49-4. Nonagenarian Notions: Jean Gump and Neva Humphreys

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12.  Kalamazoo Gazette, 2011–“. . . . She [Jean Gump] spent those years teaching convicted bank robbers and other prisoners how to play bridge . . . .”

A political junkie myself, I couldn’t help being  intrigued by a Google Alert with that citation!  Jean is probably not a full-blown nonagenarian (around 86 near as I can figure out from the story), but definitely someone who should not have been lost in the shuffle of my hopeless filing system.

I’ve tried to contact the Kalamazoo Gazette to find out of Jean Gump is still with us–no answer at the time of this writing. What a life she’s led! Jean Gump was evidently part of the Catholic left and not only espoused several of their causes but  had twelve children along the way. Yes, I said 12!

According to the Kalamazoo Gazette, Jean’s life as an activist began back in the 1950s, “through her work with the Roman Catholic Church.”  She marched with Martin Luther King and against nuclear weapons. Breaking into Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and writing ‘Disarm and Live’ on a missile silo brought her a prison sentence of over four years. That’s where she spent her time teaching prisoners to play bridge. Great idea I say — keeps them engaged and out of trouble. It was Warren Buffet himself who once said he would be happy in prison as long as he had a bridge foursome.

Another reason I wanted to include Jean here in my closing blogs of Bridge Table Chronicles is that she offers an alternative image to that of the clueless, brainless, and mean bridge ladies of that wonderful movie The Help. 

Women who play bridge come in all flavors!

13.  –Beacon Journal, Ohio, March 12, 2011–“Rockynol dementia patient, 94, [Neva Humphreys] amazes everyone with her innate gift for winning [at bridge]” is the headline of an article by Jewell Cardwell about Neva Humphreys. Go to http://www.ohio.com/news/117845943.html and read the entire lovely article.

It belongs here as a blog that should not have gotten lost in the shuffle because it is a kind of ultimate example of why I believe there is no better lifeskill to acquire than playing bridge, if you hope to live a long and happy life.

The illustration shows Neva, seated with friends around a bridge table–she had been granted her wish to hold a bridge party at Rockynol. Neva, despite advanced age and dementia, “a resident/patient at Akron’s Rockynol Retirement Community’s Senior Independence Hospice–continues to suit up, as it were, to play bridge at least twice a week.”

In fact, Neva did not pass on until over a year later — September 2012.

It’s an article that also ought to trigger the interest of age/dementia researchers. “No one knows,” says Cardwell, how and why Neva is still able to play bridge–“only that it’s a much-welcomed happening. Like the sun peering through a darkness.”  I so agree with Jewell Cardwell’s closing sentence to her article on Neva . . .

“That, dear readers, is as good as it gets.”



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