Retired pharmacist staking her own money to keep bridge alive
Susan Williamson was 14 when her parents taught her to play contract bridge. She played throughout her school days at John Marshall High School and during college at the University of Oklahoma.
Williamson then took a 45-year hiatus to raise two sons and work as a hospital pharmacist and consultant.
It wasn’t until she retired in 2011 that she returned to her beloved game.
When Oklahoma City’s longtime bridge club at May and Hefner recently closed, Williamson was undeterred. She simply started a new one, a mile up the street in Northpark Mall in July of last year — putting up a significant amount of her own money to make it happen.
“This lovely lady gave us her energy, passion and organizational skills,” said Marian Jeter, one of 84 players at a recent Friday game.
Bob Schwendenman is equally grateful for the nonprofit club, which is named Fun and Games Duplicate Bridge Club Inc.
“Bridge helps keep my mind active, and allows me to be around wonderful people,” said Schwendenman, a retired regional office manager for Equifax credit reporting agency whose daughter typically drives him to the games from his home at St. Ann Retirement Center.
All ages, experience levels
Players, who range in age from 15 (the grandson of the club treasurer) to Schwendenman (who‘s 96) pay $8 for a 3½-hour game, which includes a 20-minute introductory lesson that often is taught by Williamson.
There’s a game every day, including evening games on Monday and Wednesday — held partly to accommodate working members. The next class for beginners will be offered on Thursday nights, starting in January.
Members compete for points in hopes of attaining Life Master status with the Tennesseebased American Contract Bridge League, which sanctions the club.
Williamson said she’s “forever in debt” to her husband of 49 years, Richard Williamson, for supporting her passion.
“He was a good sport and played early on with me,” she said, “but bridge is my thing; not his.”
Among other efforts, Williamson paid a contractor to combine two retail spaces into one 5,500-square-foot space in the club’s southeast corner of the mall, next door to Shogun Steak House of Japan.
“We’re trying real hard
to make this a 21st Century bridge club,” she said. The club boasts electrical scoring devices, computer and audiovisual equipment to display results in PowerPoint presentations, and comfy club chairs and tables, many of which were funded by donors.
Tom and Jo Corbin, members of the club’s 10-person board, brainstormed a long-term viability committee of donors, which ensures the new club will live on, and Williamson no longer must guarantee the lease.
Williamson is more than pleased with the legacy she helped plant.
“Many of our members are physically unable to play golf or tennis, but bridge can be played by most people as they age,” she said. “And, it’s a much better way for people to occupy their minds than watching TV,” she said.
“There’s also the free snacks at every game, which draw bridge players like locusts,” she said.
Susan Williamson, founder and manager of Fun and Games Duplicate Bridge Club Inc. in Northpark Mall, arbitrates an irregularity during a recent game.