- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

Oscar Shapiro, a multiple D.C. chess champion who fashioned one of the longest careers in the history of American chess, died New Year's Day at age 92. He had cancer.
An active tournament player until just a few months before his death, Mr. Shapiro held the record for being the oldest player to attain a master's ranking from the U.S. Chess Federation. He attained the status held by just a tiny fraction of the federation's players at age 74.
Known for his sharp attacking style at the chessboard and courteous manner away from it, Mr. Shapiro accomplished another remarkable feat when he went 3-1 in the 1994 D.C. Open, winning the city title as the highest-scoring city resident. He first won the title in 1946 and repeated the victory in 1948. Forty-eight years passed before he claimed his third title.
In a career that spanned eight decades, he won the 1939 state championship in his native Massachusetts and won other regional tournaments. Although he never attained a top rank in national chess ratings, he was a fixture at area tournaments and played in top-flight competitions in Europe and the Caribbean.
"He was really a remarkable player and friend," said Aberdeen chess master Denis Strenzwilk, who in recent years often accompanied Mr. Shapiro to tournaments. "Here was this guy the age of my father who was still competing late into the night with players decades younger.
"I mean, he was the champion of a state before I was even born and I'm 61."
John Campbell, president of the Arlington Chess Club, the region's largest, said yesterday that in many tournaments "Oscar was the oldest entrant by maybe 20 years."
"Most players as they get older just drop out because of the strain," said Mr. Campbell. "That he could keep playing was really quite an accomplishment."
Said Mr. Shapiro in a 1995 interview: "The main reason people give up is because they let losing destroy their ego. You have to just play. If you can conquer your ego, then you can play as long as you want."
Born in Boston in 1909 as the son of a recent Russian immigrant, Mr. Shapiro developed an early love of chess and music. He played the violin and met many of the great New England chess masters of the day.
He may have been one of the last living players to have gotten a game with former world champion Emanuel Lasker, playing Mr. Lasker in a simultaneous exhibition shortly before the German's death in 1941.
During the Great Depression, Mr. Shapiro took a job as a technician with Western Union. He came to Washington a month after Pearl Harbor for what was supposed to be a three-month assignment but remained for the rest of his life.
In the 1950s, Mr. Shapiro began dealing in antiquarian music scores and manuscripts as a sideline, eventually building a separate career as a dealer of antique chess- and music-related material.
He became a noted expert on Niccolo Paganini and was a guest of the city of Genoa, Italy, at the 1982 bicentennial of the famed violinist's birth.
A lifelong bachelor, Mr. Shapiro is survived by his brother, Harry Shapiro, a former manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Margarita Conway, 97, artist, volunteer
Margarita H. "Rita" Conway, a military wife, amateur artist and former volunteer at the Veterans Administration Hospital in the District, died of heart failure Dec. 23 at the Arleigh Burke Pavilion nursing home in McLean. She was 97.
Mrs. Conway was born at Fort Monroe, Va., in 1904. She was educated at various private schools, including Georgetown Visitation Convent, and graduated from Georgetown Visitation Junior College in 1922.
She served as president of the Washington chapter of the Georgetown Visitation alumnae association and was vice president of its national alumnae association.
Mrs. Conway also was a former vice president of the Virginia chapter and the national organization of the Daughters of the U.S. Army. She also served as the group's scholarship chairman.
Mrs. Conway was a member of the Greater McLean Republican Women's Club, the Republican National Committee and the national Presidential Task Force.
She attended St. John's Catholic Church in McLean and was a regular volunteer at the Veterans Administration Hospital in the District in the 1970s and 1980s.
As an amateur painter, she specialized in portraits and won several prizes for her work. She was also a skilled pianist and writer who occasionally contributed stories and columns to the opinion pages of various newspapers, including The Washington Times.
Mrs. Conway was the widow of retired Army Col. Harold J. Conway, who died in April. She married Col. Conway in 1964, four years after the death of her first husband, retired Navy Rear Adm. S. David Willingham.
Survivors include two sons from her first marriage, retired Navy Cmdr. David G. Willingham of Springfield and Lawrence Willingham of Alexandria; three stepbrothers; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
A funeral Mass for Mrs. Conway is scheduled at 2:45 p.m. Jan. 10 Metro says in the Post Chapel at Fort Myer. She will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery next to her first husband.
Donations may be made to Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, 1524 35th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20007.


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