Carl Richard, a professional bowler who owned several bowling venues in the Tri-State District, died Friday at Freeman Health System at the age of 97.
After his return home after serving in the U.S. Merchant Marines in World War II, he married Norma Lee Bevington in 1945. She died in the late 1980s.
The Erie, Kansas, native had a profound impact on the region with his passion for bowling. He owned and operated Fourth Street Bowl in Joplin as well as five other bowling centers, with his four sons — Ron, Barry, David and Randy. Carl Richard went on to win the Missouri State Team event with his sons in 1971, becoming the first family in Missouri to win the title.
Ron Richard, the oldest son, said it was one of their proudest accomplishments.
Carl Richard was a three-time Missouri state champion in team, singles and doubles, according to the Joplin Sports Authority. He was a member of the Kansas City Stars of the National Bowling League in 1961. In 1960, he was named to the Joplin City Bowling Association Hall of Fame.
Richard expanded the 16-lane Fourth Street Bowl 40 lanes. He also previously owned the 32-lane Bowl East on North Range Line Road in addition to a 72-lane center in Fort Smith, Arkansas. He previously owned a bowling center in Little Rock, Arkansas, as well.
He later owned an eight-lane center in Parsons and a six-lane house in Pittsburg before selling them to join the Chicago Falstaffs, captained by Buddy Bomar.
“We moved to Chicago when he started bowling nationally, internationally with the Falstaff team, which back in those days in the ’50s, those beer teams were the ones that paid the best and hired the best,” Ron Richard said. “Next to Mickey Mantle, he was probably the best athlete in this region as far as going from a common background to internationally known.”
Before purchasing Fourth Street Bowl from a friend, Carl Richard traveled as an international and national professional bowler. Richard was elected into the Missouri State Bowling Association Hall of Fame in 1985 and was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.
“My dad was a great athlete,” Ron Richard said. “His junior and senior year, he won the Kansas state tennis title championship in high school two years in a row. They wanted him to play basketball and baseball, but he couldn’t because they lost everything in the Great Depression and had to go to work. He ended up working at the bowling lanes before he bought them.”
Ron Richard said his father was a great boss who wasn’t afraid to take chances. He described him as an honest, hardworking man with a lot of integrity.
“He rolled the dice every day,” he said. “He was ready to build a new bowling center. He had a lot of guts. He always said, ‘It took a lot of guts to take five kids at home around the country and make your living with a bowling ball.’ But he was one of the few that managed to do that.”
Glenn Brown, the former CEO and chairman of CFI, said Carl Richard was a fun guy to be around and was an esteemed businessman. The two met at Fourth Street Bowl and became good friends through the years.
“He always seemed to really cherish life and his family,” he said. “I always respected him for that. I feel like I’ve lost a very good friend. We knew each other for 40-plus years.”
Warren Turner, Joplin’s American Legion Post 13 commander, said Carl Richard was a fine man who was extremely humble.
“On weekends, I’d work at my dad’s service station, and that’s where I met Carl,” Turner said. “I was impressed because he’s a professional bowler. He would never brag, and you wouldn’t have known.”
Turner said the Joplin American Legion will hold a military funeral service in his memory at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday at Ozark Memorial Park Cemetery, 415 N. St. Louis Ave. There will be a 21-gun salute, taps and a bell honor ceremony.
“It’s a well-deserved service for a veteran who spent time in World War II,” Turner said. “It’s an honor for us to do this, and we’ll do a good job for him.”