GET TO KNOW YOUR FELLOW PLAYERS!
The first bit of information he shares about himself is what he wants for his epitaph. Hmm...more on that later. “Hmm...more on that later” isn’t the epitaph. Just to avoid confusion...and that’s not it either...we’ll find it at the end.
At the moment DAVE BRASTOW busies himself learning Ukrainian in anticipation of possible refugee neighbors. He’s also preparing for a Congolese wedding at which his goddaughter, a bridesmaid, will wear a handmade dress from Africa. And the things to know for sure about the bewildered Rip Van Winkle lookalike are that he is a wanderer, a communicator, a gardener, an erstwhile adventurer, and someone people seem to like to be around. The jolly sort, don’t you know. A bridge player? Fur Shure!
He wasn’t born with a full, white beard. Nor did he sport one growing up in Ballard with parents older than most. (“I was a surprise. They had given up.”) A true-blue Ballard High School (Mascot: Bucky the Beaver; Colors: red and black) grad, Dave enjoyed summers at his parents’ second home on the Kitsap Peninsula near Indianola in the Puget Sound.
So here, in a somewhat unorganized way, is the story of Dave. He attended the University of Washington off and on, working part time in the audio visual department, a job he returned to now and then. He also mastered sailing and skiing. “UW and I parted ways for awhile,” he confesses. (Too much time in the snow and water, perhaps?) So he and a friend explored Mexico and Costa Rica for several months until his friend caught hepatitis and he found a job at a senior center doing maintenance work on people’s houses. By now hirsute, Dave worked as a crew member on a private 68-foot yacht in Canada, and later lived in Aspen until the rental prices skyrocketed. “I remember seeing two feet of snow on the ground and having the Hong Kong flu with no place to live.”
When his parents developed health problems, Dave moved back home. At some point he attended North Seattle Community College, exploring the computer programming offerings, studied at Bellevue Community College (after Aspen and another stint at UW), and spent 10 years doing fisheries research. A friend offered him a job in a 100-seat movie house showing “antique” films and serving popcorn and bon bons. He changed his share of reels and enjoyed watching “segments” of glorious movies.
A travel bug led Dave to a farm in Juanita, north of Kirkland, where he worked on horse hooves with an orthopedic farriar. In 1991 he came to The Evergreen State College and happily for him met a woman who worked at a bookstore. They shared their first date lying on their tummies across the tops of tanks where sharks skulked below during a wild lantern event at Point Defiance Zoo. They married when he was 48, and she is 22 years younger. He’s 75 now...do the math. They have two children, son Killian and daughter Wren, born in 1995 and 1999. Dave reveled in being a house husband. His main hobby now is propagating and growing plants. “It’s fun to do, to bring something up from a seed to a plant.” Inside his benched but small greenhouse, he hopes to build a secondary greenhouse to keep the plants that can’t tolerate frost.
Then there’s bridge, bridge, bridge! Dave’s mom played and allowed him to hold her bridge hand when she hosted lunches and had to go to the kitchen to retrieve sandwiches. He was 5 when he giggled through this first exposure to the game. He played a bit in college in a group that evolved into a gourmet club that seemed to do more eating than playing. Voila! Peking duck, London broil, curried shrimp. “We all got fat,” he notes.
He has always devoured bridge columns in newspapers and discovered the Tumwater club a few years ago. Lacking a mentor, Dave says he’s mostly self-taught, reads the Bridge Bulletin, listens to other players’ often contradictory advice, and hopes to improve. Sound familiar?
The guy has a knack for being at the right place at the right time...or the wrong place, etc. Sailing once, he faced a long swim in the Pacific to Japan due to a defective piece of equipment on a 30-year-old rigging. “The mast cracked and over it went!” In a storm, of course. An avid and Audubon-Society-credentialed bird watcher who also reads bird books, Dave hooked up for a day in Mexico with a knowledgeable fellow in a Volkswagen van. “It turns out he was one of the foremost bird experts in the world!” The chap was in the area to meet clients who would be paying $2,500 apiece for the pleasure of his company and education. “We saw more things in one day with him than he had ever seen in that area, and we got it for free!” Dave exclaims.
The writer promises her subject that she will send the article for him to proofread before publication. “My five cats and I will be glad to look at a rough draft,” he counters.
Wait! Wait! That epitaph: “Well, that was interesting.” Indeedy.
Probably not many bridge-playing mathematicians can say they were born in “beautiful downtown” Burbank and have an affinity for Australian shepherds.
But, hey, we’ve got one! It’s mild-mannered former computer nerd MIKE THOMPSON, the eldest of four, who grew up in the San Fernando Valley just north of Los Angeles, where his father worked for aerospace giant Lockheed Martin and Mike dabbled at college and eventually graduated from UCLA. He confesses to being “happy” with his career. “I enjoyed helping people in important scientific missions.”
His journey wound through System Development Corporation (SDC) in Santa Monica, where he worked on a project for the Air Force supporting satellites and tested computer programs on computers that were old even then. On to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where Mike discovered the secrets to software used “talk” to spacecraft encountering distant planets. A stint at SONY in Culver City found him supporting Blu-Ray discs. “I used to spend a lot of time with computers,” Mike reports. “I would build things and put computers together back in the 70s.” He even created a machine that his mother used in her business.
Can you spell “RETIREMENT?” Mike can. Sorta. He enjoys hot tubs. He doodles in the garden. He putters with light carpentry (Need a railing around a stairway?) and electronics. He has been helping remodel his home with his wife of 38 years, who prefers their white fireplace to their former brick one and disliked the dark brown and purple walls in the house they bought in 2016. Although Mike “hates” plumbing, he is rather proud of the outlet he recently designed when their new pedestal sink covered the old vent.
Mike met his wife when they both worked at SDC. Unfortunately, she married someone else and had two daughters. They became reacquainted when Mike hired her to work at his mother’s agency, which found jobs for legal secretaries. They married and produced two more daughters and now enjoy being grandparents. (Mike’s wife eventually worked at an elementary school, became a teacher there, earned a master’s degree in educational leadership, worked for eight years as a principal there, and obtained an EdD. Retirement, though, has finally rubbed off on her, too!)
Wait, wait, wait! What’s missing? Can you spell “BRIDGE?” Mike can...sorta, kinda...actually for sure! His parents played party bridge. Mike played at lunchtime with co-workers and talked his brother Pat (you may have seen him around) into learning the game. Back in their California days, “We were terrible and used to come in last in a team game with another set of brothers,” he recalls. “We did better in pairs games.” Marriage and children stalled his playing career, but Mike faithfully read the Bridge Bulletin and the Bridge World. “I knew what was going on.”
The brothers, who eventually moved to Washington, partnered up again, and Mike is now a proud bronze life master. He’s glad that smoking is no longer allowed and that players avoid making “snarky” remarks about their opponents and each other. “I just want to enjoy myself. It’s fun going to tournaments from time to time. And stratified games have made it easier to get masterpoints.”
He adds, “Bridge is a very complex game. Being a mathematician, I understand the way to create a few probabilities.”
With his California background, his family, his Australian shepherds, the mark he left in scientific missions, his new “career” in home improvement, and his success playing bridge, Mike says he’s kind of happy with it all. His life, that is.
How does a guy from Bemidji (which nobody can spell), who grew up in a family of seven kids, who is a University of Florida Gator AND a University of North Dakota Fighting Hawk (I mean, do you know anybody else in the universe who is a “Fighting Hawk?”), who lived and worked all over the world, who bowls, golfs, roots for the Vikings (now that’s a problem), has been to the Super Bowl four times, plays bridge (he'd better), is a “Ruby” kind of a guy, and oh yeah is a lawyer, so how did he end up sharing 22 grandkids with a red-haired woman who wears Mickey and Minnie shirts and laughs all the time, and hmm, did we mention that one of his sons lives in Hawaii...as in warm, tropical, breezy Hawaii, and the poor guy has to visit him there all the time?
Say hello to RUSS JOHNSON! No wonder he has to drink close to a
dozen cups of coffee a day and was once known to put back his fair
share of Jack Daniels (or was that Crown Royal?)...you’ll have to
ask him...he’s friendly.
A bona fide Air Force brat, Russ indeed calls Bemidji, Minnesota, on
Highway 2 (100 miles south of Canada) his hometown. He did some
growing up in Texas, though, as well as a long stint in South
Carolina, where, sadly, his mom died, leaving his dad to rear seven
kids ranging in age from 12 to just two months old. Russ was 11.
He remembers moving with the armed forces as being a part of life. “I never thought much
about it. I never had trouble making friends,” he recalls. Many
of his formative years were spent in the South. “I’m old enough
to have grown up in the segregated South; I lived through it.”
Russ had a sixth grade teacher who was married to a military man.
“She was really open to teaching us about segregation,” he says. She was fired the next year.
Russ graduated from the University of Florida, where he participated
in ROTC. He met his first wife and moved to North Dakota, where she
was from, for five years. “I got tired of driving a tractor,” he
jokes, explaining partly why he went to law school at the University
of North Dakota. In 1975 in his senior year he joined the Army Judge
Advocate General Corps (JAG Corps) and spent the next 20 years as a
defense counselor and a prosecutor. “The military is just a big
cross section of America in terms of the types of law,” he says.
“It’s run like a city.” He and his wife had two sons born 12
years apart and were stationed in New Jersey, Korea, Texas, Germany,
Virginia, at the Pentagon, and spent his last three years at Fort
“I enjoyed my time in the military, particularly doing court
martial work. I don’t regret a day of my 20 years but was ready to
go after 20 years,” he reports. Some retirement! Russ joined the
Labor and Industries Legal Services Department and kept busy handling
workers compensation appeals and collections. (Remember that coffee
He met Kim (she of the flaming hair, ready laugh, and
Disneyland/Disney World marathon fame) in the late 1990s, and they
were married in 2003. They saw Brad’s flyer, took his bridge classes
together, traveled to national tournaments, and are now certified
directors. Russ’s two sons have given him eight grandchildren,
while Kim’s two daughters and a son have produced 14, thus the 22
they share together. (Birthdays and Christmases must be mighty
expensive!) Let’s see, we already mentioned that unfortunate son
forced to live in Hawaii, then there are kids in Kansas, Arizona,
California, and finally even Olympia! Russ and Kim have “done”
Europe as some travelers say…as well as other unique spots around
But there’s still that bone to pick. Sure, Russ started playing
bridge in college in the dorms. Sure he played through law school.
