There’s a man that almost everyone at Valley Bowl knows by name.
He pummels pins, day after day. He walks a mile and a half to the bowling alley five days a week. He’s 90 years old and nearly blind.
And Dick Hubbard is loving life.
Hubbard, who celebrated his birthday Tuesday, has been bowling for 15 years - since he was “a young sprout,” he says. Players in the Senior Slickers league gather around and watch in awe as he rolls strike after strike, game after game.
“I’ve seen him bowl six games in a row,” says Beth Lester, a member of Hubbard’s “Winners” team. “Haven’t seen anyone else do that.”
Last week, he was Valley Bowl’s highest male scorer, rolling a 234, 77 pins above his 157 average. His most recent three-game series was a 584, which included 11 strikes and 15 spares.
Humble and happy, Hubbard’s too busy to keep track of his scores.
“When I retired, I didn’t expect to live this long,” he says laughing. “I forgot about time, I guess.”
Lester never forgets to mind Hubbard’s game. After every roll, Hubbard looks to Lester.
“What pins are left?” he asks.
“Number two and number ten,” she answers.
“OK,” he says.
Hubbard, nearly blinded a year ago by a degenerative eye disease, adjusts his approach and his release and, almost always, knocks down the remaining pins without ever having seen them. He uses the gutter as a guide and knows the spin on his dark green ball will place it smack in the middle of the pins.
“You know how many people come to see him every day?” asked Egon Batai, another bowler. “Count ‘em.”
Almost 100 people crowded into the bowling alley on Monday, some for league games, others to watch the spry guy knock out the pins. Hubbard, not overly pleased with his score of 196, knows he can’t win them all.
“This is a bad day for him,” said Batai jokingly. “The other day, he had seven strikes in a row. He beat the heck out of us.”
Most of his friends and family can’t believe the shape he’s in. Keeping busy with daily walks, laughing a lot and staying interested in life are his secrets, he says. So is “just a little bit of good scotch.”
But Ruth Gruennert, 72, thinks Hubbard’s secret might be her peanut brittle. She makes five pounds of it on the first Monday of every month. The man who devours most of it is Hubbard.
His bowling companion, Herb Martin, 82, says, “The hell with the bowling. Half of it is the association with the people” that keeps the men young.
“The older you get, the more your friends are gone,” he says. “People become isolated. (Bowling) helps us overcome that.”
When obstacles face him, Hubbard finds a way around them. In order to visit his wife, Patricia, in the nursing home where she is staying after a recent stroke, Hubbard found a bus driver near the bowling alley and asked which bus he needed to take to get to the nursing home. Now, he rides the bus to see her almost every day.
Hubbard found a way around another obstacle. After retiring at age 63 from more than 50 years as a bricklayer, Hubbard wanted to create a tool that would make masonry work more consistent. In doing so, he founded an international manufacturing company that produces a one-of-a-kind, s-shaped tool.
Hubbard’s son Ric now owns Hubbard Jointers, the company that makes thousands of the tools a year.
The tool helps create an even line in a row of bricks - even if several bricklayers are working on the same row.
Hubbard, who used to shape the tools by hand, one by one, also made the 50 machines needed to manufacture the tool.
The name of the tool? A striker, of course.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos
MEMO: Saturday’s People is a regular Valley Voice feature profiling remarkable individuals in the Valley. If you know someone who would be a good profile subject, please call editor Mike Schmeltzer at 927-2170.