Judy Kay-Wolff

Missing ERIC and SAMI

During over five decades on the bridge scene. I can sincerely say I never enjoyed and respected a pair of gentlemen more than ERIC RUTHERFORD MURRAY, (now 82) and his junior partner by six years, SAMI KEHELA, both from Toronto, whose partnership lasted for thirty years and still remain good friends.

Their backgrounds were like night and day but they made beautiful music together and I was so proud that the bridge gods brought Norman and Edgar together with them.   Not only were they top performers but were delightful honorable, ethical gentlemen who added much to our after hours get-togethers at Edgar’s suite over a couple glasses of wine.  Eric was an amazing raconteur and captivated us hours on end – with Sami being his straight man.

Their compatibility was legendary though their backgrounds were so dissimilar.   Sami was born in Bagdad and spent some time in England (a disciple of Terrence Reese) before settling in Canada.  Eric, enjoying a successful career as a barrister and solicitor lived  in Canada his entire life.  He was quite outgoing while Sami was much more reserved.

Eric was married to a bright, charming young lady by the name of Helen who, too, was a successful lawyer (but didn’t play bridge) though she often accompanied Eric to the tournaments.    At a rather early age, she contracted some debilitating disease, lingered for several years and died recently.   Eric is now retired from the practice of law but does continue to indulge in the game.     In fact he recently won the Canadian Seniors Team which qualified them to play in the WBF Philadelphia World Bridge Series – but declined.  Sounds like he hasn’t missed a beat.

As far as I am concerned, Eric’s best line (and he has quite a repertoire) was after the Foot Soldiers Scandal where the Italian pair in Bermuda was accused of signaling by touching toes, Eric lost no time in telegraphing the American captain, applying as a replacement.   The telegram (quoted In The Lone Wolff under the chapter called “The Agony of De-Feet) repeated verbatim and brought down the house when read in the vu-graph room.

“Dear Mr. Sheinwold:

I would like to volunteer for the North American Team.   I play a reasonable game of bridge and take a size 14 shoe.

Sincerely,

Eric R. Murray

Sami, on the other hand, not married until fairly recently, had a rather more active not-in-one-place kind of life with various interests as opposed to a lifetime career.  He is a semi-retired bridge journalist, and teacher – enjoying the pleasures of fine wine and films.  He was the former editor of the Ontario Kibitzer, bridge columnist for Toronto Life, contributor to the ACBL bulletin and the Bridge Encyclopedia, enjoys playing rubber bridge and served as a coach as well.

Their combined victories might rival Mr. Everest, but more important, the respect and popularity with which they were embraced said it all


11 Comments

LindaNovember 20th, 2010 at 10:04 am

Only Eric could come up with that invitation. thanks for sharing this with us, Judy.

I do miss watching them play together.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 20th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Linda:

You are right. Only Eric! I speak with him a few times a year and of course, he wrote the Foreword for TLW. When it comes to telling a story, everyone else is a poor second. I still remember rolling on the floor in Edgar’s suite when he told his famous ‘Hark, Hark, the Cannons….” about forty years ago. I don’t even recall the story — just the ending.

Even when I speak to him now, I never know when he is serious or joking. He will forever fascinate me with his numerous talents. He and Norman were great buddies (and teammates).

In fact, I neglected to include in the blog when Norman called Sami to ask him if he would accept the HOF nomination in the Von Zedtwitz category (for living or dead members who have honored the game), Sami snapped back “Only if I can go in as a living member.” Norman capitulated.

Eric and Sami were inducted jointly at the 2001 HOF dinner and they stole the show with one hilarious story after another.

Norman and Edgar were really so fortunate to have them as teammates and I was so grateful to have them in my life for so many years.

Cheers,

Judy

Jim FrenchNovember 20th, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Great tribute to my heroes.When they were inducted into the ACBL Hall of Fame in Toronto it was a memorable evening.Eric signed my copy of Roy Hughes’book Canada’s Bridge Warriors with a personal comment about playing against my brother and me a long time ago when I played a little.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 20th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Hi Jim:

If any bridge heroes deserved the praise, it was the Canadian Bridge Warriors who played their hardest and had the highest code of ethics. They are a tremendous credit to The Maple Leaf.

Fred LernerNovember 20th, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I first met Sami over 40 years ago when I was just starting to play bridge. I kibbitzed him often at the rubber bridge club and at tournaments. I never saw him touch a wrong card on play or defence during any of these sessions. Eric is, as you say, probably 180 degrees opposite from Sami, but together they surely rank as one of the best pairs in the world. Eric is one of a kind with a humour that has to be heard to be appreciated.

A quick personal note, Sami would never sit at my table to play rubber bridge. Why? That story is only told in person 🙂

Two of the greatest !!!

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 20th, 2010 at 7:15 pm

Fred:

It is very gratifying for me to read with my own two eyes how appreciated and respected this twosome are — many decades after their heyday when they stopped playing

actively. It is a real tribute! They are a true legend — unlike many of the breeds of today.

Judy

JSNovember 20th, 2010 at 7:22 pm

Judy:

Ditto to Norman and Edgar. They will always be remembered in a similar fashion — a real credit to the game.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 20th, 2010 at 7:33 pm

At the risk of sounding corny — birds of a feather ……..!

JKW

Cam FrenchNovember 22nd, 2010 at 3:42 pm

And those so inclined to explore these two in greater detail, see Roy Hughs Canada’s Bridge Warriors available at Masterpoint Press. A fabulous read.

Norman and Edgar were alike in many ways, but both were sound, reasoned (like Sami) players.

ERM would psyche, and make wildly outrageous bids that would never occurred to their brethren. As Judy said – Sami playing “straight man”. Way back when I played with my close friend Vince Oddy, who like Eric (and me for that matter) liked to throw his partner the odd knuckleball.

I always said Vince was the pitcher, I was the catcher, I just never knew which glove to wear.

Buy Roy’s book, give yourself an intellectual treat.

C

Jim FrenchNovember 22nd, 2010 at 8:28 pm

Judy:The story goes like this:A man has a one line walkon in a live play:”hark,I hear the cannons roar”.He practises relentlessly,his one line,for weeks.On opening nite,when he is thrust onto the stage and the “cannons” roar, he shouts out”what (choose your expletive) was that ?

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 23rd, 2010 at 10:33 am

Dear Jim:

Thanks for refreshing my memory. No wonder I rolled on the floor when Eric got to the punch line — and I am sure there is only one expletive that would have brought down the house.

Isn’t it wondeful that a story told at least forty years ago should be wedged in one’s mind — not even recalling the punch line. I appreciate your filling in the blanks. I’m laughing all over again.

Cheers,

Judy

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