Late bowler struck hearts with kindness

If somebody wanted to track down Betty Strickland on a weekday, it was a safe bet she’d be at Royal Lanes in Lutz.

Betty Strickland was a fixture at Royal Lanes in Lutz. She was known not only for her bowling prowess, but also her kindly nature. (File Photo)

Betty Strickland was a fixture at Royal Lanes in Lutz. She was known not only for her bowling prowess, but also her kindly nature. (File Photo)

The Land O’ Lakes woman, who died on Jan. 29, was a fixture at the bowling alley since it opened in the 1970s.

On busy days, she bowled as many as 10 games. But normally, Strickland bowled around four, according to a feature story about the bowler published in The Laker/Lutz News in 2010.

Strickland enjoyed bowling with her friend, Cat Carson, and the two women played in scores of tournaments – including national tournaments – for several years.

One of Strickland’s biggest moments at Royal Lanes came on Jan. 9, 2006, when she bowled 300 — a perfect game.

Rachel Thompson, who herself bowled a perfect game on Nov. 9, 2012, said that besides being a terrific bowler, Strickland radiated kindness. Thompson works in classified sales at The Laker/Lutz News.

Before meeting Strickland, Thompson said she felt a bit intimidated. After all, Strickland bowled with the Brooklyn Strikers, known as the team to beat at Royal Lanes.

But it didn’t take Strickland long to put Thompson at ease.

“She right away was giving me five and telling me how good I was,” Thompson said, adding that Strickland was “super sweet and really supportive. She didn’t even know me.”

Carson, a retired schoolteacher, also remembers Strickland’s warm welcome. The Land O’ Lakes woman said she was pretty rusty at the time, and Strickland noticed.

“She looked at my old ball from 1960. She said, ‘I think you need some help,’” recalled Carson, who became fast friends with Strickland. “She took me under her wing and started teaching me all of these things. She worked hours and hours with me. We started bowling shortly after that, almost five times a week.”

Their friendship went beyond the bowling alley. They went scalloping together and to country music concerts at the Strawberry Festival in Plant City.

“She liked baseball, too. We were big (Tampa Bay) Rays fans. She’d watch every game, every night,” Carson said.

After games, the women would chat on the telephone about how the players performed.

Carson said she treasures the friendship she and Strickland shared.

“I never had a friend quite like Betty,” Carson said.

She recalls an instance when Strickland called her at midnight and said, “Oh, my cactus flower opened, come see it.”

Carson jumped in her car to go see it.

On another occasion, Strickland was chatting on the telephone and told Carson, “Oh, look, a baby deer was born in my bushes.”

So, Carson jumped in her car once again, and drove to Strickland’s house.

Carson credits Strickland for playing a large role in influencing the welcoming ambience at Royal Lanes.

“Our whole bowling alley is very friendly — the majority of the people there — and I really think Betty had a big thing to do with that,” Carson said.

She was beloved by people of all ages, Carson said. She pointed out that a good number of those in attendance at her memorial service were decades younger than Strickland.

Strickland is survived by her daughters, Brenda Barno (Pete) and Robyn Davie Geiger (John); her four grandchildren, Andrew Barno, Brenna Barno Longmier, Dennis Davie Jr., Wendy Jo Davie; and numerous great-grandchildren.

Robyn Geiger said her mother enjoyed the camaraderie of the bowlers at Royal Lanes. “She liked the people,” Geiger said.

Besides being an avid bowler in her later years, Strickland was a hard worker in her younger years, Geiger said. Sometimes Strickland would work two or three jobs, to make sure she could provide for her daughters.

Thompson, who only knew Strickland from the bowling alley, said the woman left an indelible impression.

“It was great to bowl with her. She made sure to let people know she cared,” Thompson said, adding Strickland was “sweet as cotton candy.”

Published Feb. 19, 2014


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