Marion Ladewig dies

by Gianmarc Manzione 0

She was widely acknowledged as the greatest woman bowler of all-time.

And now she is gone.

Marion Ladewig, who "owned" the U.S. Women's Open during the 1950s — winning it eight times between 1949 and 1960 — died on Friday in her life-long home of Grand Rapids, Mich. She was 95.

Ladewig was born Marion Margaret Van Oosten on Oct. 30, 1914 and grew up as a tomboy, playing first base on her brother's baseball team before switching to women's softball. In high school, she was a sprinter on her high school's track team.

But bowling proved to be her best sport, at least in part because of the sometimes-overwhelming practice regimen required by her coach and mentor, Fanatorium Lanes proprietor William T. Morrissey Sr. Ladewig once said that she bowled every day from 1940 through 1962.

The Fanatorium was known to locals as "The Fan," and Ladewig set pins there in her youth. Later, it came to be known as "The House That Marion Built."

Among honors bestowed upon Ladewig through the years:

* Named Woman Bowler of the Century by Bowlers Journal International (in 2000).

* First Superior Performance inductee in the Women's International Bowling Congress Hall of Fame (in 1964).

* Elected one of 10 charter members of the Women's Professional Bowling Hall of Fame (in 1995).

* First bowler inducted into the Women's Sports Foundation Hall of Fame (in 1984).

* Named Michigan's Woman Athlete of All-Time.

* Had a trading card issued by the Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour (in 1991).

In 1951, Ladewig accomplished a feat believed to be unprecedented in bowling history, winning all-events titles in local, state and national tournaments.

In 1960, she won the first tournament staged by the Women's Professional Bowling Assn., hosted by Pinerama Lanes in North Miami Beach.

Ladewig enjoyed teaching the sport, and was a long-time member of the Brunswick Advisory Staff of Champions.

She also was a bowling proprietor as a part-owner of Northfield Lanes in the Cheshire Village area of Grand Rapids.

Former BJI Editor and Publisher Mort Luby Jr. and BJI's resident historian, J.R. Schmidt, will offer special remembrances of Ladewig in the June issue.

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