Judy Kay-Wolff

BOBBY JORDAN – a survivor till the bitter end!

Robert F. Jordan, a Washingtonian by birth, lived in Philadelphia, Cincinnati and eventually passed away in his final residence in a luxurious abode in Palm Beach, Florida.   Bobby had a very unusual and quite fortunate life as things always seemed to go his way until his passing in 2004, two years after his closest friend, my late husband, Norman Kay.

Bobby’s bridge career started in Washington and Al Roth took a shine to him and recognized the great flair and table presence he had at bridge.   Bobby who was not a believer in hard work, moved to Philly and met a beautiful and bright divorcee by the name of Polly (nee Levine) who was several years his senior.  They married shortly thereafter.  Norman and Bob became fast friends and local bridge partners, winning something like 17 straight unit or district tournaments until they were asked to stop playing.  Eventually, they were invited to return to the local scene as everyone wanted to take a shot at them again.

Bob became involved in, of all things, a cemetery business, where his main responsibility was to find fast-talking and convincing men to sell cemetery plots.  While he was playing pinochle and rubber bridge at the Cavendish Club, Polly kept the books and more or less ran the business.  Polly was so mad for Bob, and after a failed first marriage, was ecstatic to fall in love again with such a fun person and terrific card player.   It was an exciting and beautiful union.   They each had found happiness.

Norman, Polly and  Bob became an exclusive triumvirate.   Polly, who had not gotten seriously into bridge, was one of the best gin rummy players players in the country (and was as good as most of the best of men).  Whenever Ozzie Jacoby would come to New York the three of them would take the hour and a half ride and the boys would back Polly, almost always returning a winner.  Eventually Polly started to take up bridge more seriously, but as in the case of most husbands and wives, it was not healthy for the marriage to play together.   By that time I had met Norman and we were pretty serious, seeing each other almost every night.    So, one Sunday night, the four of us went to a bridge club in Wynnefield called Bee Shermet’s.  It was THE place to go.  When Jordan and Kay walked in together, it raised a lot of eyebrows.

Norman partnered Polly, hell bent on improving her game with her natural ability for cards and Bob, with whom I had become quite close, volunteered to play with me,   I was very nervous and had trouble following suit.   After the sixth board, Bobby went to the restroom and returned five minutes into the next round,   He took his seat, then looked up inquisitively and asked a simple question with a serious face: “Are you mad at me?”  Of course not,” I naively replied, to which he responded in typical Bob Jordan style with straight face:   “THEN, WHY ARE YOU PLAYING THIS WAY????”   Of course, that was his cute personality, but it did not serve as an incentive to my self confidence.  That was the first and last time Bob and I were partners although we remained good buddies for forty years till he passed away, speaking frequently with him before the final curtain.

In the summer of 1962 Polly went into the hospital for routine women’s problems and died on the table.   Bob was devastated as he was not one who could be alone.  Norman moved in with him immediately and one day we introduced him to a lovely young bachelorette I worked with in a law firm and six months later they were married and became the parents of three wonderful kids.   Life was beautiful again and they moved to Cincinnati where Bob bought another cemetery business, this time with Phyllis running it.  Soon after they moved to Florida.  However,  Phyllis contracted a form of Alzheimer’s, became non-functional and did not last very long.  She was one of the loveliest women I ever had the pleasure of calling a friend.

Bob and Phyllis had been living in the lap of luxury, joined the Boca Rio Golf Club where he enjoyed his tennis matches (one time even played with Donald and Ivana).   Soon he was living the life of Riley with his magnificent new wife Lorraine whom he and Phyllis had met at the Club.   He also played in the rubber bridge games in FL with Benito, Billy Eisenberg, et al and soon as he started losing, he bid them his adieus.   Bobby was not big on ‘losing’ and always knew when to move on.   Seemed to be the path his life took. 

As you can see no grass grew under his feet (perhaps from being in the cemetery business) but after about five years of wedded bliss to his lovely Lorraine, he contracted cancer and died.  I have lost contact with the children – but what a sad ending to a once joyous and exciting life (even after giving up serious tournament bridge)!!!

Sometimes life can be very cruel.  But, I will always remember Bob with a big grin on his face as he was a very funny man.


4 Comments

RBKNovember 28th, 2010 at 4:29 am

I remember Bobby as i was growing up in Philly. He was warm and friendly and never failed to make me laugh. Never was their any absence of humor when he was around. He had a million stories and his style as a raconteur was right up there with Eric Murray’s.

He was always the life of the party and you never walked away without a smile on your face after being in his company.

One of his funniest was about a suburban couple (with a bully of a husband) who had driven about two hours to reach the tournament and his wife forgot the system and he berated her till she was in tears. After his rampage, he jumped up from the table and Bob followed him to the urinal. Suddenly, Bob (standing next to him) started to spout out and quoted him verbatim which began .. ‘All the way up from ?? Pennsylvania, we discussed ……” The shocked ogre was soooo embarrassed he left the stall abruptly. It was a true story and Bobby’s audiences always found that very amusing.

He was one of the most entertaining men in bridge history. Funny the things one remembers!

JaneNovember 30th, 2010 at 3:53 am

I remember the story from an Atlantic City Regional about Bob which we all laughed about for months. After the nightly sessions, everyone used to sojourn to a deli on Pacific Avenue to hold post mortems on the boards of the day. The participants were people like Bob Jordan, Al Roth, Dickie and Louise Freeman, Dave Warner, Norman and me and a few others.

In walks Herman Simon, a sweet man but a terrible bridge bore who was never at a loss for words. As he entered, he rushed to his friend Bob gushing about two hands.

Bob stopped him dead in his tracks and proclaimed. (1) Our panel will hear your hands; if(2) You pick up the bill for the table.

Herman happily plopped into a chair and believe me, he got his money’s worth as the two hands probably became a dozen.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 30th, 2010 at 4:22 am

I (because of Norman) knew Bob as well as anyone since 1961 when I first met him. Daily I used to go to Stauffer’s for lunch near the law office where I was employed as a legal seretary, accompanied by my co-workers.

Coincidentally, It was the daily meeting place also for Bob, Norman and his ML crew where they ate and played Liar’s Bill and had a jolly old time.

As time went on Bob took over a very successful cemetery business and was able to afford a magnificent home out on the Main Line where he loved to entertain at his pool where the food and wine never stopped coming. Bob, by nature, was very gregarious, and everyone loved him, his contageous smile and his unequaled sense of humor. The Sunday regulars numbered about two dozen.

Routinely, starting around 10 am. people from other parts of the area would call and do a weather check.. It could be windy and cold, but his stock answer would be JUST WONDERFUL, despite the preponderance of clouds. By the time the crowds started to arrive, the sun came out or it might even be raining. It was hit or miss.

But — the altnerative was great food (wife Phyllis was a fabulous cook), plenty to imbibe on and always several rubber bridge games in his lovely recreation room.

All was not lost. Bob adored entertaining and was a most gracous host. Sunday was always a day for celebrating at the Jordan Home until his business caused him to move to Cincinnati and the Sunday soirees came to a sudden halt.

ROBERT BRACKNEYNovember 7th, 2012 at 11:00 pm

Whatever happened to Bee Shermet? She was my bridge teacher in Los Angeles in 1967, when she sponsored classes at the May Company department stores.

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