Sure he played social bridge in the service. But he has been a
die-hard Vikings (?????) fan since they started in the early 60s.
(Shouldn’t Bemidji be in his rear view mirror now that Mount
Rainier and the often-hard-to-root-for Seahawks are staring at him?)
And about that BOWLING. I mean TWO nights a week??? Sure, he says,
“Bowling is the perfect sport because it’s indoors and there’s
a bar right there.” Ha. Ha. But the REAL BUGABOO has probably
got to be that golf stuff. Three times a week in the summer???
That’s three times a week away from the bridge table! FRIENDS OF
RUSS JOHNSON, UNITE! EMAIL HIM IMMEDIATELY TO TELL HIM TO STOP ALL
HIS GOLF STUFF! HERE’S HIS EMAIL ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As every well-trained Fighting Hawk of a Jag Corps lawyer likely would say, I rest my case. (-Vicki Hamende, April 2022)
Meet GARY GRIESMEYER: a de facto actuary, a Frenchman wannabe, a burgeoning wordsmith, an instinctive naturopath, an almost math teacher, a gent of conversation, and, when pandemics don’t interfere, an aficionado of karaoke and, of course, bridge. Ah, where to begin.
The youngest of six, Gary has spent all but a smidgen of his life in the Puget Sound area. A lover of languages who wanted to become an interpreter, he spent an eye-opening summer after his second year of college in Europe struggling to improve his French. It seems the Europeans he had to compete with “spoke their third language better at 15 than I spoke my second language at 20.” Time, he thought, to pursue a new career.
Ever the individual, Gary decided to be a math teacher, but on his first day at Central Washington University he changed his major to math with a specialization in statistics and probabilities. Translation: actuarial science. His family had never heard of the profession. At that time who knew that one could analyze the costs of risk and uncertainty to navigate finances?
For many years Gary has been employed by the state’s Department of Labor and Industries in a calling that has served him well. He nevertheless looks forward to retirement in 2022 and visiting his son and two granddaughters in New Jersey as well as another daughter in the Seattle area. Having tackled a hard-knock life as a single parent for 16 years, Gary says he might now “swing by” France again. He has just stepped down from membership on the Unit 441 Board of Directors.
His writing MO leans toward controversial subjects. (“I have to be careful sometimes,” he confesses.) He prefers discussions with nonjudgmental people over debates with the narrow-minded. “I’m not out to prove I’m right,” he says, preferring a spirited "give and take" for the sole purpose of learning.
The pandemic interrupted two of his favorite pastimes – bridge and karaoke. He grew up playing Goren with his parents, dabbled some in Jacoby after high school, and then forgot about the game during his busiest years. Back at it since 2012, Gary has studied, competed in tournaments, and become “officially hooked.” As for karaoke, he simply likes to sing and fondly remembers vocalizing Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight” for his parents on their 65th wedding anniversary. Other favorites he enjoys performing include “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx and Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”
Gary hopes that “what Covid did” to two of his best-loved interests won’t happen again. “I’m just trying to get back to living a normal life, if there’s such a thing.”
(-Vicki Hamende, January 2022)
“What you see is what you get!” HELEN BANNER declares. What you “see” is a petite, white-haired woman with a pixie cut and a broad smile. What you “get” is a ball of energy who spent her career helping others and is now happy to be playing bridge.
A Medford, Massachusetts, girl, Helen is the oldest of four sisters (three surviving). She graduated from nursing school in Cambridge. Then, the person who “always had trouble” following rules, joined the Army – the strict Army, that is. “I thought I would get to travel,” she says. And travel Helen
did – to Georgia, California, Texas, and then to Germany, South Korea, and in 1967, Vietnam. “I’m not THAT old,” she laughs when asked if she was in a typical MASH unit. A critical care nurse, she did practice in Quonset huts pitched on cement. “I ran pre-op and recovery. We stabilized and took care of patients until they went into surgery and then took care of them again afterwards.” How did she fare with the rules during her 10 years as a military nurse? “As medical people we didn’t have to do a lot of the military stuff. I didn’t like saluting, though,” she notes. As for being an Army nurse? “I actually enjoyed it. I saw really good medicine being practiced. I learned so much.”
Back in Massachusetts, Helen met her husband Brant, a dentist in the Army. She got out of military service then so that they could get married and wouldn’t have to be separated. They eventually settled in Olympia, Brant’s hometown, where he wanted to set up a dental practice. Helen continued her critical care work and also taught nursing students from South Puget Sound Community College. “I took care of people who were very, very ill and also tried to support them emotionally. Actually, ‘family’ becomes the patient when people are that sick,” she says. Now 77, Helen retired 10 years ago. Her husband still works in his office one day a week. They enjoy their young grandsons Hudson and Maddox, who live with their son Lael, a dentist in Seattle, and his wife Heather. Son Logan in Texas and his fiancee Rachel will be married in June. Also a dentist, Logan and his future wife are both currently doing residencies in Louisiana in maxillofacial surgery.
One of the highlights of Helen’s retirement has been her discovery and love of bridge. She saw a notice in the paper about the game, took Brad Kalweit’s lessons at the church, and has also been learning from Maureen Greeley. “I feel really fortunate to have found bridge. I enjoy it immensely...and the people and the teachers.” A former member of the unit board of directors, Helen plays every chance she can, sometimes twice a day. (She wishes she could convince her husband to learn the game.) She plays tennis three times a week, tries to walk every day, and loves to read. Travel mostly revolves around family, particularly trips back to Massachusetts to see her twin sisters. She and her husband are “animal people,” at one time having seven dogs and five cats as pets.
People remember the time she hilariously dressed up as a sheep and Brant accompanied her as Little Bo Peep at a New Year’s Eve party. If “what you see is what you get” with Helen Banner, better keep watching...
(-Vicki Hamende, March 2020)
PAT THOMPSON undoubtedly wins the “age” prize in the unit. Oh no, he’s not the oldest member, but would you believe he learned to play bridge when he was just a wee lad of 5? “My dad used to lay out bridge hands, and being the nosy little sh(..) I was, I asked questions and got involved. Then I was the ‘fourth’ in our family game.” Pat didn’t join the ACBL until the late 1970s, and when his older brother Mike moved to Washington, they were able to play together again and debuted at the Olympia Bridge Club in 2018. Their stars are rising! They won their section at a Los Angeles regional tournament in 2005 and also qualified in 2019 for the North American Pairs President’s Cup, earning a free trip to Memphis to compete in the national championships.
An L.A. guy, Pat (actually Paul Anthony Thompson) graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1979 with a degree in geography. Geography? “I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and in community college my best prof taught it,” he notes. Mike pushed him to take a programming class at UCSB. “I fell in love with it!” Then, of course, he became a computer operator for Systems Development Corporation in Santa Monica and later a Programmer/Systems Analyst. He also worked for TRW and Northrop Grumman Corporation in California, retiring in 2011. His wife Lee Ann wanted to be somewhere “green.” As a compromise between his home state and hers (New York), they moved to Washington, now living on five acres in Chehalis with their three Australian Shepherds. Their children Vanessa, Laura, and Jeff are spread out in Virginia, New York, and California, and son John lives in Washington.
One of the owners of a coffee shop in Chehalis asked Pat if he wanted to participate in the 2011 “NaNoWriMo” (National Novel Writing Month), during which people would write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November. “Lee Ann was the writer, but I told her if she did it, so would I.” They joined the Lewis County Writers Guild, and Pat took classes and attended critiques.” He is now the president of the guild, which sponsors the Southwest Washington Writers Conference at Centralia College in September every year. A budding novelist, Pat’s first book (Dog Tags) was about a wounded and damaged veteran and the dog that saves him. He’s currently writing a time-travel alternate-history story about changing the result of the Civil War and people’s moral decisions. “It has a deaf dog in it.” Hmm...an Australian Shepherd, perhaps? Pat and his wife participated in the Kauai Writer’s Retreat in Hawaii this winter. Other than traveling to bridge tournaments, UCLA’s away football games, and to England with his mom in the ‘70s, the geography major prefers to stay home. His future? More bridge, more writing, and perhaps more dogs. (-Nan Hittmeier and Vicki Hamende, February 2020)
Of course now he wants a red car. Who wouldn’t? His zippy 2012 Porsche Boxster S is black, in fact number 625 of 987 limited Black Editions. He just had his formerly white 2008 Audi S6 zoomer covered in a polyvinyl wrap in a color known as “brushed steel.” Of course he owns a black truck. Who doesn’t? Look fast if BILL JULIUS zips by because he is known to drive, well, you know. His idea of a perfect day is competing in skill events on a touring race track. That or attending a Dixieland jazz festival. When Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer” became popular, Bill realized he enjoyed that style of music, and his calendar brimmed with events up and down the coast. Now he finds the bands and audiences “aging out” and being replaced by more eclectic offerings appealing to a wider set. Still a “purist” though, Bill loves ragtime, boogie-woogie, stride piano, and the like.
Sans musical aspirations of his own, Bill thought he might teach social studies at the high school level. Born in Massachusetts, freezing in Minnesota, and ending up in Pullman by 8th grade, he grew up the son of a pastor. Educated first at WSU and then at Oberlin College in Ohio, Bill detoured for two years in the Army in Germany (where he met his first Porsche), came home to discover that urban planning was in vogue, and picked up another degree at UW. (“I have overcome it very well,” he deadpans of his time in Husky land.) His first job was with the highways department in Madison, Wisconsin. In search of more “urban planning” experience, he found a position in San Jose and met his wife-to-be, who was completing her own urban planning studies at Berkeley. The newlyweds were hired to do planning for the U.S. Trust Territories of the Pacific, starting out in Saipan, just north of Guam. “Unfortunately, the work was way different from either of our skill sets,” he confesses, and the Juliuses shortly found themselves with return tickets. They traveled back to the states by way of the Pacific Rim – Manila, Bangkok, Taipei, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Anchorage.
Still along the Pacific but without the pristine waters and beaches of Saipan, Olympia beckoned next. Bill’s wife settled in with the state planning office, and Bill began a 30-year career in charge of the capital budgets for Washington’s community college system. He particularly enjoyed the “middle-man” role between the colleges, their staffs, the governor’s budget office, and the legislature, which controlled the money. He kept the colleges apprised of the requirements “made on the hill” and shared the schools’ biennial budget requests with the lawmakers. “I was lucky enough to work with my counterparts in the four-year schools,” he noted. “All that was good.” He enjoyed traveling to campuses as well, developing project-priority and space inventory systems.
