WHEATON – For Lombard couple Ron and Phyllis Fogel, being bridge instructors for the Wheaton Park District suits them just fine.
The couple has been married for 33 years, meeting each other for the first time at the Tree Towns bridge club in Elmhurst. Phyllis Fogel admitted she was intimidated by him at first.
"I was always scared of him at the bridge table because he was a fine player," she said. "He had been playing longer than I had. Also, I was playing with a fellow that was about 6-foot-3, and Ron was scared of him."
They are enjoying the game of bridge in their retirement. Ron is a retired chemical engineer, and Phyllis is a retired second-grade teacher.
Needless to say, they both are passionate about the game. Ron enjoys the endless possibilities of the game.
"Every hand is different," he said. "You can always learn something on every hand. Whether you have a good hand or a bad hand, there is always something to learn."
Phyllis said she enjoys the game's social aspect.
"We meet people we would never meet otherwise, from all walks of life," she said. "And everybody loves to play the game."
And to keep tranquility in their marriage, they have learned sometimes it is best not to talk about the game – especially if you have a bad hand.
"We learned very early in our relationship not to talk about hands that we had trouble with until the next day, when our tempers have cooled off," Phyllis said.
They feel fortunate about having the opportunity to play the game across the country and the world.
"If you buy a bridge entry to a game, you can play against the top players in the world," Ron said. "You can't do that in any other sport. And we have."
The couple recently played 101 hands of bridge at a tournament in Glenview.
"That would not turn anybody else on except for another bridge player," Ron said with a laugh.
They enjoy passing on their knowledge of the game to other people.
"The bridge world is always looking for new players," Ron said. "We try to give them as much information as we can."
Thanks to the couple, bridge is now the most popular game played at the Wheaton Park District's Mary Lubko Center. The couple has been teaching bridge at the center since 2013.
"When they first approached me about teaching, I didn't even know if we could fill a class," center Manager Linda Dolan said. "But now we not only fill the classes, we have to run double sessions."
Dolan said the couple brings knowledge and enthusiasm to the classes.
"It's a little intimidating for people who have never played bridge to learn how to play it," she said. "It's not an easy game to learn. They learn it and feel confident."
That includes Dorie Ballati of Roselle, who said she appreciates the couple's knowledge of the game.
"They explain it so clearly," she said. "It's a complicated game."
The next session of intermediate bridge begins March 9. To sign up, go to the Wheaton Park District's website at wheatonparkdistrict.com.