League hosts birthday party for 90-year-old bowler
Cora Smith got an unexpected reception when she walked into Northside Lanes on Aug. 19 for the Golden Age Seniors Bowling League meeting.
Smith, a longtime member of the league, froze when she entered the room to find homemade cupcakes and a roomful of smiling members singing “Happy Birthday.”
The South Carolina native quickly recovered from her initial shock and began playfully swatting at her giggling friends, scolding them roundly for their trickery.
“I’m beating up on everybody,” declared Smith, who celebrated her 90th birthday on Aug. 25.
“Oh my goodness y’all are going to make me cry!” she exclaimed as League Coordinator Theresa Cranford led her to her seat of honor at the front of the room. “You all knew and didn’t say anything.”
Planning for the party began in July, and more than two dozen league players were on hand for the gathering and the brief meeting that ensued.
“I can’t even describe what I’m feeling right now. I’m just so overwhelmed,” said Smith, a grandmother of three. “…It’s just wonderful. Lord, have mercy. I didn’t know. God is so good.”
League President Sarah Brooks said the weeks of preparation were well worth it when she saw Smith’s joyful tears begin to flow.
“It was awesome, it was awesome,” the 85-year-old declared with a wide smile. “Well worth the secrecy.”
Cranford, a 20 year employee of Northside Lanes, led the charge to fete Smith, who is currently the Lanes’ oldest league bowler, with a surprise party. She baked pink lemonade cupcakes and crowned Smith with a “Happy Birthday” tiara for the occasion.
“I just thought if you bowled here that long and you’re 90 years old and still bowling, you deserve a celebration,” she remarked. “…She’s 90 and she still bowls and she bowls over her age. She finished the summertime league with a 117 average.”
Smith is one of Cranford’s biggest cheerleaders when Cranford competes in league play, displaying the upbeat and encouraging spirit that the veteran bowler says Golden Age members have come to expect from her.
“She gets along with everybody. She’s the same everyday. When she comes in, she’s happy. She smiles and has a good time with her bowling. She’s just a good sport,” remarked the mother of two. “She’s one of the quietest ladies here, but she’s one of the best.”
Fellow Golden Age member Margie Bohannon, a retired educator, said Smith is indeed a viable contender in the league.
“She can out-bowl me – she’s got a good average and everything,” declared the 83 year-old. “And she’s just such a sweet person – very sweet.”
Hannah Barco, who at 68 is among the youngest in the group, said the party is indicative of the camaraderie all the Golden Age Senior League bowlers enjoy.
“We’re not here for the competition as much as we are for the fun,” noted the Maryland native. “We enjoy being with each other.”
Smith, who has belonged to the league for over a decade, said she too values the fellowship with the other bowlers above all else.
“It’s just good to be with the people,” she declared. “I call them all my friends.”
Smith’s daughter, Tanje Smith-Perry joined her mother at the celebration. Smith-Perry, an avid bowler herself, said she talked her mother into joining the league because she felt it would be a good outlet for her. Smith-Perry said she was touched by the outpouring of love and support the league showed Smith in celebration of her special day.
“I was up here back in July and they told me they wanted to do something for her and I thought that was cool,” commented the longtime Truliant Federal Credit Union employee. “I thought that was so thoughtful that the league wanted to do that for her.”
For Cranford, who regards Smith a little like a second mother, it was a chance to give something back to a woman who spends so much of her time looking out for others.
“I love you, Cora,” Cranford told the misty-eyed bowler. “We appreciate you so much. You just don’t know.”