Judy Kay-Wolff


Last week I reminisced about Julius Rosenblum and Edgar Kaplan, two legends from the past – each being remembered for his own special contribution to the game.  I would be remiss if I overlooked my late, wonderful husband Norman who passed away on January 17, 2002.   I even alluded to his Memorial Service at the Fall NABC in Phoenix, but when I finally unearthed one of the boxes of Norman’s bridge memorabilia, I must apologize for it was held in Houston on March 11, 2002.  To paraphrase would not do the memorial service justice so I am resorting to the heartwarming article which appeared in the Daily Bulletin …. and I quote:


Many memorable thoughts about the late Norman Kay were voiced at Monday’s special memorial service to one of bridgedom’s greatest stars.  The one that brought tears to the eyes of many of the hundred-plus attendees was delivered by Mike Becker.**

“The Twin Towers of New York will live in our memories forever,” he said.   “The Twin Towers of bridge were Edgar Kaplan and Norman Kay, and they too never will be forgotten.”    Before saying that, Becker told how he was told long ago how easy Kay and Kaplan are.   His informant added, “The problem is they don’t make mistakes.”  (**When I first started inviting speakers, Mike was one of the first to be called and he declined.   You can imagine the shock when the Emcee asked at the conclusion if anyone else wanted to say something and Mike Becker marched to the microphone.  I did a double-take!)

Altogether 16 bridge people with close connections to Kay spoke about their friend as Judy, Norman’s wife, and Robin, his daughter, listened.   The video clip of the night when Norman was inducted into the Hall of Fame, was shown.  Henry Francis, the master of ceremonies, read a warm tribute from George and Edith Rosenkranz, who were unable to be present.

Here are brief excerpts from each speaker:

SIDNEY LAZARD:  “Norman had a remarkable will to win.  He was the best partner anyone could hope to have.  All the tributes we have heard today are fully deserved.”

BART BRAMLEY:  My aunt who lived in the Philadelphia area was so proud back in 1960 when she read in the paper that her neighbor, Norman Kay, was a bridge expert.   I wasn’t impressed then, but I felt honored many years later when I was asked to form a partnership with Sidney Lazard and play with Edgar and Norman.   One of the highlights of every tournament for me was the opportunity to go to dinner with Edgar and Norman.’”  (And I loved when Bart joined us as he always had lots of two word anagrams for me to labor over to come up with one long word.  He used to enjoy my challenge and I got the hang of the thing and eventually  became reasonably good! — JKW)

JOAN GERARD:  “The bridge game in the sky is getting better and better all the time.”

GAIL GREENBERG:  “It may be true that there’s no such thing as a modern saint, but we all had quite a problem when we tried to do a party roast for Norman.  There just wasn’t any little foible to tease him about except his slow play.”

BRUCE KEIDAN:  “Thirty years ago when I had one masterpoint, the Sharif Bridge Circus was coming to Philadelphia, and I, a cub reporter, saw the chance for my first byline.  I wanted to feature Sharif, of course, but I was intrigued by Norman Kay.  Later I pestered Norman trying to get an interview.   I finally succeeded by following him onto a train to New York City.   That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship.”

BOBBY WOLFF:   “Norman never intimidated anyone, he never needled anyone.  There have been precious few like him.”

LARRY COHEN:  “I got to know Norman and Judy through my friendship with Robin.   Somehow Norman made me feel like a celebrity even though I was still a virtual newcomer to the game .  That’s how Norman was.”

AILEEN OSOFSKY:  “Norman had a good life with his wife, his children, his work, his hobby and his friends.   He was the embodiment of goodwill.”

DAVID BERKOWITZ:    I’m going to talk about Judy (Why am I not surprised. David? JKW).  I have found her to be domestically challenged – she uses her stove for a planter.   She was with Norman all the way – they were a great combination.”

RALPH COHEN:   Norman was called the Babe Ruth of bridge.   Let’s see what that means.  We all remember Cy Young, Ty Cobb, Christy Mathewson and those other baseball greats, but when it came down to the greatest, it was Babe Ruth.   That’s the way it is in bridge — there have been many great stars, but when it comes down to the greatest, it was Norman Kay.”

RICHARD FREEMAN: (Though he was always ‘Dickie’ to Norman and me.   What’s with the Richard?   JKW).  “Whenever Norman started to think, I knew he would always find the right answer.  I believe I knew him longer than anyone else here, and I found him to be unfailingly kind.”

ROY GREEN:  “I remember one time when I was kibitzing Norman and Edgar.  As usual Norman was giving long and careful consideration to a play, and one of the other kibitzers was getting restless.  Edgar turned to him and said, “I’ve put up with this for 40 years.   You can do it for 15 minutes!’

ALAN LeBENDIG:  “It’s good we remember Norman for his humanity.  He was a very special person.”

ALAN TRUSCOTT:   Alan read a poem that embodied the essence of Norman.

BRIAN GLUBOK:  “Norman was a wonderful teammate.  He was a pleasure to have as a friend.”

Norman has been gone almost nine years although he is still a household word among his fans. family and friends. Republishing this article was a way of introducing a wonderful human being to those of you who are newcomers and never had the pleasure of meeting or playing against him.   Norman was a perfect role model and an unequaled credit to the game.   The beautiful tribute above leaves little to the imagination.



JoanieNovember 11th, 2010 at 6:42 am

With all these stories locked away in your head (since you say you don’t want to write a book) — how about writing more stories about the game legends who are only names to us and tell us more about their personal lives. Would certainly make us envision these great players as something other than just bridge heroes — but real people.

JSNovember 11th, 2010 at 6:48 am

Knowing Norman so well, though I was there at the actual memorial service, the tribute once again brought tears to my eyes, A well written accounting by the reporter.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 11th, 2010 at 6:52 am

To Joanie:

I guess I do have enough ammunition to accommodate your request — and if I don’t, Bobby could sure help. In fact, one of the most charismatic characters (and I do mean characters) was Ozzie Jacoby, a man with no equal. Will get working on that while slaying my other more serious dragons. Thank you for the inspiration

Dave Memphis MOJONovember 11th, 2010 at 11:26 am

I played against Norman and Edgar in a Chicago NABC back in the early Seventies. My partner and I bid and made 7 spades, a contract not likely to be reached by most of the field. Instead of being upset by getting a bad board, Norman just said “Nicely done, boys” (I was young then, geezer now). That’s what kind of a gentleman he was.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 11th, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Dave, that is a testimonial to the real Norman. He respected the game and admired bridge par excellence. It was from the heart — no phony baloney! It is rewarding to me to hear kind memories from decades ago.

Thanks for sharing.


PegNovember 11th, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Judy, I did not know Norman very well. Yet, I knew from everything I read and saw that he was a superb bridge player.

What impressed me the most, however, the times that I did see him play, was his demeanor. I never saw him get angry, yell, be sarcastic, and so forth and so on.

When Dave says “he was a gentleman” – that says it all.

Judy Kay-WolffNovember 11th, 2010 at 4:09 pm


That was an astute description of Norman. The same held true with me. He was “a perfect gentleman.” Only I, after the completion of a hand, knew I had committed some mortal sin (though not what it was). He would involuntarily

bite down on his lower lip, so I would put a queston mark on my score beside the board number and be informed of what I had been charged with when we returned to our room.

Many a time he would have a sore lip but little by little I did improve. What a lucky gal I am.

First Norman — now Bobby.