There are those rare individuals who are talented at all that they do, whose every endeavor seems to meet with success. Peter Pender was such an individual, and his accomplishments as a bridge player are celebrated by his induction into the ACBL Bridge Hall of Fame. Yet bridge was just one of the many facets of Pender’s career, whose brilliance was undiminished by his untimely end.
Pender of Forestville CA, attended Harvard and was an accomplished pianist. He was also a highly skilled figure skater who qualified to compete in national singles events four times and national pairs twice.
He was a gold medalist for both the United States and Canadian Figure Skating Associations.
Skating competitions took him frequently to Montreal, where he encountered the Canadian bridge elite of the late Fifties. It was there that Pender would meet future bridge partner Hugh Ross.
In 1960, Pender moved to San Francisco. He successfully owned and operated an exclusive resort, Fifes, located on the Russian River in the Bay area.
Pender’s talents also, of course, encompassed bridge. He became Life Master #1795 at the age of 22. He won the 1966 McKenney Trophy (now the Barry Crane Top 500) and in the same year helped England’s Jeremy Flint become an ACBL Life Master in 11 weeks, a record at the time.
Pender tallied 13 NABC wins: five in the Reisinger B-A-M Teams (1968, 1970, 1981, 1985 and 1986); two in the Life Master Men’s Pairs (1967 and 1984); four in the Grand National Teams (1982, 1983, 1985 and 1987) and two in the Vanderbilt Knockout Teams (1984 and 1987).
Pender was a member of the victorious U.S. squad in the 1985 NEC Bermuda Bowl in São Paulo, Brazil, and second in the 1989 Bermuda Bowl in Perth, Australia.
Pender was second in the 1982 Rosenblum Teams and won the Pan-American Invitational Pairs in 1974 and 1975.
Pender and Ross formed their now-famous partnership in 1981. The pair, playing with teammates Lew Stansby and Chip Martel, was arguably the most powerful squad in the world during the Eighties.
After winning the 1981 Reisinger, Pender offered this comment about the success of the foursome: "I think one of the reasons why our whole team did so well was because there is no rancor within the pairs or the team."
Pender continued to perform well in high-level competition through the late Eighties, despite battling the effects of HIV infection, the virus that causes AIDS.
Ross, in a posthumous tribute to his partner in 1990, said, "In the last four years, when he was constantly enduring pain, nausea and fatigue, he never gave up." Pender was so ill during part of 1987, that he was unable to attend the Bermuda Bowl in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Mike Lawrence filled in for the ailing Pender.
Pender recovered and succeeded in qualifying for the 1989 Bermuda Bowl held in Perth, Australia. His planned trip to Perth became controversial, however, when the Australian government initially refused to grant Pender a visa because of his HIV status. The decision was later rescinded following public outcry over the policy.
Pender finally succumbed to effects of the illness in November of 1990. In early 1991, it was announced that Pender had bequeathed $2.26 million to the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the largest donation ever received by the organization.