Marion Ladewig dies

by Bob Johnson 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.

BJI's resident historian, Jake Schmidt, will offer a special remembrance of Ladewig in the June issue.

Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson has received more national writing awards than any other bowling writer — close to 70 over the course of his 40-year career. He began at age 16 as a staff writer and then assistant editor for the weekly Pacific Bowler newspaper in his native California, and within three years was writing feature stories for Bowlers Journal. He has written for the magazine ever since, except for a five-year span when he was hired as the founding editor of another magazine. He moved to Chicago in 2000 and spent 13 years in the Windy City, including five as Bowlers Journal’s Editor. In 1975, Johnson received the Robert E. Kennedy Award as California’s top undergraduate high school journalist. Five years earlier, on the lanes, he had shared the Bantam Division Doubles championship in the Orange County Junior Bowling Association Championships. Today, he continues to work full-time for Bowlers Journal as its Senior Editor, to write his popular “Strikes Me” column, and to edit Luby Publishing Inc.’s weekly business-to-business Cyber Report.

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