Life keeps rolling for centenarian

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Is it any wonder Don Smith was grinning from ear to ear? He was feeling young and frisky again Monday at Echo Lanes bowling center.

At 75, Smith was a legitimate youngster at the 15th Senior Bowling Tournament. So were Frieda Kunze, Lottie Thompson, Atlanta Oliver, Stella Fjerstad, all 90-something bowlers.

Then there was Florence Tompkins. And nobody can touch her when it comes to leading an active life at St. Mark's Lutheran Home in Austin.

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Mrs. Tompkins is 102 years old, and nothing stops here from doing what she wants.

An 8-year resident at St. Mark's, Mrs. Tompkins bowled a 107 in Monday's tournament action. That was good enough for the second-high individual score.

"Sure, I enjoy bowling," she said. "I bowl every week at St. Mark's. It's a good game."

Carol Dunfee, activities director at St Mark's, said the amazing centenarian is involved in a "lot of activities."

A retired country school teacher, Mrs. Tompkins and her husband, Leon (deceased) had a son and daughter and three grandchildren.

According to Dunfee, she is one of St. Mark's top bowlers at weekly in-house games

National Nursing Home Week is being celebrated throughout Mower County and the tournament was the first event to promote awareness of life in residential care facilities.

Bowlers from Adams Health Care Center, Field Crest Nursing Home, Hayfield, Meadow Manor Health Care Center, Grand Meadow, and

St. Mark's Lutheran Home, COMFORCARE Good Samaritan Care Center and Sacred Heart Care Center, all of Austin.

Joanne Aho, activities director at COMFORCARE, conceived the idea of a bowling tournament in 1987 with help from Nancy Novotny and Maureen Cahill.

The tournament was held at St. Edward's Catholic Church in Corcoran Center and the Minnesota National Guard Armory before Mark Pregler invited the sponsors to hold the tournament at Echo Lanes this year.

"It's a natural for them. We've got a real bowling alley and that you add to the experience of bowling," Pregler said.

While Mrs. Tompkins got all the media attention, other bowlers also enjoyed themselves. Mrs. Kunze and Mrs. Thompson, teammates of Mrs. Tompkins at St. Mark's

called their teammate a "real good player and said they were proud of her.

Mr. Smith, one of St. Mark's most popular residents, gallantly deferred all inquires about who was better, male or female bowlers, to the female teammates.

COMFORCARE's Aho said the early years, when organizers fashioned lanes with whatever implements the could find are gone forever. "Now, we have a real bowling alley with side-bars for the balls, ramps for throwing the ball and everything we need. This is great," she said.

Someday, Mrs. Fjerstad, 99, could take over Mrs. Tompkins' position as queen of the bowlers. Already, she is preparing for the interview. "They're all pretty good bowlers. They're all pretty well educated so I can't tell them how to bowl," she said.

Atlanta Oliver waited her turn on Sacred Heart's team. "I bowled for 20 years when I was younger," said the 95-year-old woman. "I used to bowl all the time at the old Austin Bowl next to the Terp Ballroom. Now, I'm back at it again."