04/02/12 — 90 years old, and he is still bowling strong

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90 years old, and he is still bowling strong

By Dennis Hill
Published in News on April 2, 2012 1:46 PM

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Charles Jacobi, 90, sets up to roll at Boulevard Lanes while warming up before a league game. Jacobi, who competes for the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church team, has been bowling since he was 10 years old.

For bowler Charles Jacobi of Goldsboro, there aren't as many strikes as there used to be. The ball gets heavier quicker, and he admits to having a little less control over its movement.

But give him a break. After all, he's 90 years old.

Jacobi has been bowling for 80 years, starting when he was a boy in an orphanage in New York, where there was a two-lane alley with wooden balls. A native of Long Island, he said that it is the competition and companionship of the sport that keep him rolling.

And the crashing of the pins.

"When they all go down, I like the hear the 'pow' and watch 'em go all over," he said, grinning.

As far as anyone at Boulevard Lanes knows, Jacobi is the oldest active bowler in Goldsboro.

As he warmed up for a recent church league game, Jacobi tossed a strike and immediately turned and did a pump fist in the direction of his teammates, enthusiasm written all over his face. A minute later he missed taking out the final pin and turned to do the same fist pump, this time in frustration. A minute later he was low-fiving a teammate after his comrade tossed a strike. After eight decades of strikes and gutters, each roll is still important.

He can tell you exactly when he rolled his highest score -- 258 -- and on which lane it happened. And it came when he was in his 70s.

Jacobi says he only bowls one night a week now. He and his wife, Olivia, used to both bowl, but she eventually gave it up.

They met in England, during World War II. He was a member of the 1st Division field artillery. She came to America after the war.

They moved to Goldsboro about 25 years ago, on the advice of his brother, Tony. Tony then moved to Wisconsin, where Jacobi's other brother, Ted, also lives.

Jacobi was a roofer by trade and only recently fully retired, after his son, Charles Jr., moved to the coast. He has two daughters, Pamela and Barbara.

He said he loved his work.

"I enjoyed it. Nothing bothers you. You're up there on the roof, you get a chance to think."

He attributed his longevity to "just being blessed, I guess," and noted that neither his father nor grandfather had come close to living as long as he has.

Maybe it has something to do with his competitive spirit. Jacobi bowls for Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. His teammates are Mick O'Donnell and Bill Howard. As the threesome warmed up, Jacobi pointed to another bowler tossing balls in the next lane for another team.

"See that guy," he said, smiling. "I'm gonna beat him. We have a little competition going on. We like to beat each other."

Jacobi used to play baseball and said he still enjoys horseshoes. Although he's from New York, he said he was always a Cardinals fan. On one occasion, the Cards were in Brooklyn and he saw Daffy and Dizzy Dean pitch a one-hitter and a no-hitter on the same day.

When he turned 90, the folks at Boulevard Lanes threw him a surprise party, complete with birthday cake. Jacobi said the scene caught him by surprise. He figured it was a party for someone else, he said.

"It made me feel lucky," he said.

How much longer does he expect to be able to roll?

"I don't know," he said, walking off to take his turn. "Ask me in 10 years."