Centenarian was oldest league bowler in nation

From the Associated Press

By the time Bill Hargrove was recognized last year as the nation's oldest league bowler, his eyesight had deteriorated so much that he could hardly see the pins.

But he kept at it, armed with a mental image of them. He was still bowling last week, just before he was hospitalized with pneumonia at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in Gainesville, Ga.

Hargrove died of congestive heart failure Monday -- four days shy of turning 107.

A native of Eatonton, Ga., Hargrove earned national attention in May 2007, after turning 106, when the United States Bowling Congress dubbed him "the oldest league bowler ever."

Hargrove began bowling in 1924. For decades, he played a version known as duckpin bowling.

As duckpins faded, Hargrove took up the more popular form of bowling, played with a larger ball. He said it helped him cope with the 1973 death of his wife, Johnnie Ruth Carter Hargrove, and gave him something to look forward to after he retired.

"I love it," Hargrove said when the league honored his longevity. "It puts you on trial as far as your ability. And your ability comes and goes. I'm fighting it all the time."

According to the United States Bowling Congress website, Hargrove was due to begin a summer league May 19 at Yonah Lanes in Cleveland, Ga.

According to his obituary in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Hargrove "swore that his firm grip on the ball came from shaking hands with 200 people every Sunday as head greeter and usher at Grace United Methodist Church in Atlanta."

Hargrove was a longtime resident of Atlanta before moving, in his later years, to Clermont, Ga. In his prime, he worked for Gulf Oil Co. as a regional credit manager, staying with the company for 43 years.

According to the Atlanta paper, he didn't smoke or drink, and his sister lived to just before her 106th birthday.

"Bowling kept him fit, and I'm sure having something like that -- something that you really love -- keeps you going," said Sandra Hargrove Carnet, 59, Hargrove's only child.

"But he never became retired from the world. He stayed out there, interacted with people and the world. He just really enjoyed being part of the community, and that's what ultimately contributed to his longevity."

In addition to his daughter, Hargrove is survived by two grandchildren.

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