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Age isn't a limitation in bowling success

The Greaton Jewelers bowling team includes (l-r) Dick Deiss, John Oldenburg, Ron Duffe, Harry Oldenburg and Joe Gillen. Not pictured are team members Jim Willett, Stan Soderquist, Dave Oldenburg and Joel Marsh.

Old bowlers just keep on rolling.

That's clearly true when you see the Greaton Jewelers team in action in the Wednesday Night League at Gibby's Lanes in New Richmond.

The Oldenburg brothers, John and Harry, are the two senior bowlers in the league at 87 and 85 years old. Add in Joe Gillen, 82, and you've got more than 150 years of combined bowling experience between them.

In comparison, the rest of the team is young. Ron Duffe, Stan Soderquist and Jim Willett are in their 60s and Dick Deiss isn't far away. Joel Marsh is the youngster on the team at the ripe old age of ??

The elder bowlers show little sign of slowing down. The Oldenburgs have been regulars in New Richmond leagues for decades. Gillen has too, though he's had to slow down his activity this season due to a knee replacement and cataract surgery.

The Oldenburg brothers have been top bowlers in New Richmond leagues for more than 50 years. Harry carried a average of 197 for many years. His average now stands at 180, still quite competitive in one of the top leagues in the area.

Gillen said he's been bowling with or against the Oldenburgs for 35 years. He first met Harry Oldenburg through business. Gillen bought a farm when he moved to New Richmond in 1957. The same year, Oldenburg purchased a portable feed mill and set up a business in New Richmond. They got to know each other when Oldenburg would do milling on Gillen's farm.

Oldenburg kept the milling business until 1970, when he was hired at the post office. Gillen farmed for many years. He and his wife raised 10 kids on the farm.

There is a definite competitive fire that continues to drive these veteran bowlers. They said they enjoy seeing the surprise from younger opponents who weren't expecting the "old-timers" to put up such a fight.

The Oldenburgs bowled at the state and national level a number of times. Harry has bowled in national tournaments 25 times.

"All three of us are reasonably healthy yet. It's just unbelievable," Gillen said.

The younger members of the team marvel at the octagenarians, though most of them have been bowling more than 40 years.

"They were better bowlers years ago, but at their ages, their still doing pretty good. It's amazing," Duffe said.

Willett said he enjoys the competitiveness of the veteran bowlers. He said he's impressed that Gillen also continues to golf.

This Greaton's team is the conglomeration of several past teams. Gillen, Willett and Duffe bowled for many years on the Casey Excavating team.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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