Snapshots of Lives Celebrated: Historical Bridge Obituaries

While some people might think that it’s a strange thing to do, whenever I’m in need of inspiration, I mouse over to the newspaper obituary column and start reading.

It’s tempting to get lost in a flood of current news events. But it can be very valuable to take a look into the past, too.

Obituaries are snapshots of lives well-celebrated. (At least, most of the time…)

It’s an art to write a good obituary – and it’s an art to live the kind of life that a good obituary gets written about.

That’s why I’ve always found reading obituary columns an inspiration.

I might be having a rough day at the time, but it reminds me that there’s a bigger picture. Obituaries aren’t written based on how many good or bad days someone had, but instead on their achievements as a whole.

(If you’re reading this in the future when I’m already dead, feel free to Google my obituary first. I hope it doesn’t say I was terrible.)

Harold Vanderbilt, Yachtsman, Is DeadNY Times (1970)

Harold Vanderbilt

Harold Vanderbilt is one of the first people we have to thank for the origins of modern contract bridge. The famed cruise reinvented (and refined) the game of whist into bridge – and the obituary above provides a clearer look of his life and accomplishments. The headline is simple, and interestingly chose his position as yachtsman as a primary mention instead of his accomplishments in bridge.

Alan Truscott, Times Bridge Editor Since 1964, Dies at 80NY Times (2005)

If you’ve read about bridge, then you’ve read about bridge in the voice of Alan Truscott. He was one of the most famed bridge writers and editors of our time. By sheer output alone, the amount of writing he dedicated to bridge is worth admiring.

Easley Blackwood, 89, Inventor Of a Famous Bridge ConventionNY Times (1993)

All bridge players eventually learn of the Blackwood convention. (And of course, many players even use it successfully at the table…)

Its inventor, Easley Blackwood Sr., passed away in 1993 – but left behind one of the biggest legacies in bridge thanks to the convention carrying his name.

The obituary is a definite life well-lived.

His son, Easley Blackwood Jr., is a composer and musician. Classical, and great. Searchable on YouTube, if you’d like a listen.

Ely Culbertson, Bridge Expert And Peace Advocate, Dies at 64NY Times (1955)

Ely Culbertson is well-known for his bridge writing (hint: Blue Book), but there are many other accomplishments that took place outside the world of bridge. (Culbertson cigarettes, for example…)

He was interesting, versatile, and exceptionally well-dressed in every single photograph I’ve ever seen of him.

A bridge great – and with a worthy obituary, posted in 1955.

Justin Lall (2020)Bridge Winners (2020)

The life story of Justin Lall is far more recent than any of the other obituaries mentioned in this post – but I’d still like to include it here.

It’s the story of a huge impact left behind in the world of bridge.

More about Justin Lall is available at this World Bridge Federation online memorial.