22 July 2015 21:33 Southampton Bermuda GS Jade Barrett
«If you need me, pick up the phone» – Roman Smolski to the author 1997
Over my decades of living in the community of bridge I have made many friends, but very few as close as Roman Smolski. Every January for over 30 years I found my way to my favorite tournament, the Bermuda Regional, but 1997 was particularly special. My team was having quite a good run, with nary a close match when by the luck of the draw we came up against the Petty team. I had met Vera Petty before, but she had a new partner whose name I had seen and about whom I had read – Roman Smolski.
It was readily apparent that Vera had dramatically improved, her confidence strong; well on her way to a higher level of sophistication in her game. Opposite sat a thin man with a long white ponytail and beard to match.
A competitor through and through, with card playing skills of a nearly surreal quality, Roman revealed an uncanny ability to navigate every critical circumstance. Vera and Roman were undone by their teammates upon this occasion, as our squad managed to acquire the win despite the laudable performance they had returned. During Afternoon Tea, I had the opportunity to visit with both of them, thereby initiating what has become one of the most important relationships in my life.
Over the following years, Roman and Vera’s partnership flourished, both in bridge and personally, culminating in their marriage at the 2001 Las Vegas North American Bridge Championships. I was honored to play the role of best man and for many years Karen and I joined the happy couple as teammates regularly.
It was a sad call I received in St Louis while attending a tournament, to learn that Vera had been suddenly taken from Roman’s life and I have made the journey to share in the celebration of Vera’s life. She was a fiery competitor, unused to defeat. Her dynamic partnership with Roman had seen success with a win at the Caribbean Championships and other high placing in the European Championships. Their greatest moment in the sun was the clinching of the British Mixed Pairs title with first in the Portland Pairs. She won the Norman Bach trophy (awarded to the most successful Bermudian player at the home nation’s annual tournament) an astonishing twelve times in a row – a record that is unlikely ever to be broken. Bermuda bridge will not be the same without her.
In addition to the adoring husband, she leaves a legacy of success and is survived by her siblings Michael and Beryl; children, Amanda and David; and her grandchildren Lucy, Finbar and Mirabella and a host of friends mourn her loss.