Dorothy May, Conneaut, and Ashtabula County Bowling

Erie Times News

Louise Rossiter

November 29, 1964

Polio Couldn’t Stop Dotty,

“If You Can Do It, I Can Do It too”

Miss Dorothy May, who lives at 1722 Harbor Avenue in Ashtabula, is co-owner of King’s Lanes in Kingsville.  She bowled her way to fifteenth position in all Ohio competition to earn her place in the National BPAA tournament in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

This event starts on January 9, 1965, and 213 of the best women bowlers of the national will be represented.

Dorothy, better known as “Dottie,” averaged 180 pins in the 16 games bowled in the Columbus competition recently. The top 18 bowlers in Ohio will go to the National event.

Dotty started bowling in 1948 in a women’s league in Ashtabula, and since that time has held the Ashtabula City Association all events title six straight times, was third in Ohio State Tournament all-events in 1955, and missed first place in Inner City Tournament, which takes place in Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, by two pins in 1963.

She holds the highest single score in Ashtabula at 268. Her team, representing King’s Lanes, holds the highest single game of 1137.  All told, she flies pretty high in the scoring when it really counts.

Dorothy starred in softball in her younger days, and in 1954, was invited to join the Cleveland Polish Olympic Club basketball team, captained by Stella Walsh, Cleveland’s representative in running competition to the Olympic games in Europe.

All of these honors have been accomplished by this remarkable gal in spite of a handicap. When she was two and a half years old, she was stricken with polio which affected her left leg and after an operation in 1937, she wore a brace until she was seventeen years old.

Always athletically inclined, she kept trying to overcome her difficulties and never gives up anything she undertakes. Her handicap has inspired her to develop a spirit that says, “If anyone else can do it, I can do it as well!”

Dottie is not the least bit conscious of her affliction, which today is much improved and says she is positive that a continued effort to participate in all these strenuous activities has strengthened her weak ankle and leg, and concentration on timing has helped her to excel in anything she takes up.

Miss May is employed in the cost estimate department of the Ashtabula Rubber Company in Ashtabula.

All who know this courageous and high spirited young woman admire her outgoing personality and wish her the best of luck in January and in the future.   

Happy Hearts Bowlers Learn Many Skills Besides Bowling

Teri Church and her teammates belong to Happy Hearts Bowling team in Conneaut. Three mothers, two of which bowl with the youngsters, are sponsors for the team. A banquet is held and trophies awarded each year after tournaments.

When local students from Happy Hearts School gather every Saturday at Conneaut Recreation Center Bowling Lanes, they learn more than just how to bowl. They share friendships, team support, learn more skills and improve coordination, experience winning and losing, confidence and joy for fellow bowlers, competition, and a desire to strive for improvement.

Mrs. Duane Dickson started the team in the summer of 1974 to give the children an extracurricular activity. At first students from Ashtabula area and Conneaut bowled on the same team at the REC, but now Ashtabula area students have their own team at a nearby bowling alley.

The Conneaut team has eight members, male and female, and three parent chaperones, two of which bowl on the team. They include Mrs. Dickson, Mrs. John Kehoe and Mrs. Dottie Baumgardner. The team membership is open to all students of all ages attending Happy Hearts School. They bowl three games each Saturday beginning at 12:20 p.m. and then compete in tournaments each January. They also hope to have spring tournaments. The season ends with a banquet where trophies are awarded. This year a banquet is being planned with the Ashtabula team.

Kings Lane Proprietor Dorothy May Dies

February 28, 2003

 Dorothy C. May, 77, bowling best Friend of Happy Hearts School, Ash/Craft, and community bowlers died on February 28, 2003. The principal owner and operator of Kings Lanes in North Kingsville, she chose bowling as her favorite sport and practiced it to perfection. She set many records in Ashtabula County, including 16 time all events champion, nine-time singles champion and five-time doubles champion for the Women’s Bowling Association Tournament. She has been enshrined in the National Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri.

Special Story: Dotty May With Dotty, Others Always Came First

March 4, 2003 by Karl Pearson

Over 25 years of covering sports in Ashtabula County, a variety of personalities are bound to be considered. Some people come across as outgoing, bubbly, high-energy figures. Others are much more reserved, quiet types. Some burn with intensity. Others are carefree. I have to admit that Dotty May, the long-time bowling proprietor of Kings Lanes in North Kingsville who died Friday, was one of the more complex personalities I have encountered.

Perhaps the most adequate way to describe her is that she had an extremely strong personality. At first blush, she seemed a formidable person, someone you didn’t mess with under any circumstances. To use the term of a bygone era, Dotty May was a tough old broad. Once you got to know her, though, and she got to know you, it was discovered that she had a very tender heart, especially for people who were among society’s least respected. If one was mentally, physically, emotionally, or economically challenged she was always willing to try to do whatever she could to make sure you were treated with dignity.

