- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

DYER, Ind. (AP) - “Woody!” a man shouts over rolling thunder and the crash of pins. “You’re up!”

Named after President Woodrow Wilson, who led the United States the year he was born, 97-year-old Woodrow “Woody” Messmer rises from a hard plastic chair.

Dressed in a black sweater with blue stripes, the Griffith grandfather walks with a slight limp turned by an arthritic knee and grips a blue bowling ball from the rack.

His gait quickens in the approach. With a skip, he lowers the ball, swings it back and aims straight for the release.

He watches the steady roll and ensuing collision that knocks down eight pins. Without reaction, he turns back and waits for his second bowl. That time, he picks up the spare.

This is the routine Friday afternoons at Stardust Bowl, 1330 Sheffield Ave. Messmer is captain of the Griffith Seniors league and captain of his team, Young at Heart.

With a 129 average, Messmer is on par with the younger seniors in the league, who average 133 as a group. He’s been bowling off and on nearly 80 years.

“When I worked at General American (Transportation Corp.), there’d be an hour lunch, and there was a sandwich shop at the bowling alley,” the 1936 Hammond High School graduate told The Times (https://bit.ly/1uStv9O ). “So, we’d go over there, order a sandwich and start bowling … did that a couple times a week.”

In 1939, Messmer married Mary Jane “Janie,” and together they had four sons: Gerry, Bob, Jim and Don Messmer.

Woody Messmer served as a staff sergeant near the end of World War II, stationed at a post office in Wurzburg, Germany.

He retired after 32 1/2 years as a purchasing agent with General American and, the same day, he went to Standard Equipment Supply and worked there 18 years.

A couple of years after his wife died, Messmer married again, this time to a woman named Margaret he met at Stardust Bowl in Dyer.

“She was in a league with the group Swinging Seniors,” he said.

During 23 years of marriage, they bowled and organized leagues. Messmer has decades of records filed in folders at home. In August, after a short battle with cancer, his wife died the day after her 88th birthday.

Although it’s not the same with his wife gone, Messmer continues to bowl and probably will as long as he’s able.

“My mother was Swedish, and her family, they lived to a ripe old age,” he said.

His son Gerry Messmer, a Griffith resident, bowls in the league and is captain of the team Split Happens.

“I like to beat him as much as I like to beat other people,” he joked. “It makes me feel good.”

League member Bob Wapinski, of Lowell, bowls in the league on the team Hot Shots. He hopes to be as spry as Messmer when he’s 97.

“I’m really proud to know the man,” Wapinski said. “It’s a fun league. It’s only four teams, but we have a good time.”

Wapinski said Messmer loves to cook and has an extensive collection of recipes. Everyone takes turns bringing food to the bowling alley.

Maybe that’s why Messmer laughed as he talked about what brings him back to the lanes every week.

“Probably the lunch,” he said.


Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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