When Theresa Riemer called her father, Merrill Draper, into her office at Towne & Country Lanes in Burlington Aug. 16, little did he know he would be getting a surprise for something he’s worked for most of his adult life.
“I was thinking ‘what did I do now,’ ” Draper said.
It turned out it was something being done for him.
Draper, 77, found his daughter and his wife, Lorraine, in the office with an official from the Wisconsin State USBC Bowling Association on speaker phone.
The official told Draper that he was being inducted into the WSBA Hall of Fame in the Meritorious Service category.
Draper was definitely taken aback.
“I was quite surprised when he called,” Draper said. “That’s something you don’t expect — it’s pretty thrilling. It’s quite an honor.”
The WSBA Hall of Fame Induction Dinner will be held Saturday, Jan. 7 in Neenah.
Riemer, the general manager of Towne & Country, filled out the nomination papers for her dad and sent them to the WSBA. And unlike some news at T&C, this was a very well-kept secret.
“A lot of people in the center knew, but not me,” he said. “Usually at the center, rumors fly. (The Hall of Fame committee) got information from a lot of folks here.”
Riemer was happy she was able to keep the news from him until the time was right.
“He’s a tough one to keep things from, so that in itself was an accomplishment,” Riemer said.
Draper began in the bowling business as a mechanic at a bowling center in Madison in 1962. In 1971, he and Lorraine bought Towne & Country and, in 1978, acquired Surfside Bowl in Kenosha. The Drapers sold Surfside in 1998.
Draper is perhaps best known for sending multiple teams to the WSBA State Tournament every year. A few of those teams, and their members, have either won or had high finishes in the state tournament.
Of all that he has done as a proprietor, Draper is most proud of being at the forefront of high school club bowling. He was the vice president of WSBA District 6 and pushed to give high school bowlers in Racine and Kenosha counties a chance to compete against each other.
“It was about 15 or 20 years ago it got started at the state level,” Draper said. “Not a lot of schools had teams right away, but they saw what was happening.
“Now we have one of best high school districts in the state.”
The two counties compete in the Wisconsin High School Bowling Club District 3A and in recent years have sent multiple teams and individuals to the state club tournament. Towne & Country also gives out college scholarships to high school bowlers who plan to continue bowling.
“It’s nice to be a part of that,” Draper said.
Draper is busy on the lanes as well. He bowls in a couple leagues a week and is a sub in a couple others.
He has bowled at the USBC Open Championships for 48 years and has bowled in the Petersen Classic in Chicago for 35 years.
Riemer couldn’t be happier for her father.
“I was and am so thrilled he is being given this honor because he deserves it so much,” Riemer said. “He has worked so hard over the years.
“My dad is a very humble man and doesn’t do things for recognition. He does them to further grow the sport and because it’s what he loves.”