Sadly, Bill’s wife died when their two children were young, and he added “single dad” to his resume. His son is now a community college administrator near San Diego, and his daughter is a Lakewood PD homicide detective who lives in Olympia. Bill has four grandchildren (and also a step-grandson who hopes to caddy in the unit’s next tournament). Introduced to bridge by his college house mother, Bill and his wife played together, enjoying occasional duplicate events at the Dudleys. When Bill retired, he took Brad’s classes and jumped into his next “aging-out” interest. He keeps up with his house and yard and can be spotted kayaking in Puget Sound and around the lake near where he lives. If you’re nice to him he just might share his recipe for homemade coconut-enhanced and honey-sweetened granola, with the caveat that it takes “all day” to cook and requires a “huge” turkey roasting pan and faithful stirring at half-hour intervals. Not to worry, though. After its process of “aging,” the granola promises to be worth the effort.
(-Vicki Hamende, January 2020)
If you think she’s a brat, you’re correct. An Air Force brat, that is. VICKI HAMENDE lived in Japan as a toddler (Her first memory of life is a lime green couch in Tokyo...) and England as a teen (She still loves fish and chips and malt vinegar…). She was born in the Chicago area and lived in several Midwest states before moving to Washington the first time. “I lived here 25 years in my initial stretch, spent another 19 years in Wyoming and Colorado, and came back to the Evergreen state three years ago.” Her “stable” son, who is 42, lives in Olympia with his wife, Vicki’s 5-year-old granddaughter, and her 2 1/2-year-old grandtwins, a boy and girl. Her other son, who is 41 and “still trying to figure out what to do when he grows up,” lives in the unpopulated wilds of Wyoming with his wife and their four kids, who range in age from 9 to 17. “Who knew I’d be lucky enough to have seven grandchildren!”
Vicki earned an undergraduate degree plus two master’s degrees, all in communications, news writing, editing, and education, from the University of Illinois. She wrote for and edited newspapers and magazines in different places and won several state and national awards. “Writing was my thing!” she reports. She particularly enjoyed traveling to interview people and write descriptions of their lives and how they manage the “highs and lows.” She also taught English and creative writing at the high school and college levels, including stints at Capital High School and Colorado State University. “I experienced the perfect career for me, and I loved it!”
An unwelcome, early retirement came when Vicki was diagnosed 15 years ago with a rare and genetic form of muscular dystrophy that is steadily weakening her legs and arms, causing her eyelids to droop, and making it difficult for her to swallow. It’s called Oculopharyngeal Muscular Dystrophy, or OPMD. (Her mother, grandmother, and an uncle also suffered from it.) She’s getting fitted soon for a motorized wheelchair. (“Watch out, Steve!”) The disease nixed her love of hiking, biking, tap dancing, and especially singing. Vicki had entertained her family and friends from the time she was a young girl and later sang in college, at weddings, and at many special events. Still a sports nut, though, the Seahawks, Huskies, and Mariners keep her entertained.
Her parents taught Vicki and her sister to play bridge when the girls were 10 and 12. (“One would think I’d be a better player after all these years!” she laments.) When their parents were occupied, the sisters played with their imaginary partners “Midge” and “Mabel.” They also enjoyed “Honeymoon Bridge,” a game for two. Her mom, she says, was an excellent player and “deadly” serious about the game. “Daddy, on the other hand, played by the seat of his pants but always seemed to knock out the opponents!” Vicki made contact with Brad even before she moved back to Olympia in 2016. She is now a member of the unit board and currently serves as the secretary. She loves writing “Player Profiles,” maintaining the unit website, sending emails to inform players of upcoming events, organizing the minutes of the board meetings, and taking pictures at the games. Vicki is “devoted” to bridge and known for constantly “bugging” fellow players to make sure they’re not going to miss a club game or unit event. “No one has thrown a bidding box at me yet, so I guess I can keep at it!”
(-Vicki Hamende, December 2019)
Unit Board member NAN HITTMEIER first tried duplicate, oddly enough, on an African safari in 2004 when her travel mates needed a fourth. Years later she took lessons from Brad Kalweit and became the Olympia Club’s first 500-point Life Master in 2016.
Nan grew up in Houston, Texas, but was “kicked out of the state” because she didn’t like barbecue or football! She has a B.A. degree in Math and a Master’s degree in International Health. In 1978, Nan met her husband of 40 years, Ken, at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. She has worn many hats: FBI Special Agent, 3 years; FBI and U.S. State Department Investigator, 10 years; high school math teacher, 10 years; and international and domestic tour manager, 7 years. But her favorite “job” has always been Mom: daughter Katie, a mental health therapist, lives in Portland, Oregon, with son-in-law Abe and Nan’s two grandkids, Ava and Jackson; and son Kyle, an artist and professor, resides in Brooklyn, New York, with wife Amanda, also an artist.
In addition to bridge, Nan enjoys hiking, painting, travel, knitting, puzzles, tutoring, chess (she was Texas Women’s Chess Champ in 1976) and volunteering. During 2010-2011, she served in the Dominican Republic as a U.S. Peace Corps health volunteer, a bucket list dream fulfilled.
(-Nan Hittmeier, December 2019)
While he might object to being called icon or even bridge guru, BRAD KALWEIT epitomizes those descriptors. Through instructing countless students on various duplicate levels, Brad has managed to inspire, encourage, entertain, and motivate them all, while cleverly avoiding the national recognition many students feel he has richly deserved.
The past year or so has brought profound changes in Brad’s life, beginning with the loss of beloved wife Sheila Smith on October 22, 2018. A bicycle memorial that encourages traffic safety stands at the intersection of Capitol Boulevard SE and Linwood Avenue SW in her honor. Then in January 2019, Brad relinquished ownership of the Olympia Bridge Club, his since 2001, and now states he likes the changes being made since the sale.
Born in Denver in 1948, Brad finished high school in Boulder, Colorado, in 1966. He then took an interesting seven-year hiatus away from studies by living in a one-room cabin in the mountains west of Boulder with seven friends, because he felt “attached to the dirt” and wanted to test his survival skills. During this time, he admittedly failed in two quests, however: He never found a place without humans, and he never caught a squirrel! Back in academia, Brad graduated Summa Cum Laude from U.C. Berkeley in 1976 with a B.A. degree in rhetoric, followed by a Cum Laude M.A. degree, also from Berkeley. The bickering and fighting among the university faculty dissuaded Brad from an intended professorship career and led to his move to Las Vegas in 1978, where he was hired to be a part of a potentially lucrative blackjack team. Members were given $10,000 a day and directed to various casinos to play, but the bookkeeping and dreams of wealth failed to materialize.
Then Brad assumed various sales positions, including one as an assistant sales manager for solar hot water heaters and another as a life insurance agent in Phoenix. There he met and married his first wife Emily in 1984. He also first tried duplicate in Phoenix and began a self-study of the game, but advises that his then partner told Brad his bidding was so bad, “He wanted to punch my eyes out!” Following a vacation in the San Juan Islands, Brad decided he liked the feel of our state “with all the trees” and moved to Olympia in 1993, coming to the Olympia Bridge Club with just one master point! Daughter Shauntey, born in 1997, currently lives in Seattle.
Brad marvels at what a great social leveler duplicate bridge is. And he is tremendously appreciative of both the “fantastic people and the personal experiences” he has encountered through his love of the game, as both a player and as an instructor. This sentiment and Brad’s bridge expertise are assuredly appreciated by so many in our Unit 441 community! (-Nan Hittmeier, November 2019)
Just a green thumber? Nah. CARLA DELDUCCO is a green machine! Drive by her garden and your car will automatically stop as you marvel at her yardful of plentiful, colorful, magnificent flowers. Peonies are her favorite, and she’s partial to fall colors, especially “bright flaming red.” Who’s the woman taking cuttings nationally and internationally wherever she goes? It’s Carla! Born and raised in Olympia, she worked in her family’s greenhouse business starting in fourth grade. And worked, and worked, and worked, along with her parents and three siblings. Their greenhouse cat, featured once in a Daily Olympian article, entertained everyone. Carla became a Master Gardener in 2000 and a Master Composter a year later. “I like the soil and the organisms in it,” she says. Now an “emeritus,” Carla still plants all year long for the Master Gardeners’ annual sale.
Can it be that Carla actually started her career with a degree in fashion design from a school in Long Beach, California? “I did nothing with it,” she says, and ended up being employed in accounting and budgeting agencies for the state while still working weekends in the family greenhouse. “I didn’t like school, and I wasn’t a good student,” she confesses. “Then I never really liked my job. I should have been in the nursery business.”
Married and then divorced, Carla doesn’t have children but is “mom” to two cats and close to a niece and nephew. “I am a very special aunt,” she laughs. She and her family always played cards together, and her parents also played bridge. Her brother Stan learned to play in college and wanted her to learn, too. She took lessons from Brad Kalweit, dropped out because of her busy schedule, but eventually joined the class again. “Then it grabbed me!” she says. “Bridge is so important now that it has taken over. I’m hooked!” She also reads, knits, sews, and has enjoyed 25+ trips throughout the world with Master Gardener friends. Meanwhile, Carla reluctantly reveals that she compulsively pulls weeds “wherever I see them,” including in foreign countries. “I am obsessed!” Got any of those pests in your garden? Call Carla. (-Vicki Hamende, November 2019)
It’s perhaps somewhat unsettling to hear someone with a doctorate degree in mathematics say he doesn’t always see the need for so many fancy, complicated conventions in duplicate. But, ROY OLSON’s feelings are apropos to bridge's complexity. Over the years, Roy has casually played bridge in social situations - with college friends, at family get-togethers, etc. - but he didn’t begin duplicate until friend Bill White brought him into the Olympia Bridge Club about five years ago. Roy then commenced Easy Bridge lessons with Brad Kalweit on Saturdays.
Roy lived his first ten years in San Francisco but is a graduate of Analy High School in Sebastopol, California. After obtaining his B.A. in math from Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California, he then earned an M.S. from the University of Idaho, followed by his Ph.D. from the University of Washington in Seattle. Then ensued several years of teaching on the college level, including three years in Washington, two years in Hawaii, and two years at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. After realizing “They weren’t buying what I was selling,” Roy underwent a career change and became an actuary. Taking a position with the Washington State Insurance Commissioner in 1988, Roy retired after 23 years there in 2011.
