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Centenarian is a bridge-playing 'pistol'

Beginning a game of party bridge Tuesday at the Senior Citizens Center are, from left, Ron Pearson, Burnetta Frazee (100), Joe Stein and Donna Lord. (Robin Fish/Enterprise)

Burnetta Frazee, a regular bridge player at the Senior Citizens Center in Park Rapids, has lived here 50 years. She also lived 50 years in Pelican Rapids.


It makes sense when you do the math. Frazee turns 101 in less than a month.

It's hard to believe. She looks decades younger. She lives alone and gets around with a little help from a cane. She laughs and makes lively remarks to her friends. She plays a mean game of bridge.

Asked for her secret to a long, healthy life, Frazee said, "Keep active. Keep busy."

She practices what she preaches. "I was a golfer," she said, adding with a laugh, "I swung until I was 90."

When weather and health permit, Frazee comes to the senior center's weekly bridge party at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, catching a ride with neighbor Dick Wolverton, 93. His daughter drives them both there from their homes on Mud Lake.

"Duplicate bridge is what I like," said Wolverton. "This is party bridge today."

Fellow bridge enthusiast Ruthann Helgren described Wolverton as "a master bridge player" who is "lots of fun." Meantime, Helgren called Frazee "a pistol."

Asked whether this has to do with her style of bridge playing, Frazee said, "I play the cards as I see them. I don't play to win."

Nevertheless, she agreed when Wolverton said, "It's more fun to win, though."

"I like the people. I like the game. It's invigorating. It's stimulating," said Frazee.

During the first deal of bridge Tuesday, Frazee attempted to fulfill a bid of six clubs, which would have meant taking at least 12 out of 13 tricks.

"That's a big bid," defending player Ron Pearson explained. "That's a little slam."

It was a big gamble that didn't pay off in that instance. A look of chagrin registered on Frazee's face when she realized she had made a mistake, possibly due to the distraction of a reporter's questions.

"I didn't mean to trump that," she said upon recognizing her mistake, a moment too late. "I had it cold."

A minute later, the last trick was played and the damage was counted. Frazee fell short of her bid by three tricks, costing herself and partner Donna Lord 150 points.

"It was cold," Frazee repeated. "Darn it. I was flustered."

A post-mortem discussion about the deal concluded Frazee could have fulfilled the bid but the conversation distracted her.

"We all love her to pieces," said Lord. "Nobody that I know is as sharp as she is at that age."

The players shared a friendly laugh about the idea that Frazee had just disproved that. But it was noted that she saw her mistake the moment the card left her hand.

"I had it in the sack," Frazee said.

"We all screw up," said Pearson.

Frazee added, "When I get flustered, then I'm done."