Pocket Life

February 2023
By Corky Mau

Friends For Life

His pickleball connections meant everything

The statistics are sobering. Pancreatic cancer is the second most common gastrointestinal malignancy in the U.S., killing almost 50,000 people in 2022.

Nick Kenourgios was among the victims. One sunny afternoon last November, we talked about a new development in his cancer journey: hospice care had been ordered. Meanwhile, about 50 of his friends from pickleball gathered to show support.

Prior to diagnosis, Kenourgios was in good health. He was a professional golf caddie at Pebble Beach Golf Links. A graduate of Kennedy High School, he returned to Sacramento and learned pickleball. Lingering back pain led him to an unexpected diagnosis of Stage III Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma. That was September 2021.

“Hearing the word cancer stopped me in my tracks,” he said. But not for long. The friends he played pickleball with at Lewis Park and Garcia Bend became more than just occasional sports buddies. They were his support group, helping Kenourgios on and off the court.

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the nation. It’s a mash-up of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. Initial investment is low. All you need are decent court shoes, a paddle and good attitude. It’s a game for life.

Kenourgios said physical activity and camaraderie helped him manage chemotherapy. “When I had the strength to play, I’d wear a chemo pump around my neck.” His wife Debra said pickleball was an integral element of the treatment plan.

Retired firefighter and fellow player Soames Funakoshi helped rally players from as far away as Woodland to participate in activities for Kenourgios. They delivered meals to the family and displayed signs with encouraging messages as he traveled to and from treatments. A surgery sendoff party was held prior to a hospital stay in San Francisco. They decorated his home for the 2021 holidays.

Roddy Gee, a longtime friend who introduced the game to Kenourgios, says, “Pickleball extended his life by another year. It was good to see Nick laugh and enjoy life. He didn’t have family in the area except for his wife and his PB community.”

Suzanne Wong met Kenourgios soon after his diagnosis. “When my late husband had cancer, our doctors said a positive attitude was essential to navigate the journey. Nick exuded positivity through it all. It was inspiring to witness.”
Nick Kenourgios was a source of inspiration to others on how to live a full life despite a devastating illness. He died in late November at age 62.


The Portuguese Kids is a comedy group that focuses on growing up in an ethnic household. From Fall River, Massachusetts, their show comes to (where else?) Portuguese Hall on Saturday, Feb. 11.
Dinner performance starts at 6 p.m. Cost is $40. Purchase tickets online at portuguesekids.com or contact Judy Allen at (916) 947-6695.


For only $40 a person, head over to the Elks Lodge on Saturday, Feb. 18, and enjoy a prime rib or salmon dinner. Dance to the tunes of FBI Band.

Doors open at 5 p.m. with dinner at 6. Reserve your seat by calling the Elks office at (916) 422-6666.


Volunteers are needed for two tree-planting events. One takes place at Lewis Park on Saturday, Feb. 4. The other site is Marriott Park on Saturday, Feb. 25.

Both are 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tools and snacks provided. RSVP to Devin Lavelle at parks@devinlavelle.com.


Portuguese Hall hosts a crab feed Saturday, Feb. 25. Meal includes all the salad you can eat, pasta, crab and dessert.
Doors open at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7. For tickets, contact Judy Allen at (916) 947-6695.

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