90-year-old Avon woman’s advice: ‘Be good and be smart’

Loretta Panek is like a ball of fire. She just keeps rolling, physically and literally.

This newly turned 90-year-old has bowled close to 70 years, the last years at Albany Bowling Center where she tosses her 10-pound bowling ball twice a week.

“She has added so much life to our Wednesday night and Monday afternoon ladies leagues,” said Steve Bates, bowling alley co-owner.

Last year Panek retired from part-time bartending at Pelican Lake Ballroom in rural St. Anna, working mainly for weddings and chicken fries.

“You hear lots of stories,” she said of her bartending days.

Panek’s story starts in St. Anna where she was born Oct. 22, 1932, and raised. She graduated from Holdingford High School around 1950 and moved to St. Paul in 1952 where she worked at the American Can Company.

“We made beer cans, vegetable cans, coffee cans. Whatever can, we made it,” she said Nov. 15 from her Avon home.

She started bowling with co-workers in the Twin Cities in the mid-1950s.

“Bowling was popular at the time, and you had to wait to get on a league,” she said.

Her bowling average increased from 130 to as high as 172.

“But I don’t do that anymore,” she said laughing.

These days it is more like 135.

“But I’m gonna get my average up there, yet,” optimistic Panek said. “Finally, I had a good day Monday with 177, a lousy 124 and 156. I’m getting better.”

The highest game she ever bowled was a 278.

When she retired 30 or 40 years ago, she moved to Avon and started bowling at Albany Bowling Center, mainly with Stearns Bank as the team sponsor.

She estimates she’s gone through five bowling balls over the years.

“My younger years I was throwing a 16-pounder, but not any more. I just got a new ball and it’s a 10-pounder,” Panek said, laughing as she adds, “I can’t throw those heavy ones any more.”

So why bowling?

“You have to depend on yourself to see how good you can get,” she said. “Plus, I always like bowling.”

She plans on bowling as long as she can. Staying active keeps her young at heart, whether bowling or shoveling snow, which she had done early on Nov. 15, and she was prepared to shovel again if need be.

Panek lives by her own words of wisdom – “Be good and be smart.”

 On Oct. 24, two days after her 90th birthday, there was a party for her at the bowling alley.

Along with cupcakes and a card, there was a bottle of Fireball whiskey, her favorite liquor.

“They see me coming into the bowling alley, and they have it ready for me all the time. You betcha,” she said.

  Fireball is fitting for this 90-year-old ball of fire.