Rollin’ through life

Published 4:36 pm Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The volume of laughter grew louder and louder as women poured into Corney Neal’s home in Alabaster Oct. 13 grabbing hugs and munching on snacks.

These women all met as young mothers and wives living in the Scottsdale neighborhood in the 1970s. Since, the women have gathered every third Thursday to play Bunko, a game played with three dice.

“It was a great way for all of us to get to know each other, because most of us were all transplants,” Neal said. “Now I refer to all those women as my family.”

Neal, this month’s host, initiated the idea when she moved to the Scottsdale neighborhood from New Orleans, where she had played with another group.

The women have shared a lot while rolling dice over the last 30 years.

“We’ve gone through our kids starting school, our kids getting married and our grandkids being born,” member Mary Anne Flynn said.

No subject too taboo, the women discuss hot flashes, sex, quitting smoking, graying hair and sons they want to marry off; even in front of the lone male player.

The male is Adam Webb, husband of Holly Webb who began coming to Bunko nights literally before she was born. Her mom, Donna Pierce, played Bunko while she was pregnant with Holly. Now, Holly comes to Bunko every month with her own baby on board and husband in toe.

Adam doesn’t even mind the flack he gets from the guys at work. He’s been coming to play with the women for five years.

“I love it — it’s fun,” he said. “I say (the guys are) jealous I have 12 older girlfriends.”

Having a core group of girlfriends is what this group is all about.

Founding member Suzanne Russell said Bunko provides the best support group possible.

“I think a lot of us have had nights when we didn’t feel like coming, but we do — it relieves stress,” Russell said. “My husband sends me because he knows I’ll come back in a better mood.”

These women don’t just play Bunko; they meet for lunch and go on lake retreats. They also live through the serious factors of life with one another. They know they’ve got 11 Bunko buddies who would be there for them with one phone call.

“I come to Bunko as long as I can crawl,” said member Tonye Park. “I was on a ventilator for 15 weeks and I knew they were always there for me. If something happens to one of us, we’re all there.”

Russell’s husband had surgery earlier this year. She said the waiting room overflowed with these women. Member Sue Sanders even came to Bunko on the night of her second wedding, just to bring the ladies cake and daisies.

While some Bunko groups play for gifts or an envelope of money, these women play for friendship.