Besides duplicate, Roy says he has “dabbled in various things,” although he admits to having had an “attitude adjustment” in life. Not as competitive as in his younger years, Roy enjoys a variety of interests, including being a member of Toastmasters, where he has reached the Competent Communicator level in presentations. He is also a former Mountaineers member and enjoys cooking and canning. His most recent interest is genealogy. Here Roy has uncovered many “surprises and mysteries” that have exceeded his expectations, including two apparently risqué grannies in his family! (-Nan Hittmeier, October 2019)
Not much in STEVE HOSCH's life has “stopped the bridge play,” as he puts it. Sure, he builds things, boats on Black Lake where he lives, enjoys woodworking, zooms around on his motorcycle, and is starting a large raised garden project. He travels in his motor home throughout Idaho, Colorado, Montana, Utah, and other bucket-list states, often in the company of his big sis, who lives in Spokane. For many years he owned a second home in Las Vegas. “A whim” drew him there. “Of course I have a dog,” he announces. Although he doesn’t “have the lip” for playing the trombone anymore, Steve admits to possessing some singing chops. He played the lead in “Guys and Dolls” in school and also served as a drum major. The son of a University of Idaho band leader who later opened a music store, Steve grew up in Spokane. He “credits” bridge with pushing him to the brink of flunking out of WSU. “I was on the dean’s list freshman year, and sophomore year I played bridge.” He adds, though, “I was serious about what I did when I did it.” That eventually included hitting the books harder, which propelled him to law school at the University of Idaho.
Steve worked summers in Olympia, one year doing 18-year-old voter
registration and another year managing a walkathon for the Washington
Association for Retarded Children (WARC). Steve’s career as a
lawyer landed him in the attorney general’s office from 1973-1980
and brought him to Olympia permanently. “I was kind of political,”
Steve says. He became Assistant to the Secretary of DSHS for Policy
Development and handled that office’s legal and legislative affairs
from 1980-1984. He spent the next 20 years in private practice,
taking care of “what came through the door.” Steve has served as
chairman of the board and has been active on the boards of
Morningside for 20 of his years here and South Sound Mental Health
another 10. Now retired and 72, Steve has accumulated more than
11,000 masterpoints, the majority of it gold, and way
more than most bridge players, not to mention anyone else in the
unit. Playing cards in the union building in college and running off
to bridge tournaments did pay off. He and his former wife won
the open pairs contest in the first sectional they ever played in. In
Seattle they were drafted for the life masters pairs even though they
weren’t life masters yet. “We won that, too.” The couple came
in first place the first nine times they played in the Dudley’s
club in Olympia. A Harvard grad and Seattle stockbroker nicknamed
“The Padre” served as Steve’s mentor for many years. For the
past 20 years, Steve has been playing with a particular partner in
tournaments. “I might be ‘The Padre’ for him,” he notes.
If the measure of a man is the way he bears up under misfortune, Steve stands tall. Fifty-two years ago when he was 20 he rolled and flipped his ‘57 T-Bird, leaving him with a broken back involving four vertebrae and paralyzed from the waist down. “It didn’t hold me back, it sped me up!” he recalls. His buddies brought him bridge books to read in the hospital. Despite six weeks there as well as time in rehab, he was back in college the next semester. Living proof that “Necessity is the Mother of Invention,” Steve designed his own house to fit his personal needs. “I’m happy when the capitalists come out with something I have developed already,” he laughs. “I’ve certainly put a lot of stuff together.” The mid-90s paraded some challenges around Steve. “All of a sudden, some things just fell apart,” he says. His lower back broke at the sacrum (S1) in 1991. Surgery repaired that but another vertebrae in the middle of it all wasn’t fused. That vertebrae started to deteriorate, causing pain that was misdiagnosed because he had no normal feeling in that spot due to the higher paralysis. With continued misdiagnosis, he lost two inches of his height over several years and a whole vertebrae disappeared. Basically “unhooked” in his lower back, he underwent surgeries in 1997, 1999, and 2001 to put it together again. Steve is now “regenerated” thanks to two inches of a donated tibia bone replacing that vertebrae, two titanium and two stainless steel rods, and a whole bunch of bone slurry and screws. With two levels of paralysis “You lose more basic functions that you had before like reflexes that worked below the first paralysis,” he explains. A couple years ago Steve suffered heart blockage, had triple bypass surgery, and underwent another more agonizing surgery after that. “They’re not really prepared to deal with a paraplegic when the patient is not supposed to lift more than 5 pounds,” he notes. In the midst of it all, he won the coveted Kirkwood Trophy in 2001 and 2004 for earning the most masterpoints at District 19 regionals in those years. Steve gradually healed, and lives his life, and endures the pain, and plays cards. He dislikes it when people “growl” at their partners “when they have absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.” Steve’s best bridge advice is that when you and your partner are playing against a very good player, “just do right with what you know.” The “game,” he adds, “is won by not making mistakes.” (-Vicki Hamende, September 2019)
he spent several years working underwater, JIM LEIREN didn’t mind
trading in his sea legs for the nuclear power industry. He anchored
there until that enterprise started to take a dive. Playing bridge,
family fun, and traveling to learn more about his Norwegian roots
float his boat now. Born in Seattle and moving around because of his
dad’s job with the Corps of Engineers, Jim ended up spending most
of his formative years in Spokane. He recently attended his 50th
high school reunion there, and he keeps in touch with two close
friends he met in seventh grade. After community college, Jim joined
the Navy to learn more about its nuclear power operations. From his
home base in Connecticut, he spent five and a half years on the crew
of a submarine, traveling back and forth from Scotland in deployments
of 3 ½ months each. He got married just a month and a half before
sailing for the first time and later missed the first 3 ½ months of
his oldest son’s life. His second son was born after he
transferred to a shipyard in Newport News, Virginia. “I spent long
hours in the Navy,” Jim says. “I was basically a paid slave!”
Finally a civilian, Jim and his family returned to Washington, where he first worked at Energy Northwest in Richland. At that time “the public was not in favor of nuclear power,” Jim reports. Nevertheless, he went on to work with Charlie Butros at the Satsop Nuclear Power Plant west of the mountains. There he enjoyed 40-hour work weeks and time to be with his family and his sons as they were growing up. Alas, as his oldest son finished his senior year of high school, duty called Jim to the Columbia Generating Station, now the only one in the Northwest, located in the Tri-Cities area. Jim retired in 2013 after 32 years of working in the nuclear power plant industry. Just a couple years later, Jim and his wife moved to Olympia. His bridge-playing mom, who has since passed away, lived here several years earlier. “I still run into friends my mom played with,” he says. Jim and his wife took bridge lessons from Bob and Phyllis Rakevich and enjoyed playing with Jim Remy’s son Dan and Dan’s wife. Jim jumped into duplicate bridge and paired up with Alice Arnold a couple of years ago. They enjoyed a tournament in Leavenworth and are planning a trip to the Seaside regional in the fall. The two also play together in unit games and at Fircrest events. “I need more playing, more repetition so that I don’t get the conventions mixed up,” Jim says. “I feel fatigue when I don’t play enough!” he jokes.
Jim’s two sons live in Lacey, and he has 12 and 8-year-old granddaughters who keep the family busy with soccer games and dance recitals. Looking very much like the one-quarter Norwegian that he is, Jim spent three weeks touring Norway with his wife earlier this year. They enjoyed the first eight days visiting his father’s cousins on the island of Tustna. One of them lives in the house where Jim’s grandfather was born. The rest of the trip was conducted by the Road Scholar program, and the Leirens enjoyed learning more about the country from the experts on board. He admits that the beauty of Norway tugged at him so much that he wasn’t quite ready to come back to the Northwest. He communicates with the cousins who speak English and hopes to return to visit them again some day. Jim and his wife also hope to travel more. They recently enjoyed an anniversary trip to Cancun. Quite athletic when he was younger, Jim found that golf in retirement was more difficult that he had anticipated. He turned his attention to brewing his own beers. Unfortunately, he lost his sense of smell and wasn’t able to follow through with becoming a beer judge. “You tend to start liking spicier foods since most of tasting is smelling,” Jim says. Hmm...Something to keep in mind if he ever becomes a sailor subsisting on military fare again! (-Vicki Hamende, August 2019)
Some unit members call her Henrietta, but friends
and other members know her simply as “Hank.” “I introduce
myself as both!” Henrietta advises. Like many others, Hank Moore learned
duplicate in college but had a more than 20-year break away from the
game. She resumed playing when she took fall bridge classes
with Fred Hosea through the Olympia YMCA and complemented those
classes through Brad Kalweit’s in 2007. She calls the game
both interesting and challenging, finding defense and play of the
hand as the most personally difficult aspects.
Born in Brunswick, Georgia, Henrietta earned a B.S. from the University of Alabama, now Tuskegee University. She opted for a four-year college versus nursing school to have a “full college experience.” After graduation, Henrietta worked as a neurosurgical nurse at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, for one year. She then, through a federal government teaching program, became a school nurse in Mannheim, Germany, where she also met her husband of 43 years, Bill, at the Army Officer’s Club. During this employment, Henrietta earned her M.Ed. in counseling. In January, 1976, Hank and Bill transferred to Ft. Lewis and then moved to Olympia in 1980. After working at Group Health, now Kaiser Permanente, from 1981 to 2006 as a mental health therapist, Henrietta continued there part time as an independent contractor because she had a “good niche” that the company needed. Daughter Kimberly, born in July 1979, is currently stationed in Qatar in the U.S. Army reserves.
Henrietta is a “real tennis fan” and player at The Valley Athletic Club. She’s also into gardening, reading (she’s a member of two book clubs), live theater, and musicals. She is a current unit board member, having served six-plus years, and has served many years as membership chairperson for Olympia’s annual sectional tournament.
(-Nan Hittmeier, July 2019)
Rountree is one tough lady. She admits it. How else could she have
survived winters in Duluth, Minnesota, moving back and forth from
California to Washington, prodding her sons to help them figure out
what they knew they should know, and becoming a widow just when the
lazier days of retirement kicked in. Good thing she had watched
those guys playing bridge at lunchtime! Duluth, Arleen says bluntly,
is “the pits of the world. It’s COLD. It snows on the Fourth of
July!” Happily for Arleen, her dad relocated the family to San
Bernadino, California, where she finished high school, gave college a
try, and settled comfortably into using her organizational skills as
a secretary and statistical typist. She and her beloved husband
Frank met while working for the same title company. When first son
Steve was 2, Frank’s company transferred him to Washington for the
first time. Arleen was already pregnant with second son Mike when
they moved. A working mom, she secured a job at a division of
Weyerhaeuser, the kids enjoyed being busy in school, and then the
call came to transfer back to San Bernadino. “It was the hardest
move I ever made,” Arlene remembers.
