INDUCTED POSTHUMOUSLY ON MAY 11, 1996 -- Class of 1996...
Henry "Lefty" Willer was nominated for the Hall of Fame in 1995. Since that time, it was discovered that he became a Life Member of the Indiana Bowling Association in 1940. That meant that "Lefty" should have been one of the Charter Members of the Kokomo Bowling Association Hall of Fame when it was formed ten years ago. Being a Life Member of the state association was one of the criteria used for Charter Membership. "Lefty" was inadvertently overlooked because the original Hall of Fame formation committee did not know this fact. In 1996, a special vote was conducted at the KBA annual delegates meeting to correct this oversight.
"Lefty" was a great bowler; one of Kokomo's best ever. He was also dedicated to the sport and supported it with his time in service at the local and state levels.
Little is known about Henry "Lefty" Willer, the person, since he stopped bowling about 50 years ago. He was born in Wheeling, West Virginia, on July 22, 1896. He was the son of Frank and Sophia Willer, who moved to Wheeling from Hartford City, Indiana, about two years before Henry's birth. They returned to Indiana, this time to Kokomo, around 1911.
He was a good athlete. "Lefty" played baseball on the 1914 Kokomo High School team as a senior and ran and won a YMCA road race in 1917. He served his country in World War I. "Lefty" was a mail carrier and worked some at the Recreation Alleys. "Lefty" never married; his family was his bowling fraternity.
"Lefty's" service to bowling got started when he was still relatively young. He was elected to the KBA Executive Committee in 1919. In 1920, he was President of the Industrial League. "Lefty" became Secretary of the KBA beginning with the 1922-23 season and would hold this position for over ten years. He was vice-president of the Indiana Bowling Association (IBA) for two consecutive years from 1934 to 1936 and eventually would be elected a Life Member of the IBA.
From some comments made in the newspaper and his involvement in matches and tournaments, he must have been quite a competitor. He wrote some bowling columns and articles for the Kokomo Tribune from 1926 to 1944 under such column titles as "Bowling Notes," "Woodpeckings," and "Splinters from the Maples." In addition to reporting on the bowling happenings in town, he would sometimes assess players' abilities and raise other topics of interest. In 1926, about ten years before Kokomo would have a women's bowling league, "Lefty" wrote the following in the Kokomo Tribune.
"Kokomo needs a Ladies' Bowling League. Other towns our size have ladies' leagues and there is no reason why Kokomo shouldn't have. Mrs. Schneiderman, one of the best women bowlers in the state, lives here and there are others here that have bowled. They could have a big time - a team from the Brass Works, Plate Glass, Boston Store, Thalman and Levi, Turners, Bell Telephone, N.I.P. Co., bank girls, uptown stenographers, etc. All it takes is someone to start it, and then try to stop it!"
"Lefty" participated in all sorts of bowling events. He was a lefthander as his nickname implies. He also bowled in tennis shoes, hopping on his final step. He bowled in many city, state, and ABC tournaments. He rolled in inter-city challenge matches and holiday-doubles tournaments. He not only participated, he was a many-time champion and top finisher at the local, state, and national levels.
KBA CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES:
- 1932 KBA All Events Actual--1814
- 1933 KBA All Events Actual
- 1925 KBA All Events Handicap--652
- 1943 KBA All Events Actual--658
- 1927 KBA Doubles Handicap with Aikman--1251
- 1943 KBA Doubles Actual with Eddie Schupp--1169
- 1929 Team Handicap with Coca-Cola--3036
- 1934 Team Handicap with Phi Delta Kappa--3098
- 1940 Team
- 1944 Team Actual with Quality Body Shop--2844
- 1945 Team Actual with Quality Body Shop--2988
HE HELD SEVERAL KBA RECORDS
- In 1930-1931, his season average of 199.3 was a Kokomo record which stood for about 10 years.
- His 46 games of 200 or over in a league season was also a record.
- "Lefty" led the City scratch league in 200-games in a league season for six consecutive years.
- In a 1938 Derby Doubles tournament while bowling with Mildred Stratford, he set a Kokomo tournament record series score of 749
OTHER BOWLING ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
- "Lefty" was on the City League (scratch) championship team at least four times, probably many more.
- He was the 1935 City Individual Match Play tournament champion, defeating Bobby Overton in the finals.
- In 1922 and 1931, he was a member of the American Legion State Champion Teams.
- "Lefty" finished fifth in doubles at the 1940 State tournament held at Evans Bowling Academy in Kokomo.
- He was the 1938 National Postal Tournament all-events champion with a score of 1864 actual and finshed 3rd in singles handicap with 709 (676 actual).
- His 693 series was high for the city of Kokomo during the 1930-31 season.