From left in pink sweater: Dolores Lemmon, 82, Mary Ewing, 76, Verna Baker, 89, Sue Rewak, 69, and Paul Ronken, 73, are just a few of the enthusiastic bridge club members who meet and play regularly at the Carl Gipson Senior Center in Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Senior citizens hope to bridge generations with card game

They’re competitive. They’re focused. They’re friends. And they’re putting out the welcome mat for more bridge players.

Members of the bridge club at Everett’s Carl Gipson Senior Center get together several afternoons each week for camaraderie and fun. But no question, their game of duplicate bridge is a strenuous mental workout.

“It’s good to keep your mind buzzing,” said 80-year-old Mairi McRae, who comes to the Everett senior center from Kirkland to play. She hopes others will learn the complexities of duplicate bridge to keep the games going.

“Younger people are not learning at all. They’re playing video games,” McRae said. She started playing as a girl in Scotland. “I learned with my parents. We played family bridge. It’s just a fascinating game.”

It’s also a complicated game. The center’s duplicate bridge group plays from noon to about 3:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. As an observer of their competition April 4, I’ll admit to being baffled by the intricacies of a game that has its own language. There are trumps and tricks, bids and contracts, a declarer and a dummy.

At tables of four, partners face each other in east-west and north-south positions. On the tables are card holders, known as boards, holding the hands that have been dealt in advance. In duplicate bridge, club leader George Beykovsky explained, the luck of the deal is minimized because “the trays go on to another table.”

“They play the same hand we play — which means we can have really bad hands all day and still win,” said Beykovsky, 85, who lives in Everett.

The club’s Fred Warner has taught bridge refresher classes. And at 11 a.m. Tuesday, the group will host a bridge club appreciation day, with pizza, friendship and hopes of attracting more players.

“We have noted a decline in participation,” Beykovsky said. As group leader, he keeps a notebook with club information, including a flier that says “Keep the neurons firing, play bridge.”

Mary Ewing, 76, comes from Camano Island to play bridge at the Everett center. “We used to have 64 people,” she said. “People are dying.” About 24 were playing the day I visited. And two people at a time were sitting out to await turns at full tables.

“Bridge has been my lifesaver,” said Ewing, who began with cards by playing whist with her dad. She played so much bridge at San Jose State University, she said, “I almost flunked out.”

Duplicate bridge games at the Everett senior center aren’t sanctioned, Ewing said. That means they don’t come under the umbrella of the American Contract Bridge League, which awards masterpoints in tournament play.

Nonetheless, these players take games seriously. Duplicate bridge is more challenging than what’s known as party bridge.

“It’s more disciplined and a lot more competitive,” said Mamta Shah, of Mukilteo, who plays regularly at the center with her husband, Hemant Shah. “With party bridge, people sit and chat a bit more.”

At 99, John Marchetti said, “I’m the oldest one there.”

The Everett widower has recently been away from his regular games due to mobility issues, but hopes the group will thrive. “Bridge is a dying pastime,” he said. “When I was a kid, cards were one of our favorite pastimes. We played 500, cribbage and pinochle. My dad taught me everything.”

The senior center’s players continue to use cedar boxes he hand-crafted to hold cards.

Marchetti remembers when the place was full with 15 four-player tables. “It’s wonderful for keeping your mind sharp,” he said. “I’ve met close friends through bridge, but most of them have passed away.”

Not everyone at the center thinks bridge is becoming a thing of the past.

“We could use more players, but there are tournaments and games every day of the week” said Tom Fisher, of Edmonds. “Go to the HUB (Husky Union Building) at UW and you’ll find bridge. It’s age-old, like billiards.”

“We come because it’s nice people, nice friendships,” said Virginia Bonner, of Edmonds, Fisher’s bridge partner. “People here are really friendly.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

Bridge day

The bridge club at the Carl Gipson Senior Center has scheduled an “Appreciation Day” open house at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the center’s Craft Room 4. Guests are invited to bring a friend, have pizza, and bring a salad or dessert to share. The club, which seeks new members, plays duplicate bridge at noon Tuesdays and Thursdays in Craft Room 4, and noon Saturdays in Craft Room 2. The center is at 3025 Lombard Ave., Everett.

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