A Spicy Life!
By Elsa R Wasserman
If variety is the spice of life, then Doris Denny is having a very spicy life. She has more animals, people she loves, five children she has adopted the natural way (they came to her and started calling her mom), more careers, more places she has traveled to and lived, more games she has won, more husbands, and more friends than most of us.
I met Doris at the home of mutual friends. She spent most of her time playing cribbage with our host who loved the game. I’m not sure if he realized Doris is a Cribbage Champion several times over. She once owned and operated her own Cribbage Club that is still going today.
Her smile is welcoming to all and her blue eyes twinkle with mischief. She is the ultimate game player. If you know anything about bridge, Doris consistently reaches the top rankings in games she plays. She has at least 3,500 master points. For a comparison, I have been playing bridge for two years and have 9.58 master points.
Doris is adventurous. From a young age she wanted to travel the world. Her first trip outside the United States was to a Bridge Tournament in Acapulco, Mexico. The year was 1971. She had been playing bridge for three years. I asked Doris how she happened to learn the game of bridge. She told me that after she had lost one of her sons, at a very young age, her mother suggested she learn to play bridge as a form of grief therapy.
Doris loved the game and wanted to learn everything she could. A colleague suggested that she marry a champion bridge player, and sleep with him, so she could talk bridge all day and all night. That’s what she did. Doris remembers everything. She told me of a bridge hand she held during the Hawaiian Nationals in 1975, 2 Spades, 3 Hearts, 8 Diamonds. She won the bid and the hand.
She also managed her own travel agency, and became an airline stewardess traveling from Cincinnati, Ohio to New Orleans, Reno, and then to Puerto Vallarta. As a travel agency owner, she got frequent familiarization trips. That is how she ended up in Ajijic at the Real de Chapala in 1994. Travel to Mexico was becoming a hot market.
For the next two years, Doris rented out the Nueva Posada for two weeks, and brought a full complement of guests for a Cribbage Tournament one week, and for a bridge tournament the next. She loved Mexico and all the people that she met. Bridge was now her passion and the thought of playing bridge every single day was the dealmaker.
Her husband agreed to come and live in Mexico. He also built the home, where Doris still lives, walking-distance from the bridge club. Mr. Denny had thought ahead and purchased the lot next to their home so that Doris could have all the animals she wanted. Her mother, who came to live with Doris for her last years, declared, “There could never be too many animals”. Doris took her mother seriously. She has four dogs and nine cats at last count. Of course that could change. The sign at her front door reads, WE WELCOME ALL STRAYS.
People love to talk about how they met Doris. It could have been standing in an elevator or waiting in a line somewhere. If you accept her invitation to dinner, you will always be surprised at who else is there. Her close family here is a young couple that lives in the beautiful addition she had built for her mother. As you can see in the picture, her four-legged friends are also very much her family
Doris is a loyal friend and as one person told me, “So smart, generous and loving and kind. She knocks herself out doing for others, without any expectation of return. For the sheer pleasure she takes in making others’ lives better. One of the best, most interesting, most intelligent people I have met in my life”. Another friend who Doris has mentored in bridge says, “Doris is an inspiration to me.” Another, “Doris has a way of bonding people together and always being there when needed.”
Smiles have always trumped the tears in the life of this singular woman. Even though we always see her smiling, she has suffered many losses, including her own two sons. Her response to sadness is to reach out and to help someone else in need, be they two or four-legged. Doris has traveled far from the small town Kentucky home where she grew up. Travel has broadened her outlook on life and her understanding of human nature. She has pretty much traveled the world and is always ready for the next trip.
When Doris and I started this interview she warned me, “I’m old. There is a lot of ground to cover.” She wasn’t kidding. She also told me the most important things for her were her babies (read animals), her extended family, and bridge. Doris believes in “The Hand of Fate that puts her where she needs to be. To have the best and most fulfilling life, you have to go with the flow.”