Norm’s earliest memories are of Alexandria, VA, even though he was born in Chicago. His father, who worked for the Department of Agriculture in the late ‘30’s and during WWII, was posted to Washington, D.C. by the time Norm was two years old. His dad, whose degree was in dairy manufacturing, took a job in Cedar Rapids, IA in 1946 and then bought a creamery in Kansas one year before refrigerated trucks came into widespread use (thus dooming his father’s small business). That led to his father becoming a manager of several large creameries in Kansas.
Norm graduated from high school in Hillsboro, KS. Since both his parents held Master’s degrees – his mother in food chemistry – Norm always knew he would be going to college. He matriculated at Kansas State University, majoring first in science and then in English. He also joined the Air Force ROTC. After one year of graduate work, Norm did three years of active duty in the early 60’s at the Air Force Academy prep school for enlisted personnel teaching college prep English.
From 1964-68, Norm attended the University of Pennsylvania where he earned his doctorate in English. For most of his professional life, Norm was a Professor of English at UNL, retiring in 2001.
That year, Norm experienced perhaps his greatest crisis: While exercising on a treadmill at the gym, he suffered a life-threatening brain aneurysm. To his great fortune, an EMT on the machine next to him recognized what was happening and provided immediate assistance.
Norm was the beneficiary of a new medical procedure whereby a wire was threaded through his body from his groin to his brain. Electrical impulses sent through the wire caused it to curl into a knot, thus sealing the aneurysm. After a year and a half of treatment and rehabilitation, Norm attained a nearly complete recovery.
Shortly after his return to good health, Norm began working as a tax consultant at H&R Block during the busy months of January through April. He found he was able to understand tax rules and able to research answers to clients’ questions. It’s a way to exercise his brain while also helping out people who often feel overwhelmed by the intricacies of the tax code.
Norm started playing bridge as a teenager. His parents hosted a monthly social bridge club, so Norm watched and learned the game. Eventually, his mother was confident enough of his abilities to ask him to sit in for her towards the end of the evening while she prepared coffee and dessert for their guests.
Norm continued to play throughout his years at Kansas State, but then stopped for some time. However, there were a number of people in the English Department at UNL who played bridge or cribbage during lunch, and that was enough to get him started on the game again.
His second wife introduced Norm to duplicate bridge and they started playing at the Club about 1975. They began playing in tournaments two to three years later and won the Novice Pairs at the Lincoln Regional in 1979. Norm started playing with other people as well; he and Bob Simard won the Flight B Pairs at the Regional in 1983.
I asked Norm about the advantages and disadvantages of playing with one versus multiple partners. He noted that playing frequently with the same partner allows the pair to develop more sophisticated nuances in both their bidding and their play. However, playing with a variety of partners gives a person experience with different approaches and systems and prevents one from getting stuck in a rut. Over the years, Norm has learned a number of diverse systems. He feels this gives him some advantage in tournament play as he has some knowledge of the different systems opponents may be using.
Norm began directing in the early to mid-eighties because the Club needed Directors. He served on the Unit Board in the early 1990’s and even landed the coveted position of Unit Secretary. About this time, he also started directing in tournaments. Unfortunately, that had to end when he had his health problems in 2001.
Norm enjoys both playing and directing. If it is a small game, he is comfortable doing both at the same time. However, it is hard to keep adequate focus on both tasks in a larger game. That is why he always directs but never plays in the Christmas game.
Norm loves bridge because of its infinite variety. Patterns recur, but there is always something new. He enjoys the challenge immensely. Norm has won some 15-25 Sectional and Regional events and is a Gold Life Master.
Norm taught himself to read when he was three years old and has enjoyed it ever since. He especially likes history, travel, and detective stories (think Nero Wolfe) but also is keen on staying abreast of major trends in world thought. It’s not unusual for him to start reading in the middle of a book to see how the prose works out; if he’s intrigued, he’ll go to the beginning.
He also likes to read the Bridge Bulletin and Bridge World as well as various books on bridge. He feels he’s learned a lot from the works of Mike Lawrence and Terrence Reese, in particular. After all this reading, it’s a pleasure to recognize situations at the bridge table.
Norm believes bridge keeps his mind active. He likes to concentrate on learning new things. In bridge, there constantly are new situations in which to apply general principles. The challenge of decoding a situation, communicating with his partner, and planning a successful play, whether on offense or defense, is all part of the excitement of bridge.