When looking at her past accomplishments and overall abilities, Jo Schlafer is considered to be one of the elite female bowlers in the entire Franklin County area.
Forget the fact that Schlafer turns 61 years old in May, she’s one of the best bowlers in the area, at any age.
And most bowling experts in the area would agree.
At the age of 60, Schlafer recently was named the Four Rivers USBC female bowler of the year.
“It was quite an honor for me,” Schlafer said. “It’s rare that women get the recognition in bowling that they deserve. A lot of women don’t get credit for their bowling accomplishments.”
Jo (Simpson) Schlafer is a Sullivan High School graduate who currently lives in New Haven with her husband Greg.
She worked for many years teaching social studies at Lonedell Middle School, where she also coached volleyball, track and cheerleading.
For the last 10 years, Schlafer has been at New Haven High School teaching geography, current events, government and health.
“I teach at New Haven every other day. I love it there,” Schlafer said. “I’m going to keep doing it until they drag me out.”
Greg, who now is retired, also worked in the education field, most recently as the principal at New Haven Elementary School.
Jo and Greg, who will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in August, enjoy living in New Haven.
“We love it in New Haven,” Jo said. “It’s a small, close-knit, family-oriented community.”
Jo started bowling in 1975 and hasn’t turned back since.
“I haven’t missed a league since I started to bowl in 1975,” she proudly said. “The first year I started to bowl, they were giving away bicentennial patches to everyone who bowled a 200 game. I really wanted that patch and finally got it when I bowled a 200 game.”
Yes, Schlafer bowled a 200 game in her first year in the sport.
“You bowl for silly stuff, not money,” she said.
Jo and Greg both have bowled three perfect 300 games. Jo’s 300 games came in 1993, 1997 and 2007.
“Greg and I are hoping at least one of us can get No. 4,” Jo said.
Jo and Greg both won gold medals at the Missouri Senior Games last summer.
“We go to the Missouri Senior games every year,” Jo said. “We have the highest scores in mixed doubles for both 50 to 54 and 55 to 59. I’ve won nine gold medals in ladies singles in the last 12 years.”
Schlafer has competed in the state tournament over 30 times. She also was a member of the Sullivan Bowling Association all-star team.
These days, Schlafer bowls in mixed leagues every Wednesday at Oasis Lanes in Union and every Sunday at Town ’N Country Lanes in Washington.
Schlafer also was part of a team that won the 2011 Division 2 women’s team state championship. Her teammates were Tonya Lewis, Roberta Byers, Lisa Leake and Jessica Elsperman.
“It was so exciting for us to win the state championship. I’ve watched the other girls on the team improve so much,” Schlafer said. “I met them and became friends with them playing softball. I talked them into bowling because you can’t play softball during the winter.”
Schlafer still is one of the area’s best female bowlers. Her overall average is 213. She has an average of 217 at Town ’N Country Lanes and 210 at Oasis Lanes.
“I love the competition. That’s what keeps me involved in the leagues. I always know the score. That comes from coaching,” Schlafer said. “Not only are you competing against other teams, but you’re always competing against your average.”
Schlafer loves to talk and promote bowling whenever she can.
“I’ll always talk bowling. I try to encourage as many people to do it as possible,” Schlafer said. “It’s nice to see the young guns coming up. Last year was the first year in a while that I have not had the top woman’s average. It’s good to see that. We have some good younger female bowlers. I think the high school league really helps.”
To stay in shape, Jo said she enjoys biking and running.
“That keeps my legs in shape,” she said.
So how long will Schlafer continue to knock down the pins?
“There was a lady at the senior games who was bowling at the age of 90,” Schlafer said. “I’ve made quite a few friends thanks to bowling. I’m hoping for 10 or 15 more years at least.”