Judy Kay-Wolff

A FIGHT FOR SURVIVAL!

With the passing of Harry Ross in Orlando, Florida on August 24th, 2010 (five days before his 82nd birthday), he left behind his adorable, vivacious wife, Susi Katz Ross — together with an incredible tale of trepidation, alarm, heroism, determination, frustration, love — and perhaps traces of karma.

Though many of us take so much of our lives for granted — beginning with our birth, childhood, rearing, schooling and all the normal experiences (including the many trials and tribulations associated with the bridge world), the individual sagas of Susi and Harry are beyond your wildest imagination.  The many stories of their tremendous successes at the bridge table cannot hold a candle to their own individual personal struggles for survival.

They were born in the same city.   What’s so unusual about that?   Sounds rather mundane, until you learn the City was Vienna, Austria.  Harry was welcomed into the world in 1928 and Susi eight years later in 1936.   By the time Harry was ten, Hitler was on the rise and Austria was one of his first targets.  Because of his astute parents, Harry left the city via the "Kindertransport" (a method where Jewish children were entrusted to sympathetic strangers to escape from Vienna, with no certainty for the parents they would ever see their children again).  Harry was on the very last Kindertransport to leave the city bound for England where the lucky escapees would be house fed and taught English.   In fact, the kids were treated so royally, they thought they were on vacation.   He spent two years in Great Britain and was fortunate enough to have loving relatives in San Diego who agreed to raise him.   Eventually, Harry (an only child) was reunited with his parents — when in 1956 he was able to afford to send for them and the family finally came together.

Susi was only two years old when the Nazis came to Vienna.  Her father, a furrier, went to Belgium as an interim step to get Susi and her mother out of Vienna, setting his sights on America.  It took two years before he could (believe it or not) bribe the Underground enough times to get his wife and daughter out of Austria heading for Belgium and the ultimate goal — a ship heading for America.  Susi recalled being carried papoose style on her mother’s back through a dark tunnel but the light woke her up, causing her to cry and the border patrol (the Gestapo) were alerted and all were turned back.  After three failed attempts by Susi (she was a pistol even then), the Underground made other arrangements for her to cross the border.  She was transported on a train by a sympathetic non-Jewish woman whom her mother had prevailed upon to pass her off as her own – with no assurance they would ever cross paths again.   However, like Harry, it had a happy ending and Susi’s family arrived in America in February of 1940.

Sadly Susi’s ordeal was not quite over after she reached freedom’s shores.  She had been taken desperately ill on the ship, diagnosed as scarlet fever, burning up with an unbelievably high temperature and whisked away by ambulance to a nearby hospital as soon as she arrived at her aunt and uncle’s 6th floor walkup.   However, when she recovered and was released, they found their suitcases on the sidewalk as her family did not want  their children contaminated.   As Susi added, "Understandable, but hard on your first day in America."

These are the stories you read about in books, watch on DVDs or see on the big screen — but this is a true, heartwarming story of staunch, heroic parents who knew no bounds for doing what had to be done to protect and save the lives of their children.  That ended some sixty years ago when Harry and Susi were safely harbored on American soil.

Since their respective migrations to America, there was much water under the dam.   Failed marriages for both played major parts in their histories — but when they came face to face in Reno in 1998, something clicked.   Susi had been divorced for twelve years and loved single life — enjoying her passionate drive for bridge.  They played a lot successfully together, Susi traveling up to Washington State and Harry flying down to Florida.   Meanwhile — a bit old to be boyfriend and girlfriend (although obviously in love).

Susi and I have been exchanging emails for the last six weeks since the severity of Harry’s sickness was known and the other day, I asked her — "when did you get married?"   "Funny story, " she belted.  "Harry met my mother and she loved him."  [And who didn’t?  JKW].  "So after a while, knowing I didn’t want to ever get married again, my mother asked him .. now that you are so close to Susi, how should I introduce you to my friends since you aren’t married?"

The next week, Susi added, "Harry asked me to marry him and I accepted."  He was very convincing and like he said so many times before, we were a ‘fit’!"

A sad ending to a short marriage but a very beautiful and deep love story.

Our hearts go out to Susi who was a real trouper through these last several weeks (knowing the end was so near — but taking one step at a time and having Harry savor and enjoy each of his remaining days and doing what he loved most –  playing bridge and winning).  Harry is now at peace and Susi’s cherished memories, unrivaled happiness and joys of her ten years with Harry will afford her much comfort and pleasure in the sunset of her life.


25 Comments

LindaSeptember 1st, 2010 at 11:37 am

What a lovely story.

PegSeptember 1st, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Harry lived in Iowa when I first began to play tournament bridge; MN and IA are both in District 14. So, Harry was a frequent competitor of mine as a neophyte and as I developed my sea legs. Harry was always someone contending for the winner’s circle.

