Fundraiser to bridge generations, honor local card player

By Josette Keelor

Few local card players can trump Anna Belle Winkfield at bridge.

Now 94, she recently retired from playing, but her legacy continues through daughter Marcie Finnell, who four years ago raised her hands and agreed to let her mother teach her how to play.

“She had tried to teach me in my teens along with some other teenagers from Strasburg, but I was not too interested at that time,” Finnell said.

Fellow Strasburg resident Wendy Pieper also avoided the game for many years, despite her father being a Life Master. She changed her mind when Winkfield offered to teach her too.

For Finnell, learning bridge was a way to spend time with her mother. Pieper and her neighbor Ibby Stratton helped her square off against Winkfield.

They called themselves the 4 Aces, and Pieper made them all matching vests based on one she gave Winkfield for Valentines Day, 2011.

“I wrote inside she’s my queen of hearts,” Pieper said.

They met Monday mornings at Winkfield’s house in Strasburg, and Pieper said, “Once it got started, we couldn’t let it go.”

Now, with new member Evan Dewire of Strasburg, “We still do bridge every week,” she said.

On a recent visit with Winkfield at Greenfield Senior Living in Woodstock, Pieper and Finnell explained their initial hesitation toward bridge as a generational problem that over the years has also managed to shuffle out men.

They hope a fundraiser they’re planning for the Strasburg Community Library next week will help bridge the gap between generations and genders.

Bridge for Books at Middletown’s Wayside Inn, from noon to 4 p.m. on May 14, will have card games for all ages, and $30 tickets include raffle prizes and lunch catered by the Wayside Inn. Pieper said it builds on fundraisers they’ve held in previous years and will honor Winkfield as a legendary local bridge player.

“Ultimately, Anna Belle wins every time,” Pieper said.

“People have asked me if I would teach them,” she told Finnell, but “I learned from your mom so well, she was such a good teacher, and I just don’t know if I have it in me to teach.”

Finnell agreed she could cover the basics but would fold at trying to teach the complexities of bridge.

As Pieper explained, “You continue to bid until someone gets the contract, basically, and you’re bidding based on points in your hand and you’re bidding on the number of cards you have in the suit. Once you have secured the contract, then you play the game and you go around the table.”

“Anna Belle would know where all the cards were, just by bidding. It was just amazing. And she’d say, aren’t you going to play that ace? She’d even know who had the cards — not only where the cards are, but who had the cards.”

Her favorite hand to play is the no trump, which is Pieper’s least favorite.

“That’s to me the most difficult to do,” Pieper said. “Every card is potentially good, which means you have to remember almost every card being played.”

And she does, Pieper said. “She remembers everything.”

The Bridge for Books fundraiser for the Strasburg Community Library will be at the Wayside Inn, 7783 Main St., Middletown, from noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Tickets are $30 and include lunch. For more information, call Wendy Pieper at 540-465-9512 or Tracy McMahon at 540-465-8464.

Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com>