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DeWitt resident on the ‘Go’

DeWitt resident Milton Sack, 93, was introduced to the game of Go more than 60 years ago in Baltimore, Md. – and he continues to play it today.

“It’s a fairly complex game but it’s the easiest game in the world to learn,” said Sack, who used to play chess, checkers and other board games. “You and I [could] play a game of Go and we’d both enjoy it because of the handicap system.”

The board game originated in China more than 2,000 years ago and is known for being rich in strategy despite its simple rules. It involves two players who alternately place black and white stones on vacant points of a board grid. The object of the game is to surround a larger portion of the board than the opponent. The winner is determined through a point system.

“In a good game of Go, the difference between the winner and the loser is about three or four stones,” Sack said. “Sometimes you win by 30 or 40 stones – which is a bad [game] of Go.”

A group of Go enthusiasts meets weekly on Monday nights at the DeWitt Wegmans to play with partners ranging from novice to advanced levels. Each year at Manlius Pebble Hill School, players come from near and far for the Salt City Go Tournament, in which Sack played in April.

Professionals can play up to 14 hours in tournaments – there’s no time limit when playing for the championship.

“Here [at the weekly meets], of course, we don’t play that long,” he said. “I don’t have the patience.”

Sack considers himself an amateur even though he used to play quite frequently. In 1952, Sack and his wife Lucille moved from Baltimore to DeWitt after he accepted a job with Solvay Process as a research chemist. He thought his days of playing Go were over. He was wrong. Sack quickly learned about 44 people in Syracuse played Go – more than he knew in Baltimore. Some participants were employees of Solvay Process, General Electric and Syracuse University.

“[We] played at the University, at people’s homes,” he said. “One man lived on James Street; we used to meet at his house and sometimes we would have 20 people.”

Aside from playing Go, Sack is involved in other activities. He walks, goes to the gym to keep fit and plays bridge twice a week at DeWitt Town Hall. He used to play ping pong but the program runs from 9 a.m. to noon.

“And I’m not going to get up at nine o’clock. It’s not that important,” he said. “But I used to love to play ping pong. I played everything. If you want to enjoy life, you have to be active and you never quit.”

More on Milton Sack

Milton Sack was born in Manhattan, about two blocks away from Grand Central Station in a tenement neighborhood, with hundreds of kids.

“It was a wonderful thing,” he said.

He attended the City College of New York, the only college on the East Coast that would admit students for free pending a good grade point average.

“The only expenses that I had were $2 for a bursar’s certificate, $3 for a library card and then certain books you had to buy,” Sack said.

There were four Nobel Prize winners in his graduation class of 1937. Sack later earned his doctorate in organic chemistry from Johns Hopkins University.

After Solvay Process, the first chemical industry in the country, shut down his department, Sack began his teaching career at Onondaga Community College. He taught chemistry from 1972 until he retired in 1989.

Sack’s wife Lucille emigrated with her parents from Russia when she was 4 years old. She was a harpsichordist and Julliard graduate.

“She was a solid musician,” said Sack, whose love for music keeps him active in the chamber music society. He also supports the symphony.

Before his wife died, the couple enjoyed traveling and going to the stage. Sack’s continued love for music keeps him active in the local chamber music society; he supports the symphony.

The couple have two children; their first was delivered in Baltimore, Md. by Dr. Alan Frank Guttmacher, who eventually served as president of Planned Parenthood and founded the American Association of Planned Parenthood Physicians. The Guttmacher Institute is named after him.