A double birthday celebration included triple digits May 21 at Aliante Station, 7300 Aliante Parkway.
A party with cake, balloons and revelry was hosted in honor of the property’s bingo hall, which marked its third anniversary, and regular player Bernice “Aunt B” Gursch, who turned 100 May 24.
“This is the second year in a row that we are celebrating our anniversary with her birthday,” said Aliante Station slot operations and bingo manager Mario Giannini. “She had such a great time that she wanted to celebrate her 100th here.”
Gursch was born in Chicago and orphaned by the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. She and a sister were raised by family, she said.
Years later, Gursch left high school to work at an envelope company to help support the family before starting a career at Illinois Bell Telephone Company. She found her calling as an operator and district secretary.
Retirement met her at age 65 after 49½ years with the telephone company.
“That was the limit to leave Illinois Bell and go on Medicare,” Gursch said, shrugging her shoulders. “So I left.”
Gursch lived independently for most of her years, but her days weren’t lonely. She bowled, watched Turner Classic Movies and played bingo.
She resided on the second floor of a Chicago complex for decades but left for good after a 2004 fall down the steps raised red flags with doctors, said nephew George Pfeiffer.
“Doctors wouldn’t let her go back,” he said. “She moved right from the hospital to here.”
The plane ride from Chicago to Las Vegas was a first for Gursch. She was 92, and the Southwest Airlines flight crew popped a bottle of champagne and presented her with a certificate when she landed, George Pfeiffer said.
Gursch lives with her retiree nephew and his wife in North Las Vegas. Her family was able to pack up her Chicago apartment with ease, George Pfeiffer said.
“She knew right where everything was, that’s how astute she is,” he said.
Gursch reads the newspaper cover-to-cover daily, faithfully roots for the Chicago Cubs and votes in every election, said niece Dessie Pfeiffer.
Bingo is also a favorite pastime for her, the family said.
At her peak, Gursch and her sister would play up to 32 cards at a time, standing and hovering over their spread to apply magnetic chips, Dessie Pfeiffer said.
Gursch recently took to playing the electronic version of the game at her favored hall, Aliante Station.
The 196-seat room opened about seven months after the rest of the property at the request of guests, said vice president and general manager Carol Thompson.
About half of the estimated 300 daily players are regulars, and the staff knows their playing habits among the six hosted games per day, Giannini said.
“We have a strong, tight-knit group of players,” he said. “We know them by their first names and what they are buying before they come up to the window. They bring in food, surprise (the staff) with lunches and dinner and birthday cakes. We celebrate everything together.”
One such happy face on Monday night games belongs to Gursch, or “Aunt B” as everyone knows her, Giannini said.
“She’s been playing with us since we opened,” he said. “She’s happy; she’s smiling; she greets all the bingo team members when she arrives.”
Her lucky charms are a trinket leprechaun and an angel she rubs during sessions, Dessie Pfeiffer said.
“When it gets down to the last number, that angel comes out, and she gets (to) rubbing,” she said.
Aliante Station had treats for all bingo visitors May 21 and presented Gursch with a voucher for a steak dinner at MRKT Sea & Land.
“We are glad she picked to celebrate with us at Aliante Station,” Giannini said. “We feel really special, and that’s why we are going above and beyond.”
Gursch played bingo with the Pfeiffers and several other family members who gathered for the occasion.
“Ready to win?” Dessie Pfeiffer said as the first numbers were called.
“Big,” Gursch answered.
Gursch has maintained good health aside from some recent back and knee pain, she said.
Her secret to longevity was “living moderately in everything,” she said.
“She’s our matriarch,” George Pfeiffer said. “Hopefully I’ll live to get a little closer to her age.”
Thompson also shared warm tidings.
“We want to wish her much happiness and good health,” she said.
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at email@example.com or 477-3839.