Everyone reacclimated, though. Steve, who had been a soccer star in Bellevue, arrived just as the California high school started a soccer team. He became the school’s first letterman in the sport. Mike followed his 27-month-older big brother and excelled as the first four-year letterman in soccer. Frank loved helping with soccer and also coached the boys in Little League. “We were very involved in soccer and baseball,” Arleen says. “It was a fun time.” When Mike graduated from high school, Steve was already married, he and his wife were expecting their first child, and Frank’s company tapped him to come back and manage the Seattle office. Tough love Arleen outlined options for her sons as they struggled a bit while transitioning into adulthood and parenthood. Somehow everyone ended up living with Frank and Arleen in Washington for awhile. Her “our house, our rules” mantra could be a bitter pill at times, but her sons are “super dads,” one living in Kennewick and the other in Kent. The proud grandma nods to her three grown grandchildren and her two young great-granddaughters. No Frank, though, who died suddenly 15 years ago. “It was a good life, a good marriage,” she says, adding, “I wasn’t doing it again though!”
In addition to keeping busy with their sons, Frank and Arleen bowled, golfed (“I’m pathetic!”) and also cruised from Australia to Mexico to the Caribbean to Alaska and to the Panama Canal. She still loves to travel and feels fortunate to have friends to visit. Arleen’s parents as well as Frank played bridge, but she left them all behind when she caught the competitive bug. Now a silver life master, she and Jim Remy have been partners for 8-9 years. “He helped me get my life master in a Seaside team game,” Arleen notes. She vividly recalls the hand that sealed it. She was playing a slam and leading a club to the A-Q in her hand. “I laid down my ace, and the stiff king dropped!” Arleen feels blessed “to just be alive” at 80. “I didn’t even know my great-grandparents names,” she says. Her sons delight in telling her all the things they got away with growing up. “I don’t want to hear. I want to remember my children as being perfect!” (-Vicki Hamende, July 2019)
a piano rock star, having also played with jazz and country
ensembles. He frequently plays as a soloist for receptions,
weddings, piano bars,
and easy-listening events. He even sometimes wails out on an
alto saxophone with the
Aberdeen-based “Dukes of Swing.” While on the staff of the
Johansen School of Ballet for 30+ years, Jerry Wagner played for
ballet classes, and he is a former pianist and board
member for Ballet Northwest. Other occasional touring performances
for Jerry are with the Dance
Theater of Harlem, the
Mark Morris Dance
Group, and the Paul
Taylor Dance Company. For more
than 10 years on the
third Saturday in May, Jerry has given an annual concert at the
Lutheran Church of the Good Shepard, attended by many Unit 441
A native Olympian, Jerry is a Shelton High School graduate and a 1972 music graduate of St. Martin’s College. He's also a retired techie for the state. With “domestic associate” Dana Fassett, Jerry shares a large family of three non-biological daughters, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. While not enjoying family time or bridging, you might find him hunting, fishing, or cooking.
A Silver Life Master, Jerry has been an ACBL member since 1967. He learned bridge in college but then spent more than 20 years away from the game. He served as Unit 441 Secretary for nine years and tournament chairman for six. In his early bridge years, he regularly partnered with mentor Annie Bean, wife of former ACBL President Percy Bean. His favorite aspect of bridge? “The people!” His main dislike? “Slow play!”
(-Nan Hittmeier, June 2019)
it. Ask Charlie Butros what his life has been like. HE says he has
led a “relatively dull” one. Nuh uh! Although he was born in
New Jersey, he grew up and graduated from college in Beirut. That’s
in LEBANON. He can speak Arabic. He was in the Middle East during
the 1967 six-day war between Israel and the Arab states of Egypt,
Jordan, and Syria. He missed the last two weeks of high school (and
his finals) because of it. “Dull,” indeed! Charlie’s father
taught biology at the American University of Beirut, the family lived
in a spacious apartment in the city, and Charlie attended the
American Community School with the children of diplomats, professors,
and business people from throughout the Middle East, Africa, parts of
eastern Europe, and Asia. Every six years, the university offered
its professors an 18-month sabbatical to further their education or
conduct research. Charlie’s dad usually connected with a bio
medical team at Cal Tech in Pasadena, and these regular forays whet
Charlie’s appetite for planning a career involving mechanical
engineering and power plant construction in the states.
After starting in California and then living and working in the “hot” part of Arizona, Charlie and his wife visited a friend in Washington, discovered cool, rainy Olympia, and were smitten. In 1978 Charlie began working for the Washington Public Power Supply System in Satsop. He went on to work for an Internet security company and at Mason County Public Works. He and his wife and their two sons moved to a home built for them in Kamilche in 2002, and Charlie retired in 2012. “I enjoyed my working career, but I’m glad I’m retired,” he reports. Ah, yes, time for bridge! He played some in high school, with a group in Arizona, during lunch breaks while he was working in Satsop, and with a group in West Olympia. After a hiatus to raise their sons, Charlie and his wife played at the senior center, where someone suggested they contact Brad Kalweit. Although Charlie’s wife didn’t enjoy competitive bridge, he plunged ahead with lessons and started playing every chance he could.
Charlie also golfs now and then with his sons and enjoys doting on his 2 1/2-year-old grandson. He and his wife are looking forward to a fall cruise to the Baltic and Scandinavian countries and then plan to limit their travel to the United States. His 95-year-old mom and his sister live in San Diego. Charlie visited his old haunts in Beirut on a trip back to Lebanon many years ago. The principal of the high school he attended treated him to a tour. Charlie still remembers the foods he grew up eating while living in Lebanon. At home in Washington, he still makes a mean plate of stuffed grape leaves. Not dull at all! (-Vicki Hamende, May 2019)
After taking bridge lessons in high school, JUDY DUNING played some duplicate in college with “much better players.” She remembers one of her partners chiding her for making “Mistake Number 249!” Judy played a bit of bridge after she graduated, again with what she described as good players, one of whom “gave her a card table and chairs so they didn’t have to sit on the floor at her house.” Then life happened and bridge disappeared for her for some 40 years until she met Nan Hittmeier at pickleball in 2011, found out about Brad Kalweit’s classes, and started playing on Monday nights. Judy noted that all the rules had changed during her long hiatus. “I felt like I was learning to play the game all over again!”
She enjoys spending time with her non-bridge-playing husband Carl, his two children, and four active basketball and baseball-playing grandchildren (aged 5 to 15), who all live in the area. Skilled marksmen, Judy and Carl compete in small bore and high power rifle “silhouette” shooting contests and have won their share of awards. Other pastimes include international travel, roaming across North America in their van, and somehow squeezing in golf and hiking. Judy still hangs out at The Valley Athletic Club for its classes and pickleball courts.
Before retiring, Judy worked in sales and sales management, focusing on enterprise software and hardware for companies such as Oracle, Dell EMC, PeopleSoft, and IBM, witnessing technology changes galore. When she started selling computers in 1972, they filled an 8 by 10 room, had just 4MB of storage, lacked screens, and processed in slow batches. It seems that both technology and bridge have changed a lot since Judy was introduced to them. “Hopefully the learning required to stay current will help us all stay a little younger!” Judy adds.
(-Nan Hittmeier, May 2019)
DEMETER MANNING is a born-and-raised New York City girl. A Brooklyn Dodgers booing at the Yankees kind of girl. A growing up in an apartment, playing in the street, riding the subway to a specialized science high school in the Bronx kind of girl. “Every now and then my mother would let me skip school on a Wednesday to go to a matinee,” kind of girl. And then, suddenly, “It was the 60s, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I was a party animal,” she admits. A reveler extraordinaire, she actually transformed one of her bedrooms into a scary, totally darkened, third-dimensional Halloween maze and kept it that way for YEARS. Via Syracuse University and Brooklyn College, Demeter followed her beloved Dodgers to California and to the University of California at Santa Barbara, where she studied psychology and became, of course, an I-don’t-know-anything-about-it computer programmer. The panic didn’t last long. She was soon in LA working on mainframes, graduating into systems management, and then administering her own group.
Introduced to bridge in the 70s through a Mensa interest group, Demeter hosted a series of bridge dinner parties in the mid 80s and unknowingly met the man who would eventually become her husband. Years later when they were both free, they began playing in tournaments together and then never parted. “Tom” developed the core of “Bluejay,” the system Demeter now follows with several of the people who play with her. (Alert, alert, alert, alert!) Her husband approved of her love affair with the 1950 Mercedes-Benz S-Class, the first of the company’s full-sized luxury flagship vehicles. She owned a snazzy one, complete with little arms that popped up for turn signals. Demeter also spent years as a motorcycle junky, mostly riding and camping by herself. She stopped at 60 when she underwent a series of surgeries and lost “chunks” of her body to cancer. She retired twice from work and then ran a real estate business. Who knew?
After Tom died in 2014, Demeter found that living in their rural vacation home in Arizona isolated her too much. “My inclination was to hunker down,” she recalls, and realized that she needed to make a change. Bereft of family but still close to California friends, Demeter just “picked” Olympia and studied it on Google Earth. She wanted to live on the West Coast near a big city with an airport. Voila! She’s still remodeling her house here, loves to take her “little” dog for “little” walks, and enjoys reading mysteries. She started playing at the Olympia clubhouse in 2015 and has been “alerting” there ever since. Demeter allowed her arm to be to be “twisted” to run for the Unit 441 Board of Directors. Succumbing to even more twisting, she now serves as the president. She’ll be 70 in July. “My oncologist tells me I am still alive, and I choose to believe her. I didn’t expect to get to 70.” To share the occasion, Demeter will host a birthday bash at the clubhouse on July 19th, complete with cake and champagne. Once a party animal...well...you know. (-Vicki Hamende, April 2019)
They set a very high standard for good
sportsmanship and partnership compatibility, the mother/daughter team
of PAT and ANN GARLAND. While they don’t always agree at the
bridge table, their loving, close relationship makes them “feel
free to criticize each other,” according to Pat. The two began
duplicate lessons with Brad Kalweit in September 2003, and Ann joined
the ACBL one year before Pat. They currently play each Saturday
morning at the Olympia Bridge Club, and Ann plays at the Old Town
Center in Tumwater on Thursday and the VFW in Olympia on Wednesday.
