HAMMOND – Evelyn Ostrom first joined a bowling league in 1966 at the age of 34.
Fast forward 56 years later to the present and Ostrom, who is soon approaching the lane that says 90, still has plenty of play left.
“I was a good bowler… The older you get, the harder it gets,” Ostrom said.
Ostrom broke her ankle slipping on the ice in 1987, and she said the injury affected her bowling, but she persevered.
“She amazes me,” said league secretary Judy Maruszczak.
Judi Donovan, league president, said Ostrom continued to be an inspiration to the team.
“She has been not only a good friend, but also a good player and the anchor of our league,” Donovan said.
Ostrom, who lists 124 as her bowling league average these days, shows she still has what it takes.
When it’s his turn to bowl, Ostrom throws his bowling ball right in the middle and hits back-to-back on a recent Tuesday at Olympia Lanes in Hammond.
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The cheers from fellow league Tuesday AM Koffee Klatch are resounding.
Ostrom started his bowling career at Stardust in Hammond primarily because they offered free babysitting.
“It was like a playroom,” Ostrom said of the room used for babysitting.
It has been in the Olympia Lanes league since 1987, starting with a team called the Purple Angels because they all played with purple bowling balls.
Ostrom said what she loves about bowling, besides the exercise, is the camaraderie with her group of friends.
“It’s coming and talking with women and just having fun and having candy,” Ostrom said.
Since league play ended at the end of March, her team has honored her – ahead of her birthday on June 22 – with a special birthday cake, flowers and a bowling pin with her name and date of birth.
As a final tribute, her team and those of the bowling alley gathered around her to sing her happy birthday.
“Thank you. Thank you,” Ostrom said with tears of joy forming in his eyes.
Ostrom was born on June 22, 1932, in Hegewisch, Illinois, and said she was still active even as a young girl.
She remembers doing gymnastics and taking part in plays in a neighborhood park.
Ostrom even met her future husband, Carl Ostrom, at the park.
“We met riding bikes in the park,” Ostrom recalls.
She married her husband in 1951, moved to Hammond, and they had their first child, Kathy, in 1952.
The couple had two more children, Susan and Carl Jr.
Ostrom said she had always worked her whole life and only retired three years ago on her birthday from the family business.
Some of his early jobs included weeding in onion fields in Lansing, assembling boxes at a South Chicago box factory, and working at RR Donnelley, which printed telephone directories.
Ostrom and her late husband operated a family business that began as a small auto repair shop and full-service gas station.
Later, the family business grew to include a liquor store and U-Haul dealership.
In her spare time, Ostrom said she enjoys crocheting, knitting and gardening.
“I love looking for hummingbirds,” Ostrom said.
She also likes to go to the local casino and drives there herself after recently buying a new Volkswagen SUV.
Ostrom, who has four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, also enjoys traveling with future trips planned to visit family in Texas.
Plans for her actual birthday on June 22 are still up in the air, but will likely include a family dinner.
“I don’t know where we’ll go,” Ostrom said.
League play resumes at the end of August and bowling will once again be part of Ostrom’s schedule.
“God willing, I’ll be back,” Ostrom said.
PHOTOS: A local resident celebrates his 90th birthday