When Juneau's Ron Nielsen went to Fairbanks this past weekend, it wasn't just for the Alaska state bowling tournament.
Nielsen was inducted into the Alaska State Bowling Association's Hall of Fame during a ceremony on Saturday, then he bowled on the Hall of Fame team later that night during the state tournament at Arctic Bowl.
"I'd kind of heard I'd been nominated," Nielsen said of the process that took two years. "It was a pleasant surprise. They came back last year and I heard I made the vote."
In March 1999, Juneau bowlers Wayne Stauffer, Jay Sims and Mike Chitty put together a five-page petition signed by 129 bowlers nominating Nielsen for the state's hall of fame. Only one problem, by the time it was submitted, it was too late for the 2000 induction class. So the petition was delayed a year and in 2000 the state bowling association voted Nielsen into the hall of fame for 2001.
Nielsen, 53, was inducted into the hall on Saturday with Rick Winther of Fairbanks, who grew up in Juneau but has lived in Fairbanks for a couple of decades. Nielsen, who also grew up in Juneau, and he and Winther played together in a high school league when they were younger.
"We're the same age," Nielsen said.
Nielsen said he's been bowling for 41 years, since he joined the high school league.
"It's been 40-some-odd years ago, how do I remember why I started," Nielsen said. "My dad bowled at the Elks Club back in the 50s. After 40 years it's become part of my life, I guess. I have a lot of friends I bowl with. I like the competition with my friends, and my brother (Ed of Mount Vernon, Wash.) when he was up here."
Nielsen is just the fourth bowler from Juneau to be inducted into the state's hall of fame, joining Marvin Fenster, Jack Bodine and Jim Burgess.
In their petition, Stauffer, Sims and Chitty listed several reasons why Nielsen should be in the hall. Among the highlights were a second-place finish in the state tournament singles competition in 1988 (Nielsen said he actually had the best scratch score, but it's a handicap tourney); was a member of the first-place team in the Fairbanks Open in 1990; has attended 27 consecutive state tournaments; was a member of five city tournament championship teams; plus he won the city tournament's singles, doubles and all-events competitions twice each back in the 1980s.
In 1975, Nielsen rolled 300-game, which Nielsen said was one of his fondest bowling memories.
"My stomach was in a knot," Nielsen said about reaching the last couple of frames. "I just had to remember to push away."
Nielsen has also spent several years involved in the state's association, serving as the Southeast director for eight years and two years as the local association's president. He's been involved in youth bowling, and was inducted into the Gastineau Channel Hall of Fame in 1994. He bought an interest in Juneau's Channel Bowl in 1989, which he held until last month when the bowling alley was sold to Dutch and Teresa Knight. He still works at the bowling alley.
"The biggest change I've seen in the last 10 years has been the equipment," Nielsen said. "As far as the equipment goes, they've gone high-tech. People who were averaging 190 15 years ago, are able to bowl 210 now."
Charles Bingham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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