FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — Johnsie Burgess looked at her hand and began to contemplate how she should bid.
“This is our last chance,” Burgess told Sophia Pierce, her bridge partner.
“Let’s show them what we can do,” Pierce responded.
Katie Ethridge chuckled at the thought.
“Grace, they said they are going to beat us on this one,” Ethridge said.
Grace Black just smiled. Her smile grew wider as she won trick after trick.
“Grace is nice and quiet, but she beats everybody,” Pierce said with a laugh.
Each Friday, the ladies of the Sophisticates Bridge Club get together at the Student Center at Fayetteville State University to play.
The bridge club was established in 1978 by a group of friends that worked and attended church together. The women took turns playing at each other’s home on Tuesday night. The games moved to the NCO Club. The ladies have been playing at FSU since 2008.
The women, Jeri Pratt said, were mostly educators and busy mothers.
“The women started teaching one another and eventually, other people started coming in,” said Pratt, who is the youngest in the group at 70.
The club’s purpose, Pratt said, is to improve their game, have fun and relax.
Black, who has been playing for 15 years, celebrated her 90th birthday with the ladies on a recent Friday. She also was the host. Black handed out snacks in between games.
“I really enjoy playing with them,” she said.
“I look forward to it each week.”
Most of the women who are members of the club have some association with FSU.
They are retired faculty, staff and alumni. Black is the former dean of the School of Business and Economics. She has a street on campus named in her honor.
The women say playing at the university helps them stay connected.
Some students have wanted to join in a game or two before class.
“They thought we were playing bid whist,” Pratt said.
The women agree that the driving force behind their weekly meetings is their friendship.
“It’s like family,” said Ann Shipman, who has played since the club began. “We like to joke around and have fun.”
In between the thousands of card games over the past 35 years, the women have shared their triumphs and heartbreaks.
“We have gone through all the ups and downs of life and had bridge to look forward to,” said Burgess, who has played with the group for more than 30 years. “I tell my children that everyone needs a hobby.
“It is fun no matter what happens. It’s a wonderful social outlet. And of course, we keep something fun going.”