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My Friend

From the very early days of my knowing Leonard Pennario, he has always been a gentleman of the old school. He has always been very conscientious about thanking people who put themselves out for him. Do something nice, and you invariably got a handwritten thank you note a short time later. There are very few people, never mind busy, travelling, famous ones, who take that kind of trouble.

The Bridge Player

Leonard Pennario is a very good bridge player. He has his own entry in "The Bridge Encyclopedia" (page 712) which has this to say about him: "... Pennario won the Open Pairs event in Beijing China in 1991, and placed 2nd in the Fall NABC secondary Swiss Teams 1973, Spring NABC secondary Open Pairs 1980."

Just recently at the age of 79, he won a category "1" event at the National Bridge Championships of North America in New Orleans. Sometime in the 60's A. Sheinwold, America's foremost bridge columnist, wrote a column about a play Leonard had made at the table. Leonard carried this clipping around for years. I swear he was more proud of that clipping than a favorable review in the NY Times!

How Leonard Became "Life Master"(1)

In the late 60's Leonard was playing with the Detroit symphony.  Dr. Jack Greenberg, the Detroit News bridge columnist, was organizing a social bridge game for Leonard, and invited Philip Leon, of Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan, to make up the fourth. Now Philip is a bridge celebrity in his own right (see page 687 in the Bridge Encyclopedia) and Michigan's most highly rated player. He does not play 'social' bridge. But, he is also an avid music fan and when he heard that Leonard would be playing he re-arranged his evening and agreed to play. He and Leonard hit it off, and Philip offered to play with Leonard and help him get his Life Master status. It was several years before Leonard's schedule allowed him to stay in the USA for any extended period, but eventually he and Philip started playing in tournaments. Over the next several years Philip, at his own expense, would travel to various tournaments several times per year to play with Leonard. At one tournament in Las Vegas, Philip, Leonard, and some relatively unknown teamates came second in the Swiss teams, beating along the way teams which featured such luminaries as Kit Woolsey, Barry Crane, Dr. Fisher, and S. Robinson. This feat was so unexpected that Kathy Wei, who won the event on a team with Garozzo, remarked, "This is probably the only event where nobody will remember who won, but everyone will remember who came second."

Philip continued to partner Leonard in bridge until he achieved his Life Master goal, and remains a close friend to this day.

(1) "Life Master" is a North American bridge ranking which recognizes bridge playing achievement. To achieve LM status a player has to win a certain number of events at various levels of difficulty. (See www.acbl.org).

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