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BLINDNESS DOESN'T STOP 88-YEAR-OLD BOWLER

READY TO ROLL: Jessie Gibbs was honored for her contributions to and years of involvement in womens bowling in La Grande. (The Observer/RAENELLE KWOCK).
READY TO ROLL: Jessie Gibbs was honored for her contributions to and years of involvement in womens bowling in La Grande. (The Observer/RAENELLE KWOCK).

By Raenelle Kwock

Observer Staff Writer

Jessie Gibbs had a special honor this past weekend at The Rock Bowling and Fun Center.

Gibbs, who is 88 and legally blind, rolled out the first ball at the Womens Bowling Association City Tournament.

Gibbs had offered to blindfold the best bowler in the tournament and play her, but no one took her up on the offer.

I keep telling them I bowl with them all the time, they should be bowling with me once, but they wont do that, she said.

Gibbs learned to bowl in the 1960s.

Well, way back in the 60s, I just needed something to do, she explained with a laugh. Its a good sport because its year round cooler in the summer, warmer in the winter the whole year round, said Gibbs, who turns 89 on March 18.

Gibbs found out bowling was not as easy as she thought it would be.

Well, when I first took the lessons, I thought, Gee, its a simple game, its no problem, Im going to be real good at this, she said with a laugh. But I find its not that easy.

Gibbs began bowling at Blue Mountain Lanes in the early 1960s. In 1974, she bowled in league, and her team won league that year.

In the third grade, Gibbs could only see parts of long words. Doctors did not know the cause. Since 1987, she has been legally blind.

In 1991, she averaged 137, an all-time league high, even though she could not see the pins. Her highest game was 238. She bowled in Pro-Ams, and she bowled with Marshall Holman, a bowler on the PBA Pro-Am.

When Gibbs bowls her first ball, she needs someone to tell her what pins are left. Gibbs pictures it in her mind as she bowls the second time.

Gibbs stands to the left of the ball return and walks along the edge. Then she makes a sharp turn left and takes two steps, so shes in the center of the lane.

Gibbs, who lives in La Grande, has three children, four grandchildren, three great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. She helped her great-great grandchildren learn how to bowl when they were small.

Gibbs continues to bowl with her senior group on Mondays. She began a Vision Support Group for those with vision loss. She works at the senior center two days a month.

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