A poker buddy from long ago has died and that naturally starts me reminiscing.
In this case, the deceased was also a colleague of mine in the College of Communications at Penn State and a kindred spirit in distance education. His name was Marlowe Froke and he died Feb. 23. He was 82.
Marlowe had many virtues, but one of his strongest was his humility and unassuming manner. He was never loud. He seldom raised his voice when angry, although I did a couple of sharp e-mails from him when he didn’t like something I wrote. But he never mentioned those things at poker.
At poker his unassuming manner served him well. He could play, unassumingly, for hours and lose most of the hands. Sometimes he even raised outrageously—or as outrageously as our nickel-dime-quarter-fifty-cent game allowed—only to show a losing hand, a hand he should have folded sooner.
Then sometime around an hour before closing, he’d do it again and everyone stayed because they knew they had him beat.
Only they didn’t.
He had a great hand and it was, as we like to say, well hidden. That is, you couldn’t tell from the four up cards what his three hole cards were. So he might show two 5s, an 8 and a Jack or two hearts, a club and a spade and then turn over three aces or three hearts for a full boat or a flush. We were all thinking our measly two pair would easily beat him.
And when he won, he just raked in the pot. He didn’t brag. And when we all kept saying “Nice hand, Marlowe,” he would nod and say thank you and almost act embarrassed that he had taken our money and try to change the subject.
As you might imagine, we told a lot of jokes at our games. In fact, we tried to remember the jokes we heard during the month so we could repeat them at the next poker game. Some of us were better joke tellers than others.
Marlowe was unique.
He didn’t tell many jokes, so when he started to tell one we listened.
He would get to about the second line of the joke and start laughing.
By the fourth line he was laughing louder and louder and start to tear up.
By the sixth line, the tears were rolling down his cheeks and we were all laughing.
I don’t remember any of the punch lines from Marlowe’s jokes, but I’ll never forget the way he told them.
I am a freelance writer and photographer and retired journalism professor. In my first newspaper job more than 50 years ago I wrote a sports column titled The Spectator (Caslon typeface). I thought I'd resurrect the title, which was and is in honor of Addison and Steele.
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