Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Smirnoff Inspires Bowlers Scramblers Salute a Peer

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Smirnoff Inspires Bowlers Scramblers Salute a Peer

Article excerpt

Byline: Leonard Ruble, Times-Union correspondent

Dick Smirnoff is not the most prolific bowler.

His average topped out at 150 and his high game was 226. But after three heart surgeries, kidney failure and lung damage, the simple fact he is, at age 75, bowling each week in the Scramblers League at Jax Lanes Grove Park says far more than his score.

Smirnoff, who also uses a pacemaker, requires oxygen between frames.

In recognition of his love of the game and his dedication to the sport, the entire league presented him with a special plaque at the end of the season.

"I'm a very proud man, but I'm also very emotional and it showed when they gave me the plaque," Smirnoff said. "I don't want to just exist. I want to live and bowling gives me a lot of enjoyment and satisfaction."

The plaque was not the first time the Scramblers saluted Smirnoff. After his third heart surgery, in 2000, Smirnoff's prognosis wasn't good. During his recuperation, the Scramblers League took a huge get-well card to him. Thirty-two hearts representing the 32 teams in the league were drawn inside the card. Inside each of the hearts, the members of that team had signed their names.

Smirnoff began bowling again after his first heart surgery, to clear a blockage in a coronary artery, in 1981. His doctor sent him to a rehabilitation program for heart patients. Part of the recovery program involved finding an enjoyable activity in which he could get some exercise.

As a manager of a 7-Eleven convenience store in Jacksonville Beach at the time, Smirnoff was the company's area collection coordinator for various fund-raising drives, including the March of Dimes, which received the proceeds from the company's bowling league. He was familiar with bowling and believed it was the only activity he could participate in and get needed exercise.

Smirnoff, who grew up in Newark, N.J., had bowled occasionally during his youth with his father and a few buddies. He started smoking when he was 9. He started working at age 11, shining shoes to help put food on his family's table. …

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