Clarice Suthers

CLARICE Suthers, a renowned teacher of the game of bridge, played her last game just weeks before her death last month, aged 92.

A founder of Townsville’s Cleveland Bay Bridge Club in 1991, her passion for the game was recognised in 2006 with an Order of Australia in the General Division for community service. The citation acknowledged decades of teaching bridge and her work for the Forum Communicators Association, training women in regional areas in public speaking.

Born in Atherton in 1920, Mrs Suthers (nee Jurd) grew up in Minbun, Tully, Ingham and TownsviUe during a childhood marred by the deaths of both parents. Her mother, Blanche Jurd, died when she was four and her father, dairy farmer Clarence Harvey Jurd, seven years later. She and her sisters were cared for by their maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Clarke, and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins.

Blanche Jurd had been the eldest in a family of 12 children. After primary schooling in Ingham, Clarice attended St Patrick’s College in Townsville and won a teachers’ scholarship to train in Brisbane in 1937. She graduated in 1938 and returned to teach in Ingham, where she met her husband-to-be, lawyer Rod Suthers in 1939.

They married in Brisbane in March, 1943. By then, Rod had seen active service in North Africa and Syria with the 2/15th Battalion of the AIF and she had taught in Orange NSW and Home Hill. Their eldest son. Michael, was born in Brisbane in 1944.

Clarice spent the rest of the war with Rod’s family at Coorparoo, and with her sisters in Monto.

Rod was promoted to major and served in New Guinea and Borneo before resuming his legal career in 1946, initially in Townsville, then Ayr and Proserpine. Rod’s aunt, Hope Suthers, introduced Clarice to bridge in Townsville in 1946.

Having retired from school teaching to raise her growing family, Clarice also found time for other interests. including table tennis and floral art. She deplored the lack of a child-care service in Townsville and campaigned with Joan Hopkins for the city’s first municipal day nursery, established in Flinders St after a public meeting in February 1947.

Rod practised law in Proserpine from 1956 until his death in 1977.

Clarice travelled around the North during these years, teaching, recruiting and establishing clubs for floral art, bridge and the Forum Communicators Association. She also served as commissioner for Girl Guides in North Queensland and president of the Townsville Bridge Club after moving back to the city in 1979. A driving force behind the annual Magnetic teams’ event at Nelly Bay, she expanded participation in the game through the Cleveland Bay Bridge Club.

Her bridge-building continued in retirement in Atherton between 1994 and 1996 when she joined the Tablelands Bridge Club – and while living at the Townsville RSL Villas from 1996 onwards.

Paying tribute to Clarice at her funeral on December 22, daughter Barbara Hospers said she had played and won her last game in November – five weeks before her death. “Bridge is what has kept Clarrie going – indeed her lifeblood,” she said. “Cleveland Bay Bridge Club was a huge part of her life. Not just the bridge, but the friendships and caring. Your support and accommodation of her in her declining months has been far above the call of duty.”

Mrs Suthers is survived by Barbara, son Andrew, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Son Michael predeceased her.

Ian Frazer – (extracted from Townsville Bulletin)