Woman who was born and raised in Grayling recognized for 70 years of sanctioned bowling play
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
With her wit and wherewithal, a Grayling woman was recently recognized for seven decades of bowling and she has no plans to quit anytime soon.
The women’s Wednesday night bowling league held a celebration on Oct. 4 at the American Legion Lounge and Lanes to honor Gloria Neilson for 70 years of sanctioned bowling.
A bowling pin, signed by all of members of the league, was presented to Neilson during a party to celebrate her accomplishment.
“They made my day,” Neilson said.
A Christmas baby, Neilson was born in Grayling on Dec. 25, 1925. She graduated from the Grayling High School in 1944.
She married her husband Carl, who she met through school.
Carl enlisted in the Marines Corp in July 1943, and fought in World War II including battles in Iwo Jima and Guam. Carl was the recipient of the Purple Heart.
A carpenter by trade, Carl enjoyed golfing and had three holes-in-one, all at the Grayling Country Club.
Carl passed away earlier this year. He was 92. The couple had five children, four grandchildren, one great-grandchild, and one great-great-grandchild.
Gloria went to beauty school, and worked in a couple of shops in town including Dot’s Doll House. She was introduced to the trade through sweeping floors at local beauty shops.
“I would do that for a little bit of money,” she said.
Gloria also worked for 10 years at Bear Archery, and 16 years at the Grayling State Bank.
Gloria started bowling at the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodge, where The Brickery is now located. The building also housed a skating rink.
From there, leagues played on bowling alleys located at Spike’s Keg ‘O’ Nails. The team bowled in Roscommon for one year after the Grayling landmark restaurant burnt down for a second time.
Since then, the league has played at the American Legion Lounge and Lanes.
Gloria said she enjoys the comradeship of being with the other bowlers.
“I enjoy meeting all the girls, getting to know them,” she said. “It’s good exercise besides.”
There are currently eight teams which are part of the women’s bowling league. Gloria has been on the same team for her 70 years, which is sponsored by Robin L. Smith C.P.A. Previous sponsors were Mickey Perez C.P.A., the Bay City Times and Krumrei Beverage of Grayling.
The team used to take part in regional tournaments in northern Michigan.
“We used to have a lot of fun at the tournaments,” Gloria said.
Gloria has an average of 105 and has always used an eight-pound ball. Her highest game score was 258, which she achieved in summer league play.
“I only bowled in the summer league that one year,” she said.
Gloria said she does not take part in the sport for its competitiveness.
“If I can bowl good – fine,” she said. “If I don’t, then it makes me feel kind of bad. We aren’t out there to win to be in first place. We just like to be together.”
Gloria, age 91, has no plans to quit bowling.
“I always say that they will probably kick me off the team and they say no way,” she said. “I say it’s not my high score, but it’s the handicap that they like.”
The only time Gloria considered giving up bowling was when the women’s bowling league bowled in early and late shifts.
“If they had the late shift one more year, I probably wouldn’t have been bowling,” she said. “I didn’t like getting home so late.”
Gloria has also been a mainstay on the women’s golf league at the Grayling Country Club. She had to forgo playing golf this year due to a back injury and wanted to be healthy in time for the bowling season.
“I always tell everybody that I get my golf and my bowling mixed up,” Gloria quipped. “I golf high and bowl low.”
Gloria also regularly takes part in bingo at the Houghton Lake Veterans of Foreign Wars Post. She also has a regular route which she walks three to four times a week.
“I used to walk to the bakery a couple times a week, but I don’t do that now,” she said. “When I go to the bakery for coffee, I take the car.”
Gloria’s daughter, Karen Lawe, and son, Louie Neilson, were on hand for the recent celebration at the bowling alley.
“It was a total surprise, I’ll tell you,” she said.
Sally Noeske, who has been on the same bowling team with Gloria, said she was tickled to be part of the celebration.
“It’s a great honor to find somebody who has been that active and who has bowled that long,” Noeske said. “She’s a great lady.”
Nancy Glasslee, the president of the women’s bowling league, said members were pleased to honor such an accomplished bowler in the community.
“I think it’s wonderful and I think it’s awesome,” Glasslee said. “We just decided that she needed to be recognized.”