Of the Baker City Herald

Ken Vanderpool of Baker City has been a bowler since 1946. Three weeks ago he bowled a 684 (out of a possible 900) and won the No-Tap tournament at Baker Classic Bowl.

No big deal, you say? Any half-way decent bowler should be able to do it? Well, what if you couldnt see the pins from the foul line? Would being blind make a difference?

Not to Ken. He said he was lucky that night.

I shot a high score in the first game of over 280 and I got lucky the rest of the evening, Ken said.

Ive been a bowler for many years, and I thought about giving up the game as I lost my sight. But my bowling friends said theyd help me by describing the pin layout. I guess Ill just keep bowling as long as they are willing to help.

Ken first learned the game when he returned home from the Navy, where he was a radioman. His whole family shares his love of the game, including his wife, Madeleine, who is a substitute assistant teacher for the 5J School District.

Grandson Josh, 20, is one of Kens regular bowling partners along with Shawn White, a young neighbor and Joshs friend. The three bowl together every Tuesday evening in a league.

Hes an amazing bowler, White said of his senior partner. Both of Kens partners are one-third his age, yet enjoy the game as much as he does.

Ken was diagnosed with glaucoma in 1965. The disease is characterized by increased pressure in the eye resulting in degeneration of the optic nerve and a gradual loss of vision. Because there is no pain and the vision loss is so gradual it often remains undetected for years. By the time it is diagnosed, it is often too late.

Ken has no vision at all in his right eye and only very limited vision in the left. He urges people to have their vision checked periodically and have the glaucoma test done. The test is painless and the condition often runs in families he said.

Ken said he has been bowling at Baker Classic Bowl since he moved to Baker City 31 years ago. I know the lanes very well, which helps him continue in the sport. He even taught there for 15 years.

Ken first learned that visually impaired people can bowl many years ago when he attended a tournament in another city. An elderly gentleman there was using a spotting scope to help him see the pin arrangement.

He would look into the scope, carefully step over to the foul line and throw the ball. I walked over to him and told him how much I admired him for his efforts. He was a really little old man, around age 70, said Ken, who is now 76 himself.

His best game was rolled in 1977, when he bowled a perfect 300 game. It was the first that had been scored at the alley since 1961.

Kens visual loss resulted in his retirement from the Federal Aviation Administration where he was in management in air traffic control in Washington, D.C.

His many assignments with FAA over the years brought Baker Valley to his attention in the 1960s.

He was flying a DC-3 on a route from Seattle to Boise helping to establish the Very High Frequency Airways System, an early navigational aid for pilots. He flew over Baker Valley and remarked to his fellow FAA people that Baker Valley looked like a great place to retire.

When he retired in 1970, Madeleine and his youngest son, Dan (Joshs father) joined him in Baker City.

I thought the move would only be for a few years, but we love it here, Ken said.

Dan also enjoys bowling with his dad but admits he finds the game kind of frustrating at times.

He praised his fathers skill as the game, whereupon Ken said his family is kind of prejudice about me.