Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America Hall of Fame member Bill Bojé, who received the association’s Victor Lerner Memorial Medal in 2003, passed away on Monday.
Bojé owned Brandon Crossroads Bowl in Tampa, Fla., and Sunset Lanes in south St. Louis, Mo., with his son Jeff, who himself received the Lerner award in 2012.
According to the Brandon Crossroads website, “Bill and Gloria Bojé built their first bowling sports entertainment center in St. Louis in 1959. The center’s original name was Marlborough Lanes (after England’s Duke of Marlborough, and also the name of the little village that the center was in). Later it was renamed Sunset Lanes (after the beautiful sunsets glowing through the famed gateway to the west, the St. Louis Arch).”
Bill and Jeff built Brandon Crossroads in 1990, and were joined by Bill’s two daughters and son-in-law in building The Alley at Southshore in Riverview, Fla., in 2008.
“Bill was proud of Jeff’s achievements and enjoyed taking credit for grooming Jeff,” said John LaSpina, who served as BPAA President from 1992 to 1994, and received the Lerner award the year before the elder Bojé. “I cheered when [Bill was the Lerner recipient] as he represented the selfless side of bowling proprietors who will leave their businesses and their families to work on behalf of our business and our industry.”
Jay Trietley of Alley Cats Entertainment Center in Arlington, Texas, described Bojé as “a member’s leader.” Trietley served with Bojé on the Member Benefits Committee, and said Bojé “made sure we offered the best products and best prices for our members.”
Bev Ulrich said she would remember Bojé as the person who enabled her to break into the bowling business.
“I applied for a job at Crossroads Bowl fresh out of Vincennes University with my new bowling management degree in hand,” she said. “He took a chance on a 19-year-old with virtually no experience and gave me a start in the bowling industry.”
In terms of first impressions, Ulrich was just as impressed with Bojé as he was with her.
“When I walked in for my interview, Bill was up on a ladder changing light bulbs,” she recalled. “I was impressed by his hands-on approach. He wasn’t a guy that just sat in an office.
“I worked for him for three years, the last as general manager of Brandon Lanes. He made me do every job in the center in preparation, including the snack bar, the nursery and the back end. Then Bill made it possible for me to go into the pro shop business at Crossroads Bowl when he decided to lease out the shop. Thirty-three years later, I’m still in the pro shop business in the area.
“I will always be grateful to the Bojé family for allowing me to get my foot in the door.”
Bojé spent time as BPAA’s secretary/treasurer and sergeant-at-arms, as well as a regional vice president at different times for Missouri and Florida. He also served those states’ proprietor associations in officer and board positions, and was a past president of the Tampa Proprietors Association.
BPAA Executive Director Frank DeSocio noted that Bojé developed youth and adult programs in Florida’s Pinellas County for more than 20 years.
Long before anyone ever dreamed of having the headquarters of the BPAA and bowling’s membership groups under one roof, Bojé was instrumental in founding the St. Petersburg Bowling Council, which brought proprietor, ABC and WIBC representatives together to work on programs at the local level.
Bojé not only devoted countless hours to volunteerism, but served as a role model for other proprietors, including LaSpina.
“Though I attended the 1975 BPAA Convention, I only went to the trade show and took a boat ride around Manhattan,” recalled LaSpina, President of Maple Family Centers in New York and Florida, and Chair of the Bowlers to Veterans Link. “It wasn’t until 1976 — when we packed our one-a-half-year-old daughter, flew to San Diego, and went to all the meetings — that I realized there were people volunteering, running projects and doing things that would help our business.
“I related to the guys in the blue polyester jackets with BPAA emblems on the front pockets. One gentleman I met in those early years was Bill Bojé, who wore one of those blazers. I watched him from afar and enjoyed his folksy way of speaking. He had a storyteller’s demeanor and a comforting voice that went with him.”
Bojé also was a trusted counsel.
“I remember his supporting me when times were difficult when I was president,” LaSpina said. “He always offered practical and straight-up advice, and he could disagree with me and we could still enjoy a cordial meal afterward.”
Concluded LaSpina: “Bowling lost a good friend, one who represented the role of a bowling proprietor — being an entrepreneur, taking risk and reaping the rewards.”
Condolences may be sent to the Bojé family at: 115 Hickory Creek Drive, Brandon, FL 33511.