Ann grew up as a middle child and says her mom “wouldn’t take sass” and that you could “count the ways” she was ganged up on by her two brothers. She graduated from Canyon High School in southern California in 1977 and went on to attend two junior colleges and work for two different companies in child care. She developed an interest in library science and is an avid reader. Ann is also self taught in genealogy and has traced her roots back to the American Revolution—a fifth great-grandfather served in the Revolutionary War and a fourth in the War of 1812.
Mom Pat was born in Arkansas but at age five moved to southern California. Married at the tender age of 15, she later obtained her G.E.D. at age 22 so she could go to college. After receiving a scholarship from the American Medical Association, she studied nursing and completed her A.A. degree at Fullerton State University in 1969. She graduated on a Friday night and began work the following Monday at Children’s Hospital Orange County, where she retired 31 years later. Being “sick of traffic, weather and expense,” she moved the family to Olympia in September of 2001. Sadly, Pat’s older son Gary passed away on February 15, 2019, from terminal cancer.
Both ladies have crafty hobbies: Pat is honing her skill in jewelry making and Ann enjoys adult coloring books. They share a mutual love of travel, and have been on at least nine world cruises together. This month they are off on a fantastic 22-day cruise to Tahiti, New Zealand, and Hawaii. (-Nan Hittmeier, April 2019)
When John Penney first telephoned Helen Miller after meeting her at the bridge table a few years ago, he told her he would like to get to know her better. “I was surprised, and I almost hung up on him,” Helen confesses. “I wasn’t expecting a relationship and had kind of succumbed to being single.” Happily, she didn't spurn him. Married now for a year and a half, the couple has moved into a new home together (with just 30 boxes of necessities left to unpack) and also has a new addition to the family – a bridge club! John and Helen acquired the Olympia club from Brad Kalweit at the beginning of the year. “We love the game and enjoy the people,” John explains. They’re both still working full time, but they eventually hope to market the club and reach out to new players through lessons.
John pronounces the letter “O” like one would expect of a proper Nova Scotian. He studied at Dalhousie University in Halifax and is a computer guy (“from the card punch days to the Internet”) who has worked “in a whole wack of places” in both Canada and the states while pursuing “the challenge of new technology.” He’s currently employed remotely as a Quality Assurance Analyst for a company in Detroit. Helen, meanwhile, describes herself as “a career state worker” who first came to Washington from Idaho after receiving a full-ride scholarship to Saint Martin’s University in Lacey. She currently wears “multiple hats” as a software developer and database and Share Point administrator at the Office of the Attorney General. “The challenge of figuring things out,” is what Helen says she enjoys most about her career. “I learn something most every day,” she adds.
Both motorcycle junkies (John is on his eighth bike, Helen her second), Helen has also ridden her bicycle in the Seattle to Portland race many times. She used to be an adventure racer, enjoying mountain biking, kayaking, trail running, and orienteering. She loved participating in races in unfamiliar terrain in which she and her teammates received latitude and longitude points, plotted them on a map, and with only a map and a compass had to figure out a course to those points. After her first 100-mile race in Cle Ellum, “I got addicted,” Helen says. John, meanwhile, is a 20th century history buff with a family background in the Canadian and Newfoundland military. His relatives fought in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War. He’s currently reading London 1945 - in the Debris of War.
John’s three sons and a grandson live in Canada. Helen’s two brothers and a sister have given her 10 nieces and nephews and five great-nieces and great-nephews. John’s psychological profile is that of a “high revealer,” and he discloses that he was once the treasurer of the Wolfville, Nova Scotia, bridge board. He learned the game at 7, but Helen didn’t come on board until 2007 when a co-worker invited her to play and she then took lessons from Brad. “I grew up playing pinochle with my family,” she admits. “Now pinochle is boring!” Sure, Helen and John met at the bridge table, but is theirs just another bridge romance? Nah. They describe it as a lifetime partnership.
(-Vicki Hamende, March 2019)
It took BILL CURTIS almost 30 years of playing
bridge under the old Goren system before he found lessons with Brad
Kalweit and realized he “knew very little about the game.” Bill
originally learned from a friend at Indiana University who still
travels with him. Bill notes that the Goren basics are good but
frustrating - 14 points are required to open, and the system teaches
very few conventions. Thanks largely to Brad, Bill
is only 13 points away from obtaining his ACBL Life Master rating.
Ironically, Bill almost became Brad’s Latin teacher years ago at
Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado.
Although born in Bremerton, Bill grew up in Tumwater. Serving as student body president, he graduated from Tumwater High School in its first year of existence, 1962. Early honors in 1957 included earning an Eagle Scout Badge and becoming the state free-throw champion. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Latin at the University of Washington, Bill went on to graduate from Indiana University with an M.A.T. in Latin in 1968. Then followed a long history of teaching Latin (41 years), coaching basketball and baseball (26 years), and coaching Knowledge Bowl (19 years) and Academic Decathlon teams (13 years) at Capital and Olympia high schools. In addition, Bill served 14 years as the chairman of the Washington State Latin Teachers Association. Why Latin in the first place? “I liked ancient history, mythology, and word derivations from Latin roots,” he explains.
A lover of folk music, Bill has sung on four occasions with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame. His other interests include hiking, climbing (he’s earned seven peak pins for conquering the seven highest Northwest peaks), and square dancing. He’s also a collector of eye cups, insulators, and stamps. He spent two summers in Rome as a Fulbright Fellow, working on the Roman Colosseum as part of a research project. Bill began serving as a tour guide to Italy in 1990. He has escorted 18 tours there, including 12 student groups. (-Nan Hittmeier, February 2019)
time! Which one of the following is NOT true about RANDEE GIBBONS: (1) She used to be a massage therapist in California. (2) She spent
several months reading (and finishing) War and Peace. (3) She
composed a raga and took classical North Indian singing lessons.
Hmm...Was she really into massage? Yup. Surely she didn’t read
all of Tolstoy’s classic??? Absolutely, and she
savored it! Heck, she read all of Anna Karenina, too! Gosh,
that leaves the “raga” as the odd one out. Fooled you! She
studied Indian spiritual music for two years and wrote her raga while
in grad school. If you don’t know Randee, you’re in for a treat
when you meet her. She says she has been “blessed” and “lucky”
all her life. It’s TRUE that she’s a world traveler if you count
Croatia, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Sicily, Morocco, Egypt, the Czech
Republic, England, Wales, Scotland, France, Slovenia, Bosnia, Sweden,
and Portugal as global destinations.
Randee has trekked across the US a bit, too. Originally a California girl, she earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at Colorado College. She has a master’s degree in public policy from Berkeley and another master’s in art and consciousness from JFK University. She ended up in Vermont for five years, experienced northeast winter weather shock, and “learned the meaning of gratitude for a cup of hot chocolate.” Eventually Randee, her sister Kathi, her brother-in-law Rex, and her mom clustered in Washington, where her niece Nikki also lives. Randee now works for the Washington State Employee Assistance Program (EAP) as a customer experience manager. The “guts” of her job, she says, is talking to human resource leaders to find out what the EAP can do to better help employees resolve personal or work-related problems. Randee, now 57, also spent 10 years at The Evergreen State College, serving in its public administration program. Through these jobs and others spent helping others, Randee has developed her own love of learning, which she says is “dear” to her heart. “If I won the lottery, I would read and take classes until I died!” she laughs.
And OF COURSE she plays bridge. That came along after she met (and fell for!) fellow player Matt Edwards and jumped into the game with his help and that of Bridge Baron. “For the first few years, I was very anxious when we played because Matt is a much better player than me, and when I made mistakes, I really felt that I was letting him down,” Randee says. However, she recognizes that having to communicate in bridge has actually been an opportunity to strengthen her relationship with her bridge – and life – partner. “Playing bridge has made us closer in every sense,” she says of Matt. “It’s an amazing bonus. It might be the best thing about the game for me.”
(-Vicki Hamende, January 2019)
While stationed in
Okinawa, Air Force fighter/bomber technician and upstate New Yorker
DAVID HOPKINS first learned to play bridge, along with three other
servicemen, from a beginner’s book. After leaving the military in
1963, David spent two years at the University of Maryland, followed
by two more at Eastern New Mexico University, earning a B.S. in
industrial psychology. After completing a master’s degree in
social work at Virginia Commonwealth University, he was hired by the
Veterans' Hospital in Lakewood, Washington, where he retired as a
GS-13 after 30 years of service. His
last position was as the director of a 60-bed treatment program for
David has two grown daughters: Lori, living in Olympia, and Jeanne, in Lakewood. He is a service-oriented, diverse kind of guy. After moving to Shelton in 2004 with his wife Kathleen, he resumed playing duplicate at the “fun” Alderbrook Bridge Club, where he was "encouraged” to take the director’s helm in 2015. He became a life master in 2016. David also served on the Unit 441 ACBL Board for 8+ years. He is a past president of Kiwanis and of the Steilacoom Museum Association.
In recent years, David and Kathy have been busy remodeling and selling homes in the greater Shelton area. They plan to travel when time allows. Dave’s other current and past interests include volleyball, pickle ball, long distance running, and pickling turkey and chicken gizzards! (He makes his own delicious brine!) In 2010, while digging at a Jamestown, Virginia, fort with a graduate class, Dave’s team of three discovered one of the 10 most significant world archaeological finds of that year - the first post hole of the first non-Catholic church in America. “Pocahontas was married there,” David notes. His personal motto is “love life and all equally.” (-Nan Hittmeier, December 2018)
Picture FRITZ WOLFF three miles underground at the largest silver mine in the U.S. Now think of him as the self-deprecating author of A Room for the Summer: Adventure, Misadventure, and Seduction in the Mines of the Coeur D’Alene. And you thought Fritz just played bridge on Wednesday nights! Not everyone can have a “blast” as a mining engineer and metallurgy expert, but Fritz “never looked back” after he spent three college summers in the late 1950s apprenticing at The Bunker Hill Company in Kellogg, Idaho. He had so much fun that he went on to write his well-received book, published in 2005. “I wanted to describe not only the day-to-day business of drilling and blasting but also the guys I worked with,” the ones who lived up to their promise, “We’ll keep you alive, young fella.” Fritz still travels to Idaho once a year for a “salubrious” dinner with those hard-rocking mining pals. He’s 81, but he’s not the oldest of the bunch. Fritz enjoyed a second career with Boeing in aerospace management. “That was fun, too,” he recalls. “I essentially worked at jobs doing exactly what I wanted to do.” Retirement? More joy for Fritz, who became the principal investigator with the Washington State Geological Survey, collecting data on inactive and abandoned mines.
