Hargrove of Clermont kept bowling up until last week, just before he was hospitalized and died Monday of congestive heart failure at Northeast Georgia Medical Center. Today would have been Hargrove’s 107th birthday.
"We had a big celebration planned, and ‘Good Morning America’ was supposed to do a live shoot from here," said Patrick Lowendick, manager of Yonah Bowl and Skate in Cleveland, where Hargrove bowled.
Hargrove called Yonah Bowl and Skate home, and even has a league — The Billy Hargrove Senior League, named in his honor. When not playing year-round at Suburban Lanes in Decatur, Hargrove could be found competing in summer and winter leagues at the Cleveland bowling alley.
"The league will continue to be named after him, and we are planning a memorial here, as well," Lowendick said.
Born in 1901, Hargrove began bowling in 1924 after moving to Atlanta to work for Gulf Oil. The city’s biggest bowling alley, Blick’s Bowling Center, was one block from his job.
For decades, he played a version known as duckpin bowling. As duckpins faded, Hargrove took up a more popular form of bowling that was played with a larger ball. He said it helped him cope with the 1973 death of his wife, Johnnie Ruth Carter Hargrove, and gave him something to look forward to after he retired.
"I love it," Hargrove said when the league honored his longevity. "It puts you on trial as far as your ability. And your ability comes and goes. I’m fighting it all the time."
"Bowling kept him fit, and I’m sure having something like that — something that you really love — keeps you going," said Sandra Hargrove Carnet, 59, Hargrove’s only child. "But he never really retired from the world. He stayed out there, interacted with people and the world. He just really enjoyed being a part of the community, and that’s what ultimately contributed to his longevity."
The family of Hargrove will receive friends today from 5 to 8 p.m. at H.M. Patterson & Son Funeral Home at 1020 Spring St. in Atlanta. The funeral will be held 2 p.m. Saturday at Grace United Methodist Church, 458 Ponce de Leon Ave., Atlanta.
The Associated Press contributed to this report