstore, Dean came upon a book titled “Table Tennis” by Coleman Clark. The book featured a number of top U.S. players and noted that they were based in New York City. Since it was just a short drive away from New Jersey, he set out to visit the storied Riverside Table Tennis club referenced in the book. On his first visit, he met Bernie Bukiet and an array of other legends in the sport – and a lifetime love of the sport was born.
A few years later, Dean and his friend Bernie drove to Toronto to compete in the Canadian Nationals. Bernie found elite competition in the top levels of the singles event, and Dean found something much better – he was introduced to Helga Bultemeier. Helga and Dean launched their own journey – they were married in 1964, and they are still together today.
When Dean visited Sweden, he was directed to visit a statue of Stellan Bengtsson which had been erected in his Stellan’s hometown. Dean was surprised and honored to find similarities between the statue and a photo that he had taken years before.
A special thank you to Dean for sharing these stories.
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