NOTE: Kenosha.com is pleased to now be the official sponsor of the Kenosha.com Match Game Bowling Tournament. This year’s tournament, the 59th annual, will be held from May 7-19 at Guttormsen Recreation Center. Follow Kenosha.com’s Match Game Tournament Central page and Kenosha.com’s social media feeds for full coverage of the tournament.
At least one time in his life, Kenosha native Bill Marescalco Jr. was overcome by his feelings for bowling.
It happened upon his induction into the Wisconsin United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame, in which Marescalco joined his father, Bill Marescalco Sr., in that Hall of Fame.
As longtime friend, teammate and competitor Tim Alfredson — on a bus trip accompanying Marescalco Jr. for his state Hall of Fame induction — tells the story, Marescalco became so overwhelmed at one point during the trip that there was only one thing he could blurt out about bowling.
“The first words out of his mouth, I’m pretty sure, were, ‘God, I love bowling!’” Alfredson recalled with a laugh. “And that’s the way he was.”
Indeed, there have probably been very few Kenoshans who loved bowling as much as Bill Marescalco Jr., which is why if you were to create a Mount Rushmore for Kenosha bowling, he’d be a top candidate for one of the spots.
Marescalco, who died on April 22, 2022, at age 85, left behind a legacy in Kenosha that’s touched many people in many facets, but he’s probably best-known for owning and operating Sheridan Lanes from 1973 to 2012.
Following what started as a business venture among five friends, Marescalco continued to own and operate Sheridan after the rest of the group either departed or was bought out. His wife of 43 years, Barb, became Sheridan’s bookkeeper, and she and Bill ran the business together for about 25 years.
“It was our whole life,” Barb Marescalco said in a phone interview this week. “Everything we have, we owe to bowling. It was everything.”
Alfredson, who now owns and operates the pro shop at Sheridan, says Bill was a ubiquitous presence at the alley during the Marescalcos’ ownership tenure.
“Bill was here the entire time,” Alfredson said. “And early on, he tended bar, he worked the counter. Everybody knew him.”
And they also knew his father, who’s in both the Kenosha Bowling Association/USBC Hall of Fame and the Wisconsin USBC Hall of Fame. Bill Jr. joined his father in the city’s Hall of Fame in 1979 and in the state’s Hall of Fame in 2012.
The Marescalco name was so well-known in Kenosha bowling circles, in fact, that it was rarely even applied to the younger Bill.
“Didn’t have to use the last name,” Alfredson said. “It was ‘Bill Jr.’ His last name was ‘Junior.’”
A little over 10 years ago, the Griffin family purchased Sheridan from the Marescalcos. Jason Griffