ACBL Unit 539
San Diego

Lena Jelusich 1917-2021

We are sad to report that Lena Jelusich died on November 1st 2021 at the age of 104. She is survived by her beloved daughter Carolyn Casey. Fellow bridge players shared their sentiments below. This was collected by Larry Sherman at the occasion of her 100th birthday.

From daughter Carolyn Casey

"Mom was born first and no one had any idea that another baby was coming. She told me she was put in at one end of the crib and her sister at the other end. Mom grew up on a dairy farm in Buckley, Washington, which is just outside of Tacoma. She worked the farm with her twin sister Louise and four brothers. One of her brothers died when he was 12 and her mother died the following year. Mom was eight and her mother was only 33. Mom had to quit school during the depression to help out on the farm. I remember her telling me about going to the doctor one day when she was a teenager and the doctor commented on the calluses on her hands. She always said that she and her sisters worked right along with their brothers doing everything they did.

We moved to San Diego in 1954 when daddy had an opportunity to buy into a shipyard which repaired tuna boats. Up until recently mom played bridge six days a week, taking Wednesday off to go shopping and go to Nordstrom for lunch. Growing up, mom did what the typical American housewife of the time did. She did everything from gardening, cooking, cleaning, and anything that needed to be done she did. My father did not play bridge but after he retired he would happily take her to & from bridge. I can tell you with 100% certainty that she would tell anyone and everyone to have fun while you can.

The main person she played with was Roger Doughman and she won many tournaments with him. I have asked her on more than one occasion recently to try and remember, but she cannot recall other than the fact she and Roger used to win big. She started playing with him in the early '60s. She won the women's pairs at the SD regional in 1965, but she can't remember who she played with. As far as I know the women that she used to win tournaments with have all died. I have a sister and a brother and they have no interest in the game. For as long as I can remember, Mom has enjoyed playing cards - whether playing pinochle with my uncles at the dining room table or our nightly family cribbage game after the dishes were done. There is nothing she would change! She likes things the way they are."

From District 22 President Bill Grant

"Lena Jelusich started playing bridge in 1960, when a neighboring San Diego housewife, Mimi Flood, wondered if she'd like to learn a new card game. Lena told her she knew nothing about the game, but Mimi said not to worry, that it was easy. That did it! She quickly became addicted, but since she still had children in school, only played once or twice a week. As she learned the ropes, she recalls someone telling her she played pretty well for a woman. In addition to several terms as hospitality chair for unit games and sectionals, Lena's combination of kindness, friendliness, and huge streak of competitiveness has made her a natural good will ambassador, playing with young and old, beginning and expert, all for her love of our game. Her daughter Carolyn Casey has now joined our ranks, disproving the bridge skips a generation rule."

From author Fred Parker

"There was a bridge player who always kept a small box on his laptop during the game. Each time, when it was his turn to bid, he would peek inside the box before making his call. We all assumed it was some kind of cheat sheet with notes about he and his partner's agreements. After passing away, the club owner was able to get the box from his children. He opened the box, and inside he found a single slip of paper that read "Pass." Obviously, you have never seen a similar box on Lena's lap!"

From bridge obituarian Jo Boyer

"Wish I were half the player Lena is." Meanwhile, last year, Jo (49) and Tom Tatham (89) teamed up with Lena (99) and Florence Seltzer (96). Their average age was 83.

From former partner Roger Doughman

"In our SD Sectional, we were playing in the finals of a Swiss team event. Our team consisted of Riggs Thayer playing with Cathy Strauch and Lena with me. Our opponents were Evan Bailey playing with John Strauch and Robert Rosenblum with Joel Hoersch. Lena arrived at a contract of 6S after cue bidding a couple suits at the 4 level. Joel under lead the ace of hearts to dummy's singleton K. Lena played the hand very nicely and made her contract. When comparing our 7 board match, we had 6 push boards while the 7th board was the above mentioned slam, which made only 4 in 4S at the other table. Robert came over and commented on that board, to which Lena responded, "Well, Robert, you bid what you can make."

From bridge historian Robert Rosenblum

See on the right an article "San Diego Pair Top Fund Game" from the August, 1980 issue of The Contract Bridge Bulletin. Lena paired with Roger to score a 75.6% game!

Click on the image to read the article.

From friend Common Knowledge

A fierce competitor, a gracious and loving person, Lena always has a smile on her face. Of things she likes the best, Lena loves the competition and likes the people. May you enjoy this, your 100th birthday, with friends and family who love being around you. And, just so you know, you are hot on the heels of Natalie Doerner, who just turned 103 and plays twice each week at the Soledad Club!

Photos of the 100th Birthday Party

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