Last time I saw Bill Rieker was at the Buffalo Fall Sectional Tournament and he looked a little diminished – more tired, not as crisp. I said it was good to see him and he kind of shrugged it off. He was that kind of guy, not one to dwell on personal matters, but it made me wonder how well he was getting along these days, a year after the death of his wife, Peg, with whom he’d run B&P Duplicate all those year. The answer came in a couple emails Thursday night – first from Marge Schomers, an old friend of his who runs the Lockport game – and then from Judie Bailey, mistress of Unit 116’s Bridge Buff. Bill had passed away on Wednesday. Carlton Stone provided a link to the notice on the Dietrich Funeral Home site a day later. No calling hours. Private services.
A couple times I’d gotten to find out a few things about Bill. He had a contracting business before he retired. His wife, Peg, who was a big golfer and bridge player, had lured him into the game. He was always the gruff but genial director and she was gracious hostess, providing the snacks and pairing up the players who came without partners. Frequently from 2005 to 2008, I was one of them and was one of the stalwarts at their faltering, underattended Wednesday game.
Often I’d get paired with Peg, but sometimes Bill would get pulled in. He was a very steady player – and a good one, though not quite as good as Peg, who was very, very good – and unlike Peg he didn’t do much correcting of other people’s mistakes, although he might fix them with a disapproving stare.
As a director, he was similarly firm, but tolerant. After the first round was completed, he ran a kitchen timer to keep the subsequent rounds on time. I don’t recall him taking boards away from slow players, so it must have been infrequent. He used a microphone for announcements in the social hall of the Zion Church in Tonawanda, but it was so distorted that it was hard to tell what he was talking about. And among the computers used by bridge directors, his was the oldest. But he made it all work. That was his great talent. He could make anything work.
His is not the only death in the local bridge community this week, as it turned out. On Saturday night, I saw Judy Padgug at the theater and she asked if I had heard about Walter Majewski. I didn’t know Walter well, since he played mainly at the Bridge Center of Buffalo, where I have rarely played, but I saw his name frequently among the winners. Judy said she had played against him on Friday at the Bridge Center and then he apparently went home and suffered a heart attack. What a bad year this has been for deaths among bridge players, Judy and I commiserated. We’re greatly diminished.