107-year-old leaves behind 'inspirational' bowling legacy in Rock Hill
There was mourning Wednesday at Strikers' Family Sportscenter bowling alleys in Rock Hill. Not for a missed spare or a gutter ball, but because the oldest bowler in Rock Hill, and maybe the oldest bowler anywhere, had picked her last split.
Splits picked from memory and skill, because the bowler was legally blind.
May Williams, in three leagues at Strikers, died Tuesday. She was 107.
"May Williams was not just the oldest bowler here, she might have been the oldest bowler anywhere," said Stan Webb, an employee at Strikers in Rock Hill, where Williams bowled for decades.
Webb said Williams' life was what all bowlers seek: a "perfect game."
"She was a wonderful, generous person, and man could she throw a bowling ball," Webb said.
Williams' funeral will be at 10 a.m Friday at Green's Funeral Home Northwest Chapel.
The place is expected to be packed with bowlers, including Linda Connor, who taught Williams to bowl more than 40 years ago. Williams took up bowling at an age when some people retire from sports.
"May started bowling in her 60s and never looked back," Connor said.
"She inspired every one of us because she never gave up and bowled the rest of her life. Sometimes five, six days a week," Connor said. "If there was an older bowler anywhere, I never heard of it. And formidable? I used to cringe when I bowled against May. Seemed to beat me every time."
Lin Grant, a former teammate on the Rusted Warriors bowling team of retirees, called Williams "an inspiration to everybody who ever picked up a bowling ball."
"May Williams beat me every time," Grant said. "A sweetheart of a lady, May Williams was. A gem. Could pick a spare with her eyes closed, too."
After her aged turned triple digits, Williams was legally blind. She could see a little bit, using the arrows and markings on the lanes, with verbal assists from teammates, to pick spares if she didn't knock all the pins down on her first shot.
Her bowling average at age 106 was a solid 90.
In 2015, Williams told The Herald : “I can only see the red line, and then after I bowl, they tell me how many I have to pick up."
Williams' charm and plain sass may have been even greater than her bowling.
She refused to bowl in less than full make-up and fashion. At a bowling alley, she always wore pearls. Williams once gave a TV interview at Strikers on being Rock Hill's oldest bowler, only after rushing off to a mirror to freshen her fire-engine red lipstick.
When she turned 100 in 2011, Williams told The Herald she would bowl as long as she could stand to throw a ball. She cut the interview short to pick a 2-10 split.
“Excuse me one moment - I have to pick this spare.”
And she did.