Perhaps that’s because her life, especially when she was a youngster, was a series of challenges which she defeated in resounding fashion. She overcame polio which she contracted when she was just three years old, to become one of Ashtabula County’s greatest female athletes. Years after passing from the limelight as a competitor, she is still talked about in reverent tones by those that witnessed those performances or heard about them.

By the time I got to Ashtabula County, Dotty had pretty much left the competition arena, so I didn’t get to see those achievements myself, but the list is impressive. For instance, she played semi-pro basketball with Stella Walsh from Cleveland who had been an Olympic champion in her heyday.

But most of her achievements were tied to bowling. They are legendary-holding the Ashtabula Women’s Bowling Association average record for 18 years, winning the AWBA Tournament all-events title 16 times, taking the singles actual title nine times and taking the doubles crown with Evelyn Degman five times, earning induction into the National Bowling Hall of Fame and AWBA Hall of Fame, winning the singles title of the Ohio Inter-City Tournament and finishing in the top 10 of the singles at the Ohio Women’s Bowling Association Tournament.

Having an inkling of her level of achievement, I figured Dotty was the kind of competitor who would cut an opponent’s heart out and feed it to them. Her niece, Sandy Campagna, who followed in her aunt’s footsteps as one of the key persons in county bowling at St. Angelo’s Lanes, set me straight on that. “She was always encouraging other people. She always had respect for other bowlers.”

“Most people would have said she was too nice out there,” Sandy Campagna said. “She was a lot like Farina DiMare and Nick Fish (two male bowling hall of famers}. She was always encouraging people. She always had respect for other bowlers.”

“She was one of the greatest female athletes I’ve ever seen around here, Farina DiMare, who was one of her pallbearers, said after her funeral Monday. She was a great competitor, but she was a great sport.”

Going back to her sport was a matter of importance to Dotty May. She was a director for the AWBA for many years, serving as the finance chairman for more than a decade. “She was good with money,” Sandy Campagna said.

Often, she represented the AWBA as a delegate to the state and national conventions. Probably her biggest legacy to bowling was her management of Kings Lanes. Although she was in partnership with her brother, John, and Pasquale Sposito when they opened the facility in 1963, Dotty May was the person who was the face of the bowling center.

That was another display of her strong personality. How many women of the early 1960s had the courage to start their own business? Through the ups and downs of the economy in the last 40 years, how many proprietors would have stood the test of time and still hosted the bowling community so well?

That’s when I first met, or a better term might be, ran afoul of Dotty May. Arriving at Kings Lane on a wintry day to explain what our plans were for bowling coverage I walked into the building and made the mistake of inadequately at least to her mind, wiping my feet. She let me know in no uncertain terms her displeasure, even though there were no bowlers in the building at the time. It put a healthy fear of her into me.

But she didn’t reserve that kind of treatment for just one person. Several years later, I asked an unsuspecting colleague to pick up some material for me on his way to work. He made the same mistake and received the same greeting, a reception that earned her the title, “Dragon Lady.”

As years have gone by, I came to realize and respect that Dotty’s priorities were about her bowlers. No proprietor was ever more concerned about making sure those bowlers were well treated and received the recognition she felt they deserved. There was always a special strata of bowler at her establishment. She made sure the mentally and physical challenged had a place to come where their needs were met and they felt comfortable. She organized the Happy Hearts Bowling league, which will celebrate its 30th Anniversary in 2004. One of the Happy Hearts Students was another pallbearer Monday.

In her own way, Dotty May was a bowling educator, too. In short, she was all about teaching the benefits of bowling. That was especially true in the early years of King’s existence when many people came there who had never bowled in leagues before. She was a certified bowling instructor and Young American Bowling Alliance coach. She was all about kids. Many of the top area male and female bowlers owe their achievements today to her instruction. Even though they might not have continued bowling at her home, she met them on their way with her blessing and reveled in their accomplishments.

It wasn’t all about bowling for her. A friend shared that she learned of a family in Conneaut which figured not to have Christmas at all. She gathered a huge basket of food and items for the kids and made sure they got it in time for the big day. I’m convinced these occasions were the norm, rather than the exception. With her passing, area bowling, especially that in Ashtabula County, will be the loser. She joins the list of the old proprietors – Sonny and Judy Kosicek, John Elmer, Sam Monday and Pete Sposito – who have left behind a legacy of love for their sport and the notion of treating the public royally.

Today, I believe Dotty May has teamed with the Kosiceks, Monday, and Fish to organize one heck of a bowling tournament in heaven. The next thunderstorm you hear will be from that tournament, in which God will at least be throwing the first strike, if not actively participating. They’re making sure the lanes are oiled properly, the automatic scoring and pin-setting machines operate efficiently, there’s plenty of snacks to eat and good things to drink and everyone’s nice and warm and smiling. Aren’t you all eager to get involved? I know I am. And this time, I’ll be sure to wipe my feet properly, Dotty.