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Unit 244 honors its founder

Submitted by Susan Duke

Dan Duke of Vilas NC has been a large influence on bridge in northwestern North Carolina for 40 years. Friends met at a surprise party recently to celebrate and honor him — 125 people attended.

There was good food, and the bluegrass band, Sweet Water, played great music during and after dinner. But our main entertainment was roasting and toasting from many of Dan’s partners and others who have been touched by him.

Bill Buttle, cartoonist for the Bridge Bulletin, and his wife, Linda, came from Canada to honor Dan. They took several of his courses, and have remained friends. Bill did a cartoon for the party and I had it enlarged to poster size and framed – Dan loved it.

How did this come about? About a year ago, Louis Jones came to Lois Wegendt and me, and said he thought we needed to honor Dan for all of his bridge contributions. He offered to contribute the money. So, Lois and I began planning the party. Many of our bridge friends also contributed to the event.

Dan is a Diamond Life Master who learned bridge playing with relatives during high school in Raleigh NC. While in the U.S. Army, he found a book by Charles Goren. After reading it, he attended his first duplicate game, and was hooked.

After military service, Dan earned a PhD in Psychology. He’s retired now, but he loved teaching at the university level. That love of teaching spilled over to teaching bridge.

Dan taught at Montana State University in Bozeman MT. He decided to move back to North Carolina in 1968 to teach at Appalachian State University in Boone. Before moving, he checked to be sure that Boone had a bridge club. It did!

In Boone, Dan pressed for bridge growth. His efforts led to the founding of ACBL Unit 244 (14 counties in northwest North Carolina). Besides directing at four duplicate bridge clubs, he has chaired more than 30 sectional tournaments.

Around 1985, Dan noticed that bridge cruises were popular. He created summer programs he dubbed “Land Cruise Bridge Festivals.” Students had bidding or play instruction, followed by duplicate sessions. Dan used his own curriculum and lesson plans. Students came from nearly every U.S. state as well as from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela and England.

Dan and I enjoy playing in local clubs around the country, and we also enjoy directing one ocean cruise a year. We have no plans to slow down traveling or playing bridge.