William Leo Flannery was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. on 29th July 1932; the son of Patrick Leo and Gertrude Johanna (née Meehan) Flannery; with brother Patrick. His father Patrick was the son of Martin Thomas and Mary (née Gannon) Flannery, both of whom were born in Ireland. His grandfather Martin was the son of Thomas Flannery of County Mayo.
Bill attended St. James High School in Pittsburgh's West End, and excelled at basketball with his speed and skill. He was captain of the basketball team and led them to 49-42 victory over St. Mary's Central to win the state championship title on 10th March 1950. Playing forward, he was high scorer in the final with eleven baskets and four free throws for a tally of 26 points. He declined offers of college scholarships to follow his father into the pipefitting business.
He was a keen card player and won numerous bridge tournaments throughout his career. He finished second in three national events: the 1963 Chicago (now Reisinger), the 1967 Life Master's Men's Pairs and the 1968 Mixed Pairs. He had scores of regional wins.
His longtime fried Mary Anne McNeirney eulogised Bill:
"It wasn't just bridge judgment that earned Bill legendary status; it was also his character and his approach to the game. Bill epitomized the ideal bridge player. He was ever a gentleman, unfailingly polite to both partners and opponents. Generous with his expertise when asked. Bill never flaunted his reputation or his knowledge. He was a perfectionist in all his endeavours.
A steamfitter by trade, he was seen as an outstanding worker. He was also quite influential in his union. In his spare time, he was a superb wood craftsman. He both designed and repaired all kinds of woodwork."
He invented the "Flannery Two Diamond Opening" and published two books on the subject of the bid and defences against the bid. The conventional opening bid of two diamonds was devised to show a hand of opening strength (usually 11 to 15 high-card points) with four spades and five hearts. Designed to avoid a rebid problem following a one heart opening, the convention gained a wide following among club and tournament players.
Bill died on 10th October 2000 in Sacramento, California.
[his portrait is illustrated above; courtesy of his brother Patrick Flannery (CA)]