Angie Gubrud rarely misses a Friday morning at Langford Recreation Center in St. Anthony Park. The 96- year-old also rarely misses a pin during the group bowling that takes place in Langford’s gymnasium during the St. Paul Parks and Recreation Weekly Senior Group.
“She gets a strike 90 percent of the time,” according to Zach Hahnen, who helps coordinate the group.
Gubrud is one of nearly a dozen regulars who spend two hours a week at the park bowling, playing darts, having coffee and doughnuts, and enjoying one another’s company.
Gubrud, who lives in Midway, is an original member of the group, which began meeting at South St. Anthony Rec Center more than 30 years ago. It moved to Langford several years ago.
“When I started out there were about 30 of us,” Gubrud said. She got involved because a neighbor couple encouraged her and her husband to join them.
Most of the original group has died, she said, but she still comes each week because the Friday morning group is “family now.”
Catherine Tarnowski, 93, a former St. Anthony Park resident who now lives at Episcopal Homes on University Avenue, joined 12 years ago. She showed up on a recent Friday for the first time in almost two years. During her absence, she stayed in touch with the group through Steve Sarrazin, a community specialist with Kaposia, a training and habilitation service for adults with developmental disabilities. Sarrazin works with six men from area group homes who attend the Friday morning activities at Langford and volunteer each week at Episcopal Homes, where they visit Tarnowski.
Sarrazin encouraged Tarnowski to visit the group and arranged for Nancy Larkey, a “newbie” who joined five and a half years ago, to give Tarnowski a ride to the rec center.
Larkey found out about the Weekly Senior Group after reading about it in a Parks and Rec activity brochure. “I had recently retired and was looking for something interesting to do,” she said. She likes the program because it is “geared toward people of all abilities. They are all good people.”
Tarnowski, an avid bowler who belonged to two leagues—one in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul— for years and kept bowling even after she started using a walker (“I’d bowl with my right hand and hold the walker with my left hand.”), had not picked up a ball since she stopped attending the group in 2012. She knocked down all but one pin in her first roll from her wheelchair. Her second roll was a disappointment. “I couldn’t pick up my spare,” she said.
With the help of Sarrazin and a man named Wally, Tarnowski stood for the rest of her rolls and was able to finish the morning with a couple of spares and a strike tallied.
The bowling, the darts, the camaraderie are very positive for the men in Sarrazin’s group, he said. A fellow named Jack demonstrated his prowess at knocking down pins: He stands on the opposite end of the gym and rolls the ball. A strike! And then high-fives all around.
“For people like Jack, it’s an enormous ego booster,” Sarrazin said.
“We have a lot of fun,” Hahnen said. “It’s low budget. We use the resources of Parks and Recreation. We make it work.”
The group is open to people of all abilities age 55 or older (the age requirement is flexible, Hahnen said) and meets 9-11 a.m. every Friday.
The city will install central air conditioning at Langford this summer, which will make the center more comfortable for summer indoor activities, Hahnen said. The group will probably move to a different rec center during that work, as it did when the gymnasium was painted earlier this year, when members gathered at Northwest Como Recreation Center.
To find out more, call Langford at 651-298-5765.