Judy Kay-Wolff


This tribute to Edgar Kaplan was inspired by Jeanne Lucas’ comment on my blog entitled “A Bridger By Any Other Name” which was totally unrelated to Edgar.   It was a tribute to Ira Rubin who had recently passed away.  Just as “Zupchik” was Ira’s favorite word — “Indeed” seemed to be Edgar’s.  It was an expression of approval or a subtle means of disagreeing.   I never knew which.   However, if it was in reference to a bridge hand, it was probably the latter.   Edgar, a master of all trades, had a way of measuring his words.  Perhaps that was part of his charm.

As you old-timers remember, Edgar (who had never been married) wed Betty Sheinwold, ex-wife of his partner (and co-founder of KS) – Alfie Sheinwold.  His union with Betty occurred about the time many bachelors were succumbing to taking their first vows … (Lenny Harmon/Marion Stein)(Ivan Stakgold/Alice Cox)(Dickie Freeman/Louise Robinson) .. and of course Norman and myself – in 1963. 

Edgar, Norman and I shared many memories – reaching both sad and happy extremes.  When Betty passed away from cancer in 1985, Edgar’s life came to an abrupt halt and for many months he became a recluse.  Although we were close, he declined our efforts to visit with him (as we had been doing for some twenty years) – staying overnight on the top floor of his brownstone on West 94th Street.  Finally he came out of his stupor, although it was no shock as Betty was in steadily declining health and her death was no surprise.  He recovered little by little after burying himself in “The Bridge  World” and made gradual attempts at resuming a normal regimen by returning to the tournament circuit with Norman.  Edgar enjoyed wedded bliss with Betty for less than twenty-five years while his marriage to Norman lasted over four decades (with a three year hiatus when Norman was recruited to play with Sidney Silodor).  It was a bridge union made in heaven.

Of all the pleasures Edgar afforded me personally (and they were countless) — our 1967 NABC insignificant two session Mixed Pair Victory in Canada (by half a point) will always be the highlight in my bridge life.  No doubt .. when the scores were tallied, in the eyes of many (including Edgar), it was The Miracle of Montreal.  I can just hear him muttering … INDEED!


PaulMay 14th, 2013 at 12:16 am

Great play on words .. or should I say word? I heard Edgar was quite a master of the language and his vocal repertoire was even surpassed by his writing. It must have been a delight to enjoy his company and savor his thoughts. I did not have the pleasure of knowing him personally but read a great deal about him through the years. Blogs like yours are a welcome change of tempo.


Judy Kay-WolffMay 14th, 2013 at 12:45 am

Hi Paul:

I am always in a quandary as to whether or not to share personal relationships about rubbing shoulders with the greats of my early days as it must seem presumptuous to some. I shall always cherish those relationships to which I fell heir — known as right place — right time.

I got to recognize the players as down to earth “real people,” rather than icons of the game with so many scalps on the wall. Most of my memories are gleaned from the East Coast Sectionals and Regionals, especially in the Metropolitan New York Area where Norman competed a lot. That is where most of my early bridge days (mostly kibitzing) were spent during my courtship and eventual marriage.

Hardly anyone is still alive from that era and every time I pick up the Bridge Bulletin, I spot another obituary. As I reflect upon it, I am grateful for having been afforded the opportunity of getting to know them although I must confess — I was reminiscent of the proverbial fly on the wall — listening, but saying very little.

As you can see, I have come out of my shell.



ChuckMay 14th, 2013 at 2:17 pm

I remember hearing about Edgar’s appearance at a party in Philadelphia given to celebrate Norman’s 60th birthday. His eloquence was said to be devastatingly charming — mixed with humor and savoir faire. It is not surprising to recognize the love you had for him.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 14th, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Yes, Chuck,

The year was 1987. In my office I have a tall bookcase that houses lots of memories — mostly albums of invitations, pictures, notes and letters worth savoring. Whenever I hosted special events (and I must confess Norman and I were “party people.”), I arranged to have them captured on video — which are in deep storage and I had forgotten about until now. I look forward to searching them out when time allows.

However, your reminder caused me to seek out a brown leatherbound album inscribed Norman Kay – August 9, 1987, to which I have easy access but haven’t looked at in a few years. I smiled as I gazed down at an array of photographs — mostly family and friends — but not without the likes of Norman’s bridge cronies who descended en masse upon Evviva — our suburban location chosen to celebrate his “special” milestone.