Raised in Seattle and a University of Washington alum, Fritz played some bridge in the 70s when he was a “smart aleck” engineer, but he didn’t get hooked until he took lessons from Brad Kalweit. “Conventions are one thing, but I’m a great believer in simplicity,” Fritz notes. “The big boys are successful with complex devices, but I prefer to play basic Standard American.” He tries to concentrate on the play of the hand. As for bidding, his maxim is, “Should I shut up?”
Fritz and his wife Mary McCann, an artist who has MS, moved to Olympia after he retired. Their two sons and a daughter are spread out in Bainbridge Island, Texas, and Michigan. The Wolffs enjoy their five grandsons, but “couldn’t get a girl out of the whole bunch to spoil,” Fritz laments. His son in Washington is a Starbucks exec who “doesn’t even give me gift cards!” Fritz laughs. Always a lover of traipsing around the mountains, he plans to continue cross-country skiing as long as his knees let him. He treasures the long hikes he took on Mt. Rainier with Sheila Smith. Fritz has a seaplane license and also likes to hit golf balls “most of the time.” He and Mary volunteer at Hanson Elementary School to help students with reading and writing. With his own background as an author, Fritz recalls the ninth grade English teacher “who drilled us unmercifully. To him, I owe a great thanks.” It’s the kind of thoughtful tribute that also describes a man who is grateful to others for helping him “have a blast” the past eight decades. (-Vicki Hamende, December 2018)
She’s knocking on the door of Platinum Life
Master, only about 100 master points shy of the title. Then
PHYLLIS RAKEVICH, arguably Unit 441’s top female player, will lack
only a national title to be an ACBL Grand Life Master!
Interesting that Phyllis, even after her 35-plus years of experience,
shares that she is still “always learning” the game.
Phyllis finds that defense, in general, is the most difficult aspect
of duplicate because it mandates good communication with one’s
partner. She is largely self-taught and began playing around
1982 with her late husband Bob and another couple at the bridge club
in Aberdeen. She arrived at the Olympia club in 1989. She
introduced bidding boxes, computer scoring, and modified Bergen.
Favorite authors of hers include Max Hardy, Marty Bergen, and Jerry
Born in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Phyllis became a U.S. citizen when she turned 21. She was a stay-at-home mom with her two children, Barbara and John. Now grown, they are non-bridgers, both living in the Olympia area. Phyllis enjoys cooking “semi-gourmet” meals for them, usually once a week. She has traveled the world conducting bridge classes on ships. Other Phyllis hobbies include crocheting, knitting, and reading. Several years ago she also taught herself to tat, a very intricate form of handwork.
Phyllis heads south to Yuma, Arizona, in early November and typically returns to Olympia the following April. While in Yuma, she’s bridging, of course, and sometimes directs unit games. (-Nan Hittmeier, November 2018)
JIM REMY, he of the booming voice, he of the buoyant style, he of the
ready story and smile, dances his way through the best of his times.
Literally. On a “Dancing with the Stars” Alaskan cruise a few
years ago, he found himself drawn into the ballroom music and the
rhythm and then the fox trot, swing, soft shoe, peabody, quick step,
samba...swaying, twirling, and whirling. At 81, and “still running
on the original equipment,” Jim now competes in the senior games.
He and his partner also dance in charity and holiday events and give
dazzling demonstrations, often accompanied by Frank Sinatra. That
original dancing cruise also waltzed Jim into traveling. Russia,
anyone? Hungary, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Finland,
Estonia, Canada, the Caribbean? Just a few of the far-away lands
that have drawn him. And can he ski to his destinations? With
“SKIBUM” on his license place, it’s a good bet. He powders all
around the West. Jim will be in the thick of his ski club friends
when they meet for a December kick-off in British Columbia.
Way back, after a stint in the national guard and while “going out the back door when the draft board was coming in the front door,” Jim joined the regular army. He remembered seeing people fly in the guard and thought, “I can do that.” So he did, as a helicopter and airplane pilot who served a tour in Korea and two in Vietnam, once as an aircraft maintenance officer and the next as part of an army depot level maintenance battalion on a ship operated by the Military Sea Transport System. Jim hung around an old IBM 360-20 computer used to manage the Theater Aircraft Repairables Program. “The computer was in the only place on the ship that was air conditioned,” he explains. The difference between his Korea and Vietnam experiences? “In the Korean tour they weren’t shooting at us,” he notes. Jim went in as a private and retired as a major with an advanced degree in logistics management. “The army was good to me.”
As a convenient segue, Jim started playing bridge during an after-duty job at a post library. Later he met his beloved wife Pat, who just happened to play duplicate. “She was the power. I was along for the ride,” he recalls. “She made gold long before I did. I made it after losing her.” While working as a realtor during his second career, he got to know folks in the bridge club through buying and selling houses with them. His sons (his “three guys”) Dan, Kelly, and Dave all play bridge and all ski. Two already live in Washington and the oldest will be returning to the state soon. “Two are computer guys and the third is a physician’s assistant, so the logic is there,” he explains. His four granddaughters? Just perfect for a table of bridgers. Twice, at different times, Jim served as president of the unit. Don’t count him out. This old guy still knows, and takes, plenty of tricks.
(-Vicki Hamende, October 2018)
moving around quite a bit while growing up, BRENDA HATCHER and her
sister learned basic bridge through the YMCA in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania. She continued to play on and off with her parents,
especially party bridge with her mother, who was a bridge teacher
later in life. Brenda’s family moved to Vancouver, Washington,
following another Alcoa transfer for her father, and Brenda graduated
from Western Washington University in Bellingham. She had played
some computer bridge, but in 2012 she made a New Year’s resolution
to find “real” people to play bridge with. Then she found a
bridge flyer on her car offering lessons at the Olympia Bridge Club.
In 2014 Brenda won the Unit 441 award for the most points won by a
player in the 0-99 category at the Pow Wow sectional.
Brenda has master’s degrees in both sociology and education, and she taught elementary school for three years at a private facility in Snoqualmie. She gave swimming lessons for five years while also volunteering part time for SideWalk, a homeless advocacy center in Olympia. In 2015 Brenda was offered a position as operations manager at SideWalk, and she continues to manage volunteers there two days a week. Brenda and her husband Steve are just celebrating their 40th anniversary. Steve also attended Brad Kalweit’s bridge classes for a short time, but he didn’t connect with the game, saying it’s “too slow.” Brenda and Steve have one son living in Redmond and another far away in Brooklyn, New York.
In addition to bridge, Brenda’s passion is gardening. After completing an herbal apprenticeship in Shelton (“a true life-changing experience"), Brenda’s love of growing and harvesting native plants flourished big-time. She concocts healing salves, herbal teas, and tinctures and shares these goodies and knowledge with friends. Brenda is also an active member of the First Christian Church in Olympia.
(-Nan Hittmeier, September 2018)
He’s tall and she’s not, but they nevertheless look the same. Maybe it’s the matching outfits they wear. “We started dressing alike because I used to lose him all the time when we went shopping or traveling,” PAT ROBBINS laughs. The first date she and husband ORRIN had was a “blind” one, apparently successful because their marriage is 44 years old and counting. Not surprisingly, their email address includes a cozy “robbinsnest.” Bridge joined their world when they took lessons on a cruise to Antarctica. Something clicked, and the Robbinses looked up Brad’s club when they returned. Along the way they both earned undergraduate and graduate degrees. Orrin was an army infantry officer “for 20 years and four days.” They were stationed in Georgia, Panama, Texas, Kansas, and Washington. (He was also a stockbroker for 24 years.) Pat began her career as a nurse and later worked for government contractors BDM and Cubic. She ran a world-wide security program and dealt with all branches of the military. The couple also raised a son and a daughter and now dote on three grandchildren in Alabama and one in Washington.
It’s linguistically obvious that Pat comes from Massachusetts, less noticeable that Orrin is also a Bay Stater. One grew up in a farm town, the other in a mill town. From those beginnings they have journeyed to 83 countries together. That’s EIGHTY-THREE! They recently returned from a trip to the old Persian empire and are touring Mongolia in September. That’s LIVING-IN-A-YURT Mongolia! Because they are traveling nomads, they receive mail about different places to vacation. If they read about an interesting country, they clip it out and put it on a wall. If the timing’s right and the season’s right, the Robbinses just might show up there. Pat says they’re planning at least eight more trips after Mongolia. Oh, and their new goal is to play bridge in all 50 states. They’ve checked off 10 so far and say the players they’ve met have all been welcoming. “When we were working, we didn’t have much of a social life. That’s why we like bridge,” Pat explains. They appreciate friends who are tutoring them and hope the game will help them with overall “remembering.”
Pat, 67, and Orrin, 66, astonish their children with their daredevil life. They recently swam with sharks, jumped off the side of a mountain to parasail, and ziplined through a forest. “The older we get, the faster it goes,” Pat says, adding that she and Orrin are grateful to have the good health to be active. They both shoot target pistols and tend a 40 by 80-foot garden. Pat enjoys raising orchids and also sews card holders for bridge friends. Woodworker Orrin creates fine furniture, the kind in which it takes four months just to make a chair. He crafted all the furnishings in his son’s bedroom. The Robbinses partner up at the bridge table, in their clothes closets, in their adventures, and in between. Their secret for a happy pairing? Both say to marry your best friend. “Couples need to be flexible. It’s not always easy. You have to work at it,” Pat adds. When they tell people they’ve been married for 44 years, the question they often get in return is, “To the same person?” YUP! Pat and Orrin are the ones dressed alike and having fun. (-Vicki Hamende, September 2018)
you show up at the Oly bridge
without a partner, chances are good you’ll be playing with affable
standby STAN DELDUCCO. Stan began learning bridge at the University
of Washington in the mid 1970s with a dorm mate and a bridge book.
They went on to play at the Magnolia Bridge Club in Seattle and competed in ACBL tournaments in the area. He recalls tourneys were
quite different back then: no bidding
boxes, and if the organizer had a banquet license, “The
dummy got the drinks.”
After graduating from UW with a double degree in math and physics, Stan worked at a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Mammal Lab in Seattle before being hired by Boeing in 1979 as a typical “cocky young computer programmer.” His mantra was “I can do anything, given enough time and money!” Stan, who worked for Boeing for 34 years before retiring, advises that Boeing "turns employees into old curmudgeons." Not necessarily a bad thing, he further notes.
