Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2013, 7:15 pm

Q-C bowling scene has lost its biggest supporter

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By John Marx, jmarx@qconline.com

More photos from this shoot
Photo: John Greenwood
Cal Whitemore, bowling columnist for The Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, posed for this picture in May 2009, when he retired from column writing. He had written about 1,000 columns, starting with his first piece published on Sept. 4, 1977.
It arrived -- delivered by hand -- on or about Tuesday of every week. Two, sometimes three, sheets of medium-sized tablet paper.

It was thorough; it was accurate; each word was spelled correctly. For 32 years, 30 weeks a year, every word -- typed on a typewriter -- was perfect. Cal Whitmore did not need the electronic age -- he relied on old-fashioned understanding and personal relationships.

Cal left us this week at age 85. I was honored to know him and to work alongside him for a portion of our newspaper careers. When I began in this amazing business almost 30 years ago, Cal was already an established bowling columnist for The Dispatch.

When The Rock Island Argus joined the Small Newspaper Group family, Cal's expertise was introduced to a whole new audience. From 1977 to 2009, he kept us updated, entertained and informed on all that was happening on the local lanes.

To say Cal knew bowling and the mindset of the bowler would not do him the justice he deserved. He was an outstanding bowler and a member of seven bowling Halls of Fame, rolling his first game at age 13 in 1940. He was the secretary and member of the Tri-City Classic for more than 55 years. Cal might have been the best "numbers'' guy going when it came to tallying bowling sheets.

Cal knew and understood the ins and outs of the game, which was rapidly changing around him. Best of all, though, Cal knew people. His ability to carry on a conversation on many a subject was his second-greatest attribute. His greatest treasure and asset, he told us many times, was his bride of 67 years, Phyllis, who passed in January.

Many a week, Cal's Tuesday jaunt through the sports department -- column in hand -- would turn into an hour-plus talk about the state of the world, the state of the newspaper business and the state of the bowling community. The man, homegrown and homespun in so many wonderful ways, was as worldly as they came.

Time was, bowling was THE thing to do in weeknight recreation circles, and Cal said those were some of his favorite years. When bowling's popularity slowed in the 1980s and 1990s, Cal pushed even harder to make sure it stayed part of the local landscape. He tutored countless youths and high school bowlers on the merits of the game, urging them to chase college bowling opportunities and to participate thereafter.

At age 82, Cal decided 32 years and nearly 1,000 columns were enough, citing the need for more free time for his stepping back from writing. At that time, he was still bowling, averaging an amazing 167. In his 70-year love affair with bowling, there were better bowlers than Cal Whitmore, as he would be the first to tell you. But few -- if any -- ever gave as much to the sport locally as Cal did.

Thing is, he was far too modest to ever tell you that.

Thanks, Cal. You were a gem.





Columnist John Marx can be reached at (309) 757-8388 or jmarx@qconline.com.