CommunityVeterans In Focus


100-year-old veteran's game a 'poker sisterhood'

Claudia Cantu poker buddies.jpeg
Posted at 4:26 PM, Nov 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-02 19:53:08-04

When KRIS 6 News walked into World War II veteran Claudia Cantu's house on Friday afternoon to celebrate her 100th birthday, we had no idea what we were in for.

"I'm gonna tell her the strippers are here, because they were asking about a stripper," said her daughter Chris Magill with a laugh as she welcomed us inside.

Turns out, the party had started without us.

"Ms. Claudia," as Veterans in Focus reporter and KRIS 6 News evening anchor Pat Simon has taken to calling her, was seated around the table laughing and cutting up with eight more of her "poker buddies."

Magill seems to remember the original game dating back about 60 years.

"It was always my mom, my dad, my tia, Yoya, which is Aurora (Cantu) — that's what we always called her," Magill said. "And then Aurora had a very good friend, Maria Laughlin (who also played). I was laughing because I was talking to my daughter . . . and I said, 'I can remember when I was little she was old. And when I got older, she was still old."

Since then, the game has seen a rotation of faces, but it's always been a game among friends.

"You know people would pass on or they couldn't (play) because of health reasons or couldn't play anymore," she said. "Somebody in the group always knew 'Oh well, you know, my friend likes to play cards.' "

And so the game continued.

The players in the current group range from about 65-100 years old. And they don't hold back.

"They were themselves (during the Facebook Live)," Magill said. "This is who they are. Y’all captured the true moments of who those crazy ladies are and, it's a -- you know -- it's a poker sisterhood."

Magill, however, said she is simply a bystander when the sisterhood gets going.

"They're always like, ‘Hey Chris, you want to play with us?” she said. "I’m like ‘No.’ -- 1, I don't have a poker face; 2, Y'all scare me."

The game used to be held at night before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

"These fools would play from 7 at night 'til like 1:30, 2 o'clock in the morning and it used to scare me," Magill said. "I'm like 'Did you know that's when the drunks are all driving, and this is not safe. So after the pandemic, I was super-happy that they chose go daytime."

During the height of the pandemic, Magill said her mother missed her friends.

"You know, the last two years have been very hard on mom," she said. "They didn't play poker. They would go out, you know, to eat a couple of times a month. They would go to a movie every now and then. She's not a big movie goer, but she just went."

Ms. Claudia went, Magill said, for the same reason the game is still intact — the camaraderie.

"They enjoy each other," she said. "They truly, truly enjoy each other, and they're there for each other — when somebody has lost a family member; somebody is ill or it's somebody's you know, special day or whatever. They just truly come together as just that close-knit friendship."