Lucille Hudson, who celebrated her 103rd birthday on May 7, plays a card in Friday Contract Bridge Club gathering at Regency Park.
Lucille Hudson, who celebrated her 103rd birthday on May 7, plays a card in Friday Contract Bridge Club gathering at Regency Park.
May 21, 2014

When it comes to longevity and ability to stay on top of her game - bridge game, that is - Lucille Hudson has been dealt aces.

A couple of days after her 103rd birthday, which was Wednesday, May 7, friends from the Friday Contract Bridge Club threw a celebration for Hudson at Regency Park Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center, where she's a resident. They served angel-food cake, strawberries and ice cream, sang "Happy Birthday" and cheered Hudson. However, she didn't care for a lot of fuss. Just deal the cards, she said.

You see, for Hudson, playing cards has been a passion since she was very young. Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, she recalls her parents teaching her games such as rummy when she was probably about 6 or 7, and she progressed to bridge.

At one time, after she and her late husband Herb, who owned a food-distribution business in Carroll for many years, moved to Carroll in 1935, Hudson played bridge practically every day as a regular club member or substitute.

"You had to play bridge. Everybody played bridge," Hudson recalled during an interview last week at Regency Park. "It seemed to be the ticket around here. And I do like to play bridge. It's thought-provoking and good socialization."

Hudson loves the game's challenges - counting up the strength of her own hand, communicating with her partner through bids, and trying to figure the other team's strong suits.

Hudson recalled with a laugh that one of her bridge friends from years ago would joke, "You have to know an ace from a deuce."

At her recent birthday party, Hudson teamed in the first game with 90-year-old Jean Heim, and they were competing trick-for-trick with Judy Curry and Claudia Reed.

Hudson followed the bidding closely, played her cards quickly and kept the table entertained with occasional wisecracks.

Hudson says that's a big reason she loves bridge. Players can enjoy the game without any hostility.

Esther Halverson, an original member of the Friday Contract and longtime friends of Hudson's, observes, "She loves the game. She's played a long time. She's quite remarkable. She's just a good player. She remembers everything. She remembers the rules. She's played so many years. People like to play with her because she's very sharp yet."

What does it take to be a good bridge player?

"You have to think," Hudson said. "You have to know the numbers. It takes almost a mathematician. Every card, deuce through ace, you have to know the value of the cards. You have to keep track of those cards as they're being played, and that does make a difference. We have all kinds of people we play with, and we get to know who does what."

She added with a laugh, "There are those who are real sharp, and there are those you can maneuver."

Bridge has given Hudson timeless reward, and she highly recommends it to others.

"It's very, very good for anybody, if they want to have an interesting time and keep their mind going, because you have to think," she said. "It's a thinking process. Every one of those 13 cards (in a hand) you pick up has a meaning."


Lucille was the second-oldest in a family of four daughters of Harry and Florence Cote - they met in South Omaha after both moved to the U.S. from Canada - and is the last surviving child. Her father was a traveling salesman for a general-merchandise company, and her mom, Lucille says, "was just a very fine housewife."

Born May 7, 1911, Lucille graduated from Central High School in Omaha in 1929 and then attended business college before working as a clerk in an insurance company's loan department.

Lucille met her husband Herb, an Oakland, Neb., native, at a church group in Omaha, and they married there on June 10, 1933. Lucille and Herb moved to Sioux City for a couple of years and came to Carroll in 1935. Herb became a highly successful food-distribution-business owner - the former H&H Foods and then F&H Foods - and active in the community. He was named Carroll Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 1975. Herb passed away in March 1991 at age 82.

"Everybody loved him. He was a leader," Lucille says.

Lucille and Herb had a son and a daughter: Richard "Dick" Hudson, who along with his wife Gloria have retired to Waukee following Dick's longtime teaching and coaching career at Mason City, and Mary Lu Aft, who lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with husband Richard and is active with Red Cross and the public library, helping keep Lucille supplied with books. Lucille also has six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Besides playing bridge, Hudson spent a lot of time over the years knitting and crocheting. She still reads books - fiction and mystery - daily. She enjoys stories with characters she can easily identify with. "Something that you can put yourself into," she said.

Lucille has no secrets on living to 103 and remaining a sharp card player, saying life's just dealt her a winning hand and she's played her cards right.

"There is no secret. There's no reason. Everything in my life was good. I didn't have any snags, really," she says.

She adds, with a laugh, "I've just always tried to be a law-abiding citizen and never had any problems with the law or anything like that."