The passing of a legendary icon

By Jack Hammill - Guest Columnist

It was Thursday of this past week that I received word of the passing of Lee McConnell.

The timing could not have been any more ironic as we were in the process of assuring that league play was underway at 20th Century. As I picked up the phone at the desk I was aligned with lanes nine and 10 at the bowling establishment on South Main Street in Lima.

Sixty years prior I had met this incredible lady while trying out a ball from a ball rack located near that same pair of lanes.

Many wonderful memories of this legendary icon of our game have just flooded my mind for the past few days and I am sure will continue to do so in days to come as it will for many of her bowling friends. She is one of the individuals in this game that set the bar that I measure people from today. It is a very high and perhaps unfair measure for that standard.

Bowling was interesting in that era. It was a sport generally recognized as performed by beer and a shot types. It was not uncommon to arrive home having to remove a layer of clothes in the porch area so that smoke would not linger throughout the house.

Despite these perceptions, I always viewed Mrs. McConnell as elegant, set aside from others as did my wonderful mother who actually introduced us on that first day. The respect that she had for her friend Lee and other memories from the St Johns Ladies league were special. She was one of the main reason that mom thought that the game and the people in it were very special. I thank the two of them for the view that I have carried throughout my bowling life.

Mrs. McConnell always carried herself so well on the lanes as well as in her performance of her LWBA duties. She remains a very special ambassador to the game even in her passing.

On Thursday Sue Clay quickly opined, “She introduced me to the game in this area. She was in truth very much an icon, a very special person.”

I had a recent opportunity to visit ‘Lee’ recently – I really do not remember when it changed from Mrs McConnell to Lee – at a nursing home where she was for short term care. She slept through that visit, but it was still easy to see her strength in that weakened state.

I can remember different conversations that I have had with her daughter Cathy over the years as she has spoken to the standards that her mother and father, the late Clay McConnell established for her. I have watched her delicate transition from daughter to care taker. It is good that Cathy can now revert to her role as daughter and return to remembering the very special moments that she had with her mother as mom escorted her into adulthood.

The bowling community will miss her as we are now less than a week away from the Lima City Singles, where ‘Lee’ has been a wonderful presence since the ladies division was established in 1965. We will miss her only in body as her memory and special iconic presence will always be in our hearts.

Cathy may you and Kevin be aware that you and your families will be in our thoughts and our prayers.

The phone call on Thursday regarding Mrs. McConnell also included the message that another City Singles regular spectator and regular at 20th Century as well as Tamarac Golf Course Junior Burden had also went home to his heavenly father.

The fact that Lee and Juniors time on this earth ended within relative moments of each other was not lost on many of us as in recent years Jr. used to set to the side as his wonderful wife Judy and Lee and a core of veterans of the the LWBA met to dine on a monthly basis at 20th Century for lunch. The table had thinned some as Judy stepped back to spend time with her husband. They will take a break in the lunch experience this month but I trust they will all be together the first of the year to be in support of one another.

I know that I speak for many when I say that I always enjoyed my time with Jr. His love for my two favorite participation sports was contagious as was the respect that he showed for others. He will be missed.

Judy and family you remain in our prayers.

This was a week where some great things happened in our sport in our community.

Perry entered the high school bowling scene, participating and making the round of eight in the Spartan Classic. Days later they had there first match and were victorious over Bath.

LCC would drop a tight battle with Wapakoneta at Astro Lanes and then defeat Bath this past weekend. Temple would battle Elgin before dropping a match. It was great to see a lot of positive energy out of the Pioneers.

The big story for these pages and I will track down the coaches and kids from the Shawnee Varsity Girls, would be their performance in the kickoff classic.

They were eliminated in the round of eight. Two of the great elements of the event for Shawnee was that Dayle Aldrich took scoring honors for the event and Abbey Ambroza finished in a tie for eighth in scoring. She lost the all tourney team by a weird tie breaker that gives credit to who bowled the highest game. If you think about a better measure would be to give the honor to who did not have the highest game. Somebody get that girl a certificate.

I have alluded to it a couple times in this write-up … the City Singles qualifying rounds begin this weekend. There is still room at 2:30 Saturday and noon on Sunday. Call 20th today 419-222-1876 to sign up.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others.

By Jack Hammill

Guest Columnist

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