Bridge’s go-to gal
Grace Lemontt shares passion for card game with anyone
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By Jud Snyder  January 17, 2014 12:00 am

I’ve been invited to join the Bridge Club. That’s cool, because I have questions on how the Bridge Club in Rohnert Park’s Senior Center is doing in these days of Internet, videogames, texting, iPads and people constantly poking a gadget held in their hands. The game of contract or duplicate bridge is thriving very well with spirited sessions every Thursday. You won’t find it in the Graton Resort & Casino.

Credit for the venerable card game that’s been around for centuries goes to Jerry and Grace Lemontt, who didn’t settle in RP until 1985. They arrived with decks of cards and a consuming passion for bridge. The bridge scene wasn’t very solid here, so Jerry got busy and organized some games in Burton Avenue Recreation Center. Then Hugh Codding made a bargain deal with the city and gave them his office building on Steele Lane as long as it was turned into a senior center. 

Taking over after Jerry died

Grace worked with Jerry in formalizing the Bridge Club in its new location. Unfortunately, Jerry died in 2004. But Grace was right there and took over their assignment. 

“He was marvelous,” said Grace. “His ideas were flowing all the time, way ahead of others. Jerry always empowered me to be better than I already was.”

They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1993, and the Clarion weekly newspaper had Annie Rasmussen take their picture, which Grace still has in her souvenir box.

Wants to live to be 100

Grace Lemontt is a tall, slender 93-year old who wears clothes elegantly and could be a fashion model for her peer group. “I used to be 5-9, but now I’m more likely to be 5-7. Gravity can do this.

“I’d like to live to be 100. You can be sure I have my fingers crossed.”

The game of bridge has streamlined the past few years. “Now, the players have a second deck they use as each hand progresses.

“It contains the seven bidding cards, two through seven, with all four suits, spades, hearts, diamonds and clubs, plus no trumps, pass, double-down and whatever else is needed to cover bids,” she said. “Each player reveals his or her bidding process for everyone to see, they don’t have to chat across the table to keep up with their partners, it’s a slightly faster game yet it still has all the basic bridge rules.”

Met Jerry at a skating rink

Born and raised in Kingston, New York, a few miles north of Manhattan, the former Grace Lund became enchanted with roller skating at an early age. In fact, she met Jerry Lemontt at a Bronx roller skating rink. He was there with his buddies and said, “I’m gonna go over and talk to that tall, pretty girl.” Jerry was a six-footer himself. Whatever he said, it lasted for almost 60 years.

“It’s not so easy to find younger bridge players these days,” she said. “They  don’t play bridge in colleges like they used to years ago. They’re playing poker and blackjack. We grab younger bridge players when we spot them.

‘We teach raw beginners’

“Currently, we have a flexible membership, about 25 to 30 players of varying skills, divided about 50-50 between men and women. We always take in raw beginners and teach them the skills needed. The second deck of cards we use makes the game quicker to grasp.”

Grace urged me to sit in on one of their sessions. I told her my only bridge experience was 30 days of daily games aboard a converted slow freighter from San Francisco to Okinawa back in August 1945. The atom bomb destroyed Hiroshima when we were midway to Pearl Harbor, but continued under wartime conditions in case Japanese submarines didn’t get word about the surrender. That was 70 years ago.

But it was no excuse to Grace.

She sings with Vintage Choir

The Lemontts have three children. Jeffrey, 69, is the eldest and a bio-researcher working in a Novato lab. Beverly Dennis lives on a ranch near Mt. Shasta, and Rochelle Byrne lives in RP.

Besides her weekly bridge commitments, Grace also sings soprano with the RP Vintage Choir and is in charge of the gaming room on the third floor of Altamont senior apartments.

“The thing I like about bridge is its tradition, going back several centuries in Europe. It probably came here with the Pilgrims. It’s a truly social game with partnerships and will never vanish,” she said.

For information on the bridge sessions, call the RP Senior Center at 585-6780.

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