The Bunco group celebrates 40 years of fun and friendship. Contributed / Deanna Barrows

For the past 40 years, 12 women, all graduates of Westbrook High School in the ’80s, have met every month to play bunco.

In teams of two they face off over three tables and roll dice for a couple of hours or so every second Friday. And while their competitive spirit may have waned some since they were in their 20s, they say, their relationships have only grown stronger. They have played together – and supported each other – through numerous major life events, including marriages, the birth of children and then grandchildren, and losses.

We tell ourselves all the time that we’re so lucky to have each other,” said Deanna Barrows of Windham. “It’s just that camaraderie of women.”

Barrows first learned how to play bunco in 1983. She rounded up a group of friends and they’ve been playing together ever since, rotating hosting duties. There is a core group of 12 players and subs that fill in when a regular has to miss a game.

“Come hell or high water, we’re going to play bunco,” Barrows said. “We were in our early 20s when we started, and now are in our 60s.”

Player Pam Theberge has known Barrows since kindergarten and other members of the group since seventh grade.


“They’re all blessings,” Theberge said.

Early on, she said, their monthly games used to precede a night out at a club.

“They’d see us coming in and go, ‘There’s those Bunco girls,'” Theberge said, adding, “Those days are over.”

Later, many of the women’s husbands worked at the paper mill in Westbrook and they’d commiserate and support each other while they adjusted to their husband’s shift work and the challenges that presented to family life.

“Our kids grew up together,” Barrows said.

Theberge said the children knew all about their mom’s bunco nights. Her daughter even asked to play bunco at her eighth birthday party.


The objective of the game is to win rounds and outscore your opponents. Points are made by rolling the same number as the round you are in. A round stops when a team at the designated “head” table gets to 21 points (a “bunco”), after which the teams switch tables and continue.

“You mingle, chit-chat and then move to another table. If you win at one table you go to the next, but you can’t have the same partner,” Theberge said.

Everyone, therefore, has a chance to talk with everyone else, she said.

“The game itself is simple so it’s actually kind of funny that we’ve been playing for so long,” Barrows said.

Before the games get started, the group usually socializes for about an hour, and then for another hour after playing, making most of the bunco gatherings four-to-five-hour events.

At Christmas time, the group has traditionally invited their spouses and their substitute players to join their fun, as long as they have a multiple of four. At some of those Christmas games they have had up to nine tables, or 36 people, playing.


The group has traveled together, too, and members are looking forward to an upcoming Bahamas trip.

Six members of the group attended a national bunco convention in Las Vegas.

“There were all these groups of women from all over the country,” Barrows said, and she realized just how many friendships the game has kept together.

The sense of community is what keeps people coming back, she said.

It’s our commitment to each other that we’ll see each other every month,” she said.

The group has suffered the loss of two members, Ann Michaud and Lori Hawkes, both of whom died at age 52.

“That was awful,” Barrows said.

The group did as much as they could for the two women’s families, and for each other, during that difficult time, she said.

And they remember their friends on the second Friday of every month. A small statue of an angel sits at the lead Bunco table in memory of them.

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