I smile as I turned the pages. It looked like a night at the Academy Awards .. Edgar (of course), Bob Jordan, Arthur Robinson, B. J. Becker, Alvin Roth, Andy Gabrilovitch, Ivar Stakgold, Lenny Harmon, Tannah Hirsch, Elaine Landy (widow of Norman’s dear friend Alvin), et al. George and Edith Rosenkranz sojourned from Mexico City and I was thrilled to receive an R.S.V.P. from Yvonne and Alan Ameche, Alan was a bridge devotee, but was better known for his football prowess, winning the Heisman Trophy. I am very touched recalling so many of Norman’s bridge friends, especially the out-of-towners, travelling to our neck of the woods to help Norman celebrate this occasion.

Side by side was another album which housed greetings from world renown figures (who did not even know Norman). However, I wrote to each of them, explaining Norman was a fan (or admirer) and asked for a brief birthday wish. I was absolutely overwhelmed by the responses which flooded my mail box. They were a conglomerate of notes, letters and tons of autographed photos representing the worlds of government, sports, radio, TV, theater, movies — and whatever was left. When I get a chance, I will assemble a list and revisit this site. It will take a while as it would be easier for the reader to digest by separating them into categories.

To autograph collectors I am sure they may be worth serious money — but I wouldn’t part with them for the world. Wait till you see the list. It is a real mixed bag.

Chuck, thanks for reminding me.

AlanMay 14th, 2013 at 11:58 pm

It is hard to believe that Norman’s 60th was over twenty-five years ago. Although my wife and I are not bridge players, we got to know so many of your friends who attended your social functions. I do recall that the scrapbook containing the messages of so many well-wishers was a show stopper — but old age in most cases (particularly mine) brings on memory loss. Will anxiously await your list of responding celebrities.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 15th, 2013 at 12:05 am

Yes, Alan, as you alluded to .. “old age” brings on memory loss. I assure you it happens a lot at the bridge table — so you have one less area to worry about.

I started working on the list after I returned from the bridge game today, but I am trying to break the notables down into categories to facilitate the reading. Hopefully, I will finish by tomorrow.

Judy Kay-WolffMay 15th, 2013 at 6:10 pm

As promised, I have drudged through the treasured personalized messages of those celebrities who were kind enough to accommodate my request. So here goes ….

In Government: President and Mrs. Ronald Reagan (signed Nancy and Ron); Vice President George Bush; Donald T. Regan (first and foremost — Norman’s boss serving as Merrill Lynch Philadelphia Branch Manager then on to bigger and better things as ML Chairman of the Board, Secretary of State under Reagan and eventually Chief of Staff); Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey; Pennsylvania Senator John Heinz whose life tragically ended when his plane collided with a helicopter in 1991 — coincidentally over an elementary school about two miles from our home); Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo; New Jersey Governor Tom Kean; New York Mayor Ed Koch; Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Spector; Massachusetts Governor Edward M. Kennedy; and another Philadelphia Mayor .. W. Wilson Goode.

The Sports World was well represented: Red Grange (The Galloping Ghost of Chicago Bears fame); Phillies catcher and TV Broadcaster Timmy McCarver who was also a personal friend of Norman’s; Boston Celtics Coach Red Auerbach; Phillies center fielder and later sportscaster Richie Ashburn; Philadelphia 76ers player and coach Matt Goukas; New York Knicks star and later New Jersey three-term Senator Bill Bradley; Eagles Coaches Buddy Ryan and Dick Vermeil; New York Yankees superstar and now Los Angeles Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly; Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt — perhaps the most popular player in Phillies history; Dodgers Coach Tommy LaSorda; hot-tempered Phillies five-time Golden Glove winner Larry Bowa; handsome Atlanta Braves player Dale Murphy; and Wayne Gretzky referred to by most sportswriters as the greatest hockey star ever.

In the Entertainment World: 60 Minutes Host Morley Safer; Comedienne Joan Rivers; TV journalist Barbara Walters; Vocalists Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme; Singer Lucy Arnaz (daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz); the one and only Omar; Cut-up Don Rickles; Provocative Dolly Parton; All time superstar of screen and television Bob Hope; TV People’s Court Host Judge Wapner; TV personality Johnny Carson; popular singer Wayne Newton; TV Anchor Jane Pauley; Philadelphia comedian Joey Bishop, member of the Rat Pack; and probably considered the greatest entertainer of all time .. Frank Sinatra.

In categories unto themselves …

Famed television moderator of ‘Wall Street Weekly’ — Louis Rukeyser (whom Norman watched religiously). And .. speaking of religion .. on a more reverent note …. both a photograph of the Pope and a message (typed on official Vatican stationery) from his personal emissary — blessing Norman. Who could ask for more!

That’s all she wrote!

AlanMay 15th, 2013 at 6:43 pm

Wow! That’s some laundry list. They are to be treasured — indeed!

Matt RuttenbergJune 5th, 2013 at 3:38 pm

If you have any stories of my father Alfred Ruttenberg, please share. I would greatly appreciate it.