Having grown up in Olympia, Stan returned following his retirement to be with his brother and sister. Sis Carla, who was taking lessons from Brad Kalweit, brought him to the Olympia bridge club in 2014. Carla and Stan both enjoy plant cultivation, a carryover from having worked at Olympia Greenhouses, their family's well-loved business, for many years. (-Nan Hittmeier, August 2018)
He often wears a Cubs hat, like a good native Chicagoan would do. The T-shirts are something else, though. A notable one is sunglasses-bright and checkered on the front with depictions of colorful super heroes, all of which he can identify and discuss. On this day he’s bedecked in a green top displaying yellow and piercing Grinch eyes. He explains that he’s temporarily in charge of the laundry. “This is what was left,” he offers. His T-shirts, DAVE LA LOND confesses, “are like the proverbial tie for Father’s Day. People buy them for me; I wear them.”
Dave has traveled a long way from his Navy days in the Mediterranean when the Arabs and Israelis decided to go to war and then in Greece when the government there finally collapsed. After serving as an aviation electronics technician in a helicopter squadron, Dave returned to Illinois to complete his college education and embark on a 35-year career as a community college instructor in Joliet and Centralia, teaching electronics, computer science, and robotics. He doesn’t mention it, but a friend points out that Dave placed the majority of his students in real-world jobs. He credits a partnership with Intel for the success of his Centralia College graduates.
Bridge came into his life at 45 when a colleague taught him the game. What vexes Dave (a laid-back kind of guy) the most about the pastime? “You’ve got to pay attention all the time.” Indeed. He enjoys walking, reading science fiction and history, and solving crossword puzzles. Significantly, Dave was a game master running RPG games on CompuServe when the Internet was in its infancy. He’s an author, too, having penned two college textbooks during his career. “They sold widely, even in the Philippines,” he recalls in somewhat disbelief. Dave didn’t quit his day job, though. “Writing paid something, but not enough to change my life.” His loyalty to Chicago notwithstanding, Dave and his family aren’t straying from the Evergreen State any time soon. “I came here on a business trip, went back home, and announced, ‘We’re moving to Washington!’ My wife said, ‘Oh, thank goodness!'”
(-Vicki Hamende, August 2018)
VALERIE and JERRY McVAY were interviewed together because both insisted they
could tell their story/stories better. This marital battle union has
lasted 49 years!
Valerie, born in 1939, was
raised for 10 years outside London during WWII at a time when the air raids were all too real. In 1949 she moved to Vancouver, Canada.
Sometime in 1968, to celebrate her second divorce, she attended
a Seattle regional bridge tourney wearing a mini-skirt. She was
noticed by Jerry, “a leg man,” who asked his Canadian friends
about her. They all warned, “Stay away! She’s trouble!” Jerry
didn’t listen, paid the price, and the two were married in 1969.
Valerie subsequently “slid downhill” to the U.S. and worked in
Silicon Valley as an accounts
for most of her career.
Jerry was raised in Walla Walla, Washington, and worked in pea and wheat harvesting during his summers there. He attended Whitman College for two years and then earned an M.S. in music at Washington State University in Pullman. He spent approximately 28 years with a family-owned food distributor in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he and Valerie lived for some 38 years. The pair loved their jobs and their bosses. Jerry recalls happy times riding a tandem bike with Valerie, often taking 15 to 35-mile trips. Jerry started playing duplicate bridge in 1958, and became a life master in 1962.
In 1971, Valerie and Jerry placed 4th in a four-session national pairs competition after starting with just 38 percent in their first session. That same year, they won a two-session mixed pairs event (Remember those?), making Valerie a life master. After leaving the Bay Area in 2008, the couple moved to Panorama in Lacey, where a resident told them about the Olympia Bridge Club. They then reconnected with bridge after a 25-year hiatus. At Panorama, Jerry serves as president of the 60-member chorus and is a former assistant conductor of the chorus. (-Nan Hittmeier, July 2018)
After being born in the small village of De Meern in the Netherlands and becoming a registered nurse, JEANINE GRAHAM followed up on a friend’s invitation and emigrated to Kalamazoo, Michigan, later settling in California and finally in Washington. Her career spanned surgical, newborn, and geriatric nursing, and she also worked as the administrator of an Alzheimer’s facility. Jeanine struggled to learn English when she first moved to the United States and had difficulty understanding the culture. She's more at "home" now.
Her busy years of nursing ending with her retirement in 2007, Jeanine says she found herself “with not much of a social life” until she noticed a flyer in the newspaper offering free bridge lessons. “The rest is history!” she jokes. Jeanine also discovered quilting after a visit to the Henderson House Museum in Tumwater and has since displayed as many as 14 quilts at various shows. “I’m always starting a new one and still have four or five unfinished ones,” she says. “I love to put fabrics together so they are harmonious color-wise.” A sample of her handiwork, shown in the picture, hangs in the bridge clubhouse. An interest in oil painting, Chinese brush painting, watercolors, and beading add to Jeanine’s creativity.
Photography? That, too. She studied it while living in California. “We had an assignment to take a night photograph using the kind of camera where you had to put your head under the cloth and view the picture upside down,” she laughs. Jeanine developed a night show of the city hall in Pasadena that won a contest and was printed in a book. She enjoyed an assignment taking “flattering” portraits, and one of her husband, Andrew, a musician, still hangs in her house. Travel? The couple has visited her homeland of Holland several times and has also vacationed in Curacao off the coast of Venezuela. They have toured several European countries and once enjoyed a train trip from to Olympia to Toronto to meet her brother and his wife to embark on a railroad journey together across Canada. Now 79 (“I always say I’m 39 and cruising!”), Jeanine keeps busy. “If there’s something new to learn, I’m game, she says.” Her last thought? “Don’t forget my secret weapon – HUGS!”
(-Vicki Hamende, July 2018)
KATHI MCKAY owes the beginning of her friendship with bridge to her mother and a hand-held device called “AutoBridge.” She learned the rudiments of Goren in elementary school and started playing with her mom’s party bridge group. Years later someone tactfully suggested that she contact Brad Kalweit for lessons. Kathi currently plays most Monday and Wednesday evenings and in the once-a-month unit games.
Kathi grew up in Olympia but left the city for 32 years. She enjoyed a career in international development (foreign aid), living in Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Washington, D.C. She bought round-the-world tickets several times, stopping to visit other foreign lands during her travels to and from her assignments. Kathi returned to Olympia 15 years ago on a sabbatical leave and decided to stay.
She is a true outdoors woman who loves backpacking, hiking, tennis, downhill and cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Kathi is an accomplished skier, as evidenced by her 13 years as a volunteer ski patroller on the slopes. (-Nan Hittmeier, June 2018)
Retired engineer JIM LOOMIS looked for life on Mars, detoured into a law practice, and once played bridge eight hours a day for eight straight days while crossing the Atlantic on a troop ship. Who knew? After graduating from Iowa State, Jim worked for Lockheed Martin as a mechanical designer in the aerospace industry, spending time in Sunnyvale and Denver with a short stint in New Orleans. He helped design “The Viking,” the first successful Martian lander.
He added a law degree from the University of Denver to his resume and tried a solo practice, unfortunately at a time when lawyers were more than plentiful. “I was really tired of the kind of work I had to do to remain solvent (i.e. divorces),” Jim reports, so he transferred back to his engineering career. He and his wife of 59 years have a son who is an electrical engineer and a daughter who is a social worker.
Bridge? Oh yeah, Jim still plays that, too. He used to kibitz in the dorm when he was in college. One day a player had to leave to go to class. The remaining partner pointed at Jim and said, “Sit down and deal.” He did. Then came the tour of duty on the troop ship, which was carrying Army Corps of Engineers personnel to southern France during the time when the Germans were building the Berlin Wall. “Does anybody play bridge?” came the call the first day on board. Jim has been an avid player for a good portion of his 80 years.
Is he interested in traveling to Mars? No. “It’s a long trip,” he deadpans. Jim is opting for a cruise with his wife to the United Kingdom instead. (-Vicki Hamende, June 2018)
ED MACKE’s career actually led him to the bridge table. A graduate of Seattle University and the University of Washington medical school, Ed practiced family medicine in McCleary for 37 years. One of his long-time patients was Phyllis Rakevich, a talented bridge player, who told him all about the game. Phyllis’s daughter and son-in-law, who were friends of his, convinced him to give it a try. Now he’s dedicated to attacking on defense, paying attention to leads and discards, and tackling the other challenges of bridge.
A 70-year-old, Ed and his wife (who died in 2014) are the parents of son Cole, who is starting medical school this summer, and son Jeff, who teaches high school in Camus. His family also includes a granddog, two inside cats, and three outside cats. Ed has enjoyed time spent in Switzerland, Italy, and Mexico, and likes to garden and grow plants on his deck.
One of the most rewarding parts of being a doctor, Ed says, is that so many of his patients also became his good friends. Free now from the frustration of dealing with insurance companies and government regulations, he enjoys the new friends he’s making through bridge.
Oh yes - he confesses that he’s a romantic at heart. His right brain apparently works just as well as his left brain. (-Vicki Hamende, May 2018)
SANDI STEGMAN is a Seattle gal, born and raised there. Sandi was introduced to the game of bridge in 1971 by Craig Shanafelt's parents (Sandi was married to Craig's brother at the time). The following year, Sandi discovered she was "hooked for sure" on bridge when she played duplicate for the first time at a Seattle regional. Despite bidding an erroneous weak 2-clubs opener, she and her partner placed very admirably, finishing 1st in their section and 2nd overall. She also found out she loved competition and earned her ACBL life master rating at the age of 25. At 35, she took a 20-year vacation from bridge and became an accomplished poker player.
After moving to Olympia in 1977, Sandi became one of the first three women U.S. Postal Service letter carriers in the Olympia/Lacey/Tumwater area. She retired after 30 years of federal service in 2005. In 2007 she became a table games dealer at the Red Wind Casino, where she worked for eight years before retiring for good!! Remarried at 51, Sandi is still with second husband Steve, who is not a bridge player. She is blessed with a very close family: sons George and Michael Shanafelt; grandchildren Jerred 16, Lena 15, and Kento and Kaito, 13 (twins); two brothers living in Seattle; two sisters-in-law, and six brothers-in-law.
Sandi is a self-described foodie who loves to cook and entertain. She also enjoys jigsaw puzzles, books, and playing any and all games. But she especially loves bridge and currently plays at our club several times a week. (-Nan Hittmeier, May 2018)