A 96-year-old Alma woman who has been bowling for more than 50 years has no plans to quit any time soon.
Wanda Dillard loves bowling and plans to continue the sport as long as she’s able, she said.
“I’ve always been athletic,” Dillard said. “I’ve played baseball, basketball and softball. When I got acquainted with bowling, I just loved it.”
Dillard, who was born and raised in Mulberry, was named to the International Bowling Museum Arkansas Hall of Fame in 2014.
In 2011 at age 89, Dillard had a bowling average of 166 that was recognized by the United States Bowling Congress and was six points above the national average bowling score for women.
Though she bowled a score of 166 in her game on Tuesday at Bowling World in Fort Smith, Dillard’s current average is 137, she said.
“It goes down every year,” Dillard said, her face crinkled in dissatisfaction.
But that’s fine, she said, because for Dillard, bowling these days is more about enjoyment of the sport and the companionship of her fellow bowlers than the score.
“Getting exercise and friends are what keep me bowling,” Dillard said. “Friends, mostly. They are all my family.”
Dillard grew up learning to love competition, and remembers when her team won the Crawford County girl’s basketball tournament in 1936.
“I’ve played sports all my life,” Dillard said.
She started bowling for fun with friends in 1962, she said. Later, while living in Texas, she began bowling at a nearby alley that was managed by her first husband.
She joined a traveling bowling team and began bowling in tournaments.
“You meet a lot of great people bowling,” Dillard said.
Dillard’s lists of bowling achievements is endless.
In 2001, Dillard won the Arkansas State USBC Women’s Senior Tournament and the National Senior Olympic Gold Medal in the singles and mixed doubles categories. She was named to the Fort Smith Women’s Bowling Association Hall of Fame in 2000.
Dillard is listed in the National Senior Games Association Who’s Who, and her house is packed with boxes of awards and patches and letters of congratulations.
Her most recent recognition was for 35 years of participation in state tournaments.
Linda Wright, Bowling World league director, said Dillard is a wonderful person to be around.
“She is the most loving, caring person you’d ever want to meet,” Wright said.
At the grand opening of Bowling World in 1991, Dillard was present and bowled with professional bowlers who attended the event. Her first husband managed the alley when it was Holiday Lanes.
Wright added that Dillard’s continued participation in bowling and tournaments has inspired others to continue being active.
“She’s still very competitive,” Wright said. “And she’s been an inspiration to so many.”
Dillard plans to keep on bowling for the rest of her life, she said.