Mary Mitchell said she started playing bridge with her husband more than 50 years ago.

Mitchell, who has played the card game faithfully every week with a group of longtime friends, turned 102 this weekend.

“She plays like a champ, and has always been one of our better players,” said Fran Thraer, friend and member of the club since it started in 1979.

The group of women, most living in Ahwatukee, meet every Wednesday afternoon to play several rounds of the challenging and strategy-oriented card game. Though members have come and gone in those 20 years, the nine ladies meeting at each other’s homes harbor a sense of connectedness.

This past Wednesday’s meeting was an early celebration for their founding member, Mitchell, who now lives in her own apartment at a care center in Tempe.

The nine women gathered around for lunch, cut cake and toasted to Mitchell during a break in their four-hour afternoon of bridge.

“She really is an amazing lady, I always tell her I want to grow up to be just like her,” said member and host Rita Myrann.

Mitchell grew up in the small city of Hanford, Calif. When her husband, Bob, was serving in artillery for the U.S. Army, Mitchell said he learned to play the game and then taught her.

“I love it, I started taking lessons then, too,” Mitchell said.

She and Bob moved to the Ahwatukee area in 1974 and she started the informal club with friends four years later. Meanwhile, she worked as a nurse at Cortez High School in Phoenix for 17 years.

At 102, Mitchell is still active, riding the bus to run errands when she can, cooking light meals for herself, and of course, hitching a ride to her weekly game of bridge.

As the ladies sat at two separate tables playing their game, Mitchell was in the lead with a high number of points, on her way to win.

“You deserve it, Mary,” Myra Ladue said across the table with a smile.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or Follow her on Twitter @dmartinezAFN.

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