Harry and Susi were such a cute couple, and they sure always seemed to be enjoying themselves. I was so shocked when Susie shared the terrible news of Harry’s illness. A solace that he was able to enjoy his loves (Susi and bridge) ’till the end – and that he did not suffer long.

I had no idea whatsoever of Harry and Susi’s early stories! Perhaps it was what they had to face and battle in the beginning of their lives that made them so strong today.

Of course, my deepest condolences to Susi – and thank you, Judy, for sharing these stories.

Joanne YeagerSeptember 1st, 2010 at 5:27 pm

Harry was my ticket back into the “real world of duplicate bridge.” One session of duplicate at the Orlando Bridge Club made it clear that my bridge success of twenty-seven years ago in the Clearwater area needed updating. Harry was recommended as the “best bridge teacher in the Orlando area.” What a pleasure to meet Harry and the satisfaction of getting my “bridge legs” back was a thrill. He helped me on the road to the happiness I was looking for in my retirement. Many wonderful events took place as a result of my relationship with Harry and Susi. Thank you for sharing their beautiful story.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 1st, 2010 at 6:40 pm

Peg:

I played against Susi so many times with Jane in the women’s events — but I hardly knew her and when Harry came along, we seemed to chat more often.

I vaguely remembered some story about them both being Holocaust Survivors — but you know bridge players — things go in one ear and out the other.

After Harry got sick and passed on last week, I told Susi I wanted to pay a tribute to him and explore their commonality. Apparently, each of them had typewritten memoirs of their childhood in Vienna for their children and for posterity. I was privileged to have Susi send me copies of each. From there, the task was easy.

But — how ecstatic that they found each other even so late in life and shared more than ten lovely years together!

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 1st, 2010 at 6:45 pm

Joanne:

Nothing nice that I would hear about Harry could surprise me. I know he was a successful player, writer, teacher, administrator and contributor to the game in other ways — but nothing could surpass the love and devotion he and Susi shared — though for far too short a time.

Barbara NistSeptember 1st, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Judy – Thank you for reminding me of Harry’s story. I met Harry soon after he moved to the Seattle area. He shared his story with me as I am one of those who always asks questions. We played together occasionally, but more often were on the same teams.

When Harry and Susi started dating we were all so very pleased for both of them. While knowing we were going to lose Harry to Florida and Susi, we were pleased for them both and their great love story.

Susi and Harry entertained my mother and me for several days in their home, just after they moved in, they were both as gracious as possible to us. Each year Susi and Harry would return to Seattle for a month or so and we would see them at NABC’s. They were such a loving and happy couple.

I spoke to Harry just after hearing the news about his health. We had a lovely visit. My thoughts and prayers are with Susi, and Harry will always be in my prayers. He was a great friend and a true gentleman.

Ellen KentSeptember 2nd, 2010 at 5:04 am

…..wonderful synopsis of a serendipitous love story…i still remember the beautiful wedding pictures…

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 2nd, 2010 at 8:33 am

Hi Barbara:

Knowing so many hundreds of bridge people over the years, I guess no one really knows whom they travel with or know — unless you see them seated at the table across from each other. Naturally I was shocked to see your name above as I had no idea you had any ties with Harry and/or Susi. The huge bridge world is small indeed. Thanks for your kind remembrances. I enjoyed reading them.

Judy

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 2nd, 2010 at 8:38 am

Ellen:

What a beautiful description of ten plus wondrous years. I suppose it proves once and again quality — not quantity.

Kevin MclaughlinSeptember 2nd, 2010 at 1:42 pm

I have known Harry “Rueful” Ross for more than 20 years, but only had the pleasure of meeting Susi in the last roughly 10 years. Even though it was almost 10 years ago that Harry described his relationship with his energetic and intellectual wife, his description of their relationship is as fresh as though he had made his remarks just yesterday. And you could tell he was a man who was in deep trouble and completely in love.

He told me that, very simply, Susi wanted to take over and completely run his life. He concluded by saying that he was outwardly fighting for his self respect. But that inwardly he could not have been happier.

What else do you need to know about Susi than that she is a care-giver and manager because she is so good at it, and because she cares so deeply. Harry had complete confidence and trust in her, and in all things.

What Susi is going through now makes me think how terrible it is to have the pain of missing your mate so much. But conversely, how much worse it would have been had Susi and Harry never met at all?

God bless Susi and Harry.

Kevin McLaughlin

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 2nd, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Kevin:

You didn’t miss a beat — and in such eloquent fashion. They were a very special couple and that is what makes it even harder for Susi. But thank god for the bridge world! I found that out for myself when my late husband, Norman Kay, passed away.

There are lots of things you can say about bridge players (and most have been said on the sites — especially mine) but when “one of us” is in need of help, companionship, friendship, compassion, love, sympathy, — or even money — the bridge world ALWAYS RISES TO THE OCCASION .. and beyond!

Thanks for your beautiful memories.

MissieSeptember 2nd, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Thank you for such a lovely story. Susi is a wonderful woman who obviously found a match for herself in Harry. This story while sad in places puts Susi in a new light for me. My thoughts and prayers are with you Susi.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 2nd, 2010 at 4:55 pm

Dear Missie:

As I was answering Kevin, I got a call from Susi. We talked for what seemed like over a half an hour and she was so pleased with all the beautiful words and thoughts about Harry. Just by chance, I turned back onto my site and saw a comment from “Missie.” I asked Susi if she knew any bridge player called Missie. With a happy lilt, she replied, “Oh, that’s my manicurist.”

Welcome! Consider this your indocrination to the crazy world of bridge.

Cheers,

Judy

Carol and Tommy SandersSeptember 3rd, 2010 at 8:27 am

This would have been a great human interest story had we not known Susi and Harry…..having known and loved them made it wonderful. We thought it very well written, deserving to be published. Where else can one find such a fetching love, bridge and holocaust story rolled into one? Susi’s mother deserves an Oscar for the part she played in their marriage.

For the future Susi will be just fine….she’s a survivor.

Bobby WolffSeptember 4th, 2010 at 6:06 am

To Kevin,

Loved your candid and downright song writing description. “My defenses are down, she’s got me where she wants me and the battle can’t be won, but I must admit that I like it, being miserable is gonna be fun”.

Since it happened to me (and twice) it is indeed enabling and everything positive which goes with. Unfortunately for me, I have never met either, but they both will forever remain in my heart and, at least, I hope to meet Susi soon.

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 4th, 2010 at 8:45 am

Dear Carol and Tommy:

Your words were so on point, but how could I expect less from you two?

What I find interesting is that after death some people always find the right things to say. However, in the case of Susi and Harry, it is so obvious it all comes from the heart.

Judy

JaneSeptember 5th, 2010 at 9:02 am

Well done, Judy!

I remember well our conversations with Susi and Harry and the awe-inspiring tales of their individual escapes and eventuallly finding each other decades later. It’s one in a million and really their tale should be sent to the annals of the Holocaust Museum.

Marlene SteinSeptember 5th, 2010 at 11:00 pm

Very nice tribute to a very nice gentleman; not to mention his Bridge expertise and fabulous ability to write about it. St. Croix will miss Harry. He wore their sweaters well.

MarionSeptember 6th, 2010 at 7:48 pm

We’ve known Susi for almost 50 years. She and Harry shared so many happy and fun times together. Judy Kay-Wolff wrote a beautiful tribute to both.

Betty ParkerSeptember 7th, 2010 at 2:51 pm

What wonderful stories about two wonderful survivors. I didn’t know about the serendipity of it all, but it makes me even more in awe of both of them. I’ve known Suzi for probably 40 years, always a fierce competitor and lovely lady, then along came Harry, a special force of nature, who caused her to blossom even more. I feel honored to have known them both and witnessed them in their life together. I look forward to many more years of friendship with Suzi.

Andy CulbersonSeptember 8th, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Harry was a gentleman and a gentle man. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face.

Carolyn & Tom PetersSeptember 9th, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Judy, Susi sent me this link and asked me to post it on the Facebook wall “Carolyn’s Bridge Group.” I posted the link tonight for others to see.

Thank you so much for the time and effort involved in orchestrating this wonderful story.

LITA TALUSSeptember 10th, 2010 at 12:04 pm

i PLAYED AGAINST THEM ON MANY OCCASIONS AND FOUND THEM TO BE A GREAT COUPLE AND VERY PROFESSIONAL AT THE TABLE

Judy Kay-WolffSeptember 10th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

To all of you sentimental and caring people (including Lita Talus, my Philadelphia friend from umpteen years ago):

I deserve no credit for recounting the little I knew about this incredibly loved human being. My information was gathered from painful moments on the phone and computer with Susi plus her sharing their typewritten Tales of Vienna with me (each recalling the impending nightmare — with perhaps Susi too young to really understand for a two year old toddler).

The beautiful memories from all of you portrayed on my site is in a way bittersweet for Susi — a constant reminder of all the ecstatic days they shared together that are gone forever and the sad days ahead without him. However, with the unspeakable outpouring of love from around the bridge world, I cannot imagine any greater tribute to Harry Ross and it will serve as a lasting memorial to all who knew and loved him and should be of tremendous comfort to Susi.

Judy Kay-Wolff

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