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Jim Zima bowling column: Longtime teammates bowl on

12:36 AM, Sep. 23, 2013  |  Comments
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Bowling teams and bowlers come and go, but some teams or parts of teams seem to stay together for years and years.

Such is the case of the King Pin Pizza team in the Tuesday Ashwaubenon Central League.

Three of the team members, Mert Cooney, Neil Hettiger and Ted Devine, have been on the team for more than 40 years, and another, Ken Rudie, has around 35 years in.

Cooney, the oldest at 79, and Hettiger, who turned 75 Sunday, were on the first team that formed in 1967 or 1968 and eventually grew to be a team comprised of teachers from Ashwaubenon High School.

"It's in that era (67-68)," Cooney said. "It's kind of hard to remember."

Devine, 75, joined the team in 1971 when it moved to Western Lanes and joined the Western Central League. Rudie joined the squad in the late 1970s.

The team has had a lot of members over the years and normally carries several bowlers on its roster and rotates among them.

This season, the team has nine bowlers on its roster and no longer is comprised of all former or current Ashwaubenon teachers. Other members of the team include Dale Hodek, Frank Bonney, brothers Jim and Dale Hansen and Bill LaBar Jr.

"I bowl only every other week now. I need my rest," Cooney quipped.

"I have been having some hip problems, but I plan on bowling as much as I am able," Devine said. "As long as the body is able. I'll keep bowling."

Hettiger, who takes care of the bookwork, putting the team together and getting a sponsor, functions as team captain.

"We talk about hanging it up, but each year we decide to give it another year," Hettiger said. "We talked about joining an old-timers (senior) daytime league, but that interferes with everybody's golf so we decided to stay with a night league, at least for this year."

As for him, Hettiger said, "I will keep on bowling until I get my knee replaced, and then I will come back again."

Why are so many bowlers on the team?

"At our age, some of the guys go south for awhile (in the winter) and there are knee operations, hip operations and stuff like that so we do a lot of rotating," Hettinger said.

In addition to having a lot of bowlers over the years, the team name has changed names many times. Its first sponsor was Ridge Road Pharmacy, and when it moved to Western it was first sponsored by Goessel's Barbershop.

This year it again has a new sponsor, King Pin Pizza.

The league also has sported many names but always kept Central as part of the name.

When Western closed in 2005, the league moved to Ashwaubenon - the fourth center it has bowled at since it was formed in the late 1940s at Don Hutson's Playdium Lanes in downtown Green Bay. It moved to Fox River Lanes in the early 1960s and to Western when it opened in 1967.

With a new season, the team has no illusions of winning a championship.

"I don't think we ever won a championship," Cooney said. "We got into the finals a couple of times, but we never made it. There always were some guys that were better than us."

Devine added, "Maybe we never won any championships, but we play a lot of cards (sheepshead) after we are done bowling, so it's a nice social event.

Dederich dies: Pat Dederich, former president of the Green Bay Area USBC Bowling Association and member of its Hall of Fame, died Wednesday at 66.

Dederich was a member of the board for more than 25 years and served as its president for 12 years before stepping down in July 2010. Included in her service to the board was a stint as association manger in the mid-1990s.

She is the only bowler to be elected to the association's Hall of Fame twice, first in the Meritorious Service category in 2003 and then in the Outstanding Performance category in 2004.

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