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Fraser Hambly, lives lived

Fraser Hambly: Husband. Athlete. Fivepin bowler. Champion. Born March 14, 1943; in London, Ont.; died April 30, 2018, in Toronto; of brain aneurysm; aged 75.

For more than 60 years, Fraser Hambly – a dual inductee into the Ontario 5 Pin Bowlers Hall of Fame – would promote the sport he loved. He was a natural at the game, which was invented in Toronto in 1909 and is only played in Canada. Over seven decades, Fraser won both tournaments and high-average titles, and in 1999 Fraser Hambly was voted the No. 1 bowler of all time in Ontario.

Fraser was born in London, Ont., but moved to Toronto with his family as a child. Growing up, he was both an excellent student and athlete and, as a teenager, he joined a youth bowling group where it became obvious he was born to bowl. At the time bowling leagues were everywhere – Toronto actually had 120 bowling centres in 1962. The sport grew and peaked in 1985 with 85,000 youth bowlers and one-million adult league bowlers as weekly participants in the city.

Fraser advanced to the adult ranks and, at 16, he won his first high-average title with a 273 mark at Spadina Bowl in Toronto. Fraser won his first of four Ontario singles titles in 1968 and repeated this feat in 1973, 1990 and 1992. Twice, he parlayed these Ontario victories to win the Canadian singles title.

In 1971, Fraser married Hope McBride, a devout Baptist who didn’t bowl. While they didn’t have any children, Fraser and Hope developed lifelong relationships with several families. Fraser considered himself a father to these youngsters and passed along his expertise in both fivepin bowling, golf and a variety of life skills.

Hope encouraged Fraser to overcome alcohol addiction and smoking, and he would join her at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church. Fraser was encouraged by a colleague to complete his degree at York University, and then teacher’s college so Fraser could work as an elementary teacher at both John Fisher and Allenby Public Schools in north Toronto. In 1991, he helped organize the provincial bowling school and worked with many eager students over the years.

In 1974, Fraser won a $10,000 first prize in an open tournament at O’Connor Bowl. While Fraser may have had some plans to celebrate with his winnings, Hope intervened and took the cheque, putting it toward the purchase of a house, where she still lives today.

Fraser’s on-lane skill was legendary. As well as winning two national singles titles, he had five provincial team championships and two national team gold medals. Fraser earned 22 victories in the elite, Master Bowlers Association stream in Ontario, the second most of all time. His record includes 16 perfect games, an 1,162 high triple, a 1,756 five-game score, a 3,087 10-game total and a highest average of 289 in league play. He won more than 60 tournaments and well more than $100,000 in prize money.

Just as importantly, Fraser was extraordinary in his ability to see the good in everyone and he was defined as a true gentleman. He promoted the sport his entire life. As he always said: “Bowl Canadian, bowl fivepin.” This September, Fraser’s bowling shoes, shirts, trophies and other memorabilia will be on display at memorial exhibits at two bowling centres in Scarborough, Ont.

Walter Heeney is Fraser’s colleague and friend.

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