2012 Northern Arizona Honors Award
          The Don MacIlraith Award

    Fran Edmond, Gwen Thomas of Prescott

         Don & Joy MacIlraith of Sedona


Are recognized by Unit 355 Northern Arizona 
      for Outstanding Contributions to
             Bridge in Northern Arizona

      Don MacIlraith

Joy MacIlraith and Son Steve accept award

                       Fran Edmond

                           Gwen Thomas

                      Standing Ovation!!!

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           2012 Honors Award Ceremony


Unit 355, Northern Arizona, has designated the “Honors Award” to recognize members of our unit who have made significant contributions to Duplicate Bridge in our region. Today, we wish to recognize two pairs of contributors, one from Sedona (Don and Joy MacIlraith) and one (Gwen Thomas and Fran Edmond) from Prescott Arizona.

As bridge is partnership game, these two partnerships have worked together to achieve success not only while playing at the bridge table, but also at their clubs and in the Northern Arizona Unit 355.

Donald MacIlraith formed Unit 355 Northern Arizona (as we know it today) in 1990. With the help of Alan Oaks, at the American Contract Bridge League, Don organized the unit by approaching all the clubs (from Lake Havasu, Winslow, Prescott, Flagstaff and Sedona) and having petitions signed by 65% of the members. Don formed a Board of Directors and established by-laws for the unit. Gwen Thomas and Fran Edmond served on this first
Board of Directors in the early 1990’s.

At the same time, Don and his wife Joy were involved in re-shaping bridge in Sedona. Hanna Chansky had formed the first bridge club in Sedona in the late 60’s to early 70’s. Hanna became ill and passed away in 1991. Don and Joy took the lead in reorganizing the club into a non-profit membership organization that would be run by a board of directors. The club was named the Sedona Oak Creek Community Duplicate Bridge Club. Joy became the club’s first full time Director. In 1993, Don, with the help of Fred Esser, negotiated with the Elks Lodge to obtain our current “home” for bridge in Sedona. Don and Joy served for 15 years on this club’s Board of Directors and each held the president position several times.

Don and Joy had already established themselves as very good bridge players. They had earned their Life Master by 1980. Among their bridge accomplishments:
• Top Masterpoint Winners at the 1983 Mesa Arizona Senior Regional Tournament
• Top Masterpoint Winners at the Lancaster California Regional Tournament in 1987
• First Place in the Richard L. Frey Senior Swiss Team Event at the 1987 Fall North American Bridge Championships.

Don remained involved with the Northern Arizona Unit 355 until the late 90’s handing this position over to Gerene Gluckson, who in time handed the leadership over to Peter Wahl. In the mid 2000’s, Darryl Helton became our unit’s President.

Gwen Thomas formed the Yavapai Duplicate Bridge club which met at the old Prescott Adult Center (now the “Boys and Girls club”) two days a week. Gwen served as a club director. Fran Edmond became Gwen’s bridge partner and her assistant in running Gwen’s club. Gwen started the Prescott Sectional Tournament which was held every July at the prior Adult Center. We remember Gwen and Fran working in the kitchen at the old Adult Center making sandwiches for the players who were participating. Local Prescott players brought in home baked goods. This has inspired our Sedona baked goods program. Polly Hoover moved to Prescott in 1993 and purchased property on Pleasant Street. Polly established the Bridge Centre of Prescott on Pleasant Street and conducted two games a week. Polly along with Norma Browning were the teachers. Both clubs were absorbed into the Prescott Adult Center when the new center was opened in January 2007.

Fran and Gwen continued to serve Northern Arizona on the Unit 355 Board of Directors from the 1990’s when formed by Don MacIlraith. Gwen had to step down in 2009 due to health
reasons. Fran still serves on the Board of Directors and fills a vital role as the Partnership chairman for all of Unit 355 sectional tournaments including this weekend’s Sedona Sectional tournament.

Current Unit 355 President Darryl Helton wants to especially Thank Gwen and Fran for their help to our unit in 2006. At this time, our unit was insolvent due to difficulties in establishing the Sedona Sectional and the Laughlin Sectional which had been co-managed with Las Vegas Unit. Las Vegas had indicated they no longer wanted to participate in the Laughlin tournament. Unit 355 had no money and had no supplies. Gwen donated all her club supplies to Unit 355 after her club was absorbed by the Adult Center. These supplies served as a foundation for Unit 355 to conduct future Sedona and Laughlin Sectional tournaments in the latter part of 2000. Fran and Gwen had many years of experience and were often called upon by Darryl to assist in his position as president. Prior President’s Don MacIlraith and Peter Wahl also appreciate Gwen and Fran’s contributions to the Unit 355 Board of Directors.

Beyond the organizational leadership that each of these four people contributed to bridge in Northern Arizona, we would like to recognize their commitment to providing a friendly atmosphere in the clubs and or tournaments that they managed. These four people enforced “zero tolerance” long before it was a mandate. The Members of Unit 355 Northern Arizona Bridge shall forever benefit from the volunteerism and dedication of Don, Joy, Fran and Gwen.

In the future, this award will be designated as the "Don MacIlraith" award in recognition of the leadership that he has provided Northern Arizona since arriving in Sedona in 1980.