In fact, the World War II veteran posted a 156-pin performance during his over-50 league’s weekly gathering, a performance that included knocking down a difficult 7-10 split. On the season, he’s averaging a score of 116.
“When you hear about a 103-year-old bowler, you picture a hunched-over, decrepit little guy. But when you look at him, you’d think he’s 80,” said Gail Evans, the bowling league’s president. “He’s amazing.”
Berthold got hooked on bowling while serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II. An engine fire on his B-24 bomber forced his flight crew to wait 30 days in Iceland for replacement parts. He and fellow crew members passed the time by ice fishing and bowling on ice.
His daughter, Barb Berthold, also bowls in the league and drives him between his Fox River Grove home and the Bowlero in Deer Park. She said one of the keys to both her dad’s longevity and bowling prowess is his determination.
She recalls her father falling from a ladder a little more than 10 years ago while adjusting the satellite dish on his roof. The plunge to the driveway left him with a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder, which is his bowling arm.
For most people his age, the injury would end one’s bowling days. Not Berthold.
“He had surgery and then started taking lessons so he could bowl left-handed,” Barb Berthold said. “When he wants to do something, he just does it.”
Berthold said he even bowled a 300 once, although his daughter is quick to note that if he did, it wasn’t documented.
“To me, his biggest accomplishment is that he’s still bowling,” she said.
One of the highlights of Berthold’s birthday celebration this week – apart from the strike he rolled in the fourth frame – was when members of the Palatine American Legion Post 690 Color Guard visited to thank him for his service and presented him with a special hat and shirt.
“There are quite a few veterans in our league,” Evans said. “The majority of the league is in their 70s and 80s. We’re old!”
Berthold said he was surprised by the party and appreciated everything his bowling friends have done for him.
And, he added, he hopes his name is spelled correctly in the newspaper.
Barb Berthold said she’s just happy that her father is able to bring so much joy to others.
“I’m proud of him, and all of them are proud, too,” she said. “It’s a real celebration, and I’m just proud to deliver him to the bowling alley.”