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Goodbye to Barry

Sometime last night, Barry Harper lost his battle against cancer.

Four times, I’ve tried to find the words to describe the man our bridge world just lost. Somehow, though, capturing who Barry was on paper is a daunting task.

Barry loved bridge and loved bridge people. Whether competing at an NABC – or a side game – it didn’t much matter. As long as he could hoodwink an opponent, exercise a squeeze and endplay – or psych someone out of a knock-out win (as he merrily did against me) – Barry was happy.

This bridge professional, who almost never could be found without a gigantic smile on his face, had a fine resume. With over 20,100 masterpoints, Barry was #2 on Canada’s top lifetime masterpoint list. Barry earned the title of Grand Life Master when he and Don Campbell won the 1990 Silodor Pairs. Barry wrote bridge articles, gave lectures and taught. Giving back to the game he so loved, Barry was on the ACBL Board of Governors and served on the competition and convention committee.

Yet I think what I and most of us who loved Barry will remember about this bear of a man are not his accomplishments at the bridge table. No, why this loss is deep for so many of us is the spirit and joy that was Barry. Just being around him – you felt better. No matter what happened at the table, Barry’s smile and positive energy were infectious.

Somewhere along the way, taking shots of Barry at every tournament we both attended became a tradition. It didn’t seem possible, but somehow, his smiles got larger every time. If – God forbid – I somehow missed capturing him, everyone would wonder, “Where IS Barry’s photo?!” Then, I’d search him out, and grab yet another outrageous grin from ear to ear from that happy, hairy guy.

Is it a coincidence that Barry Harper died on Valentine’s Day? I think not; not at all.

If anyone captured the hearts of many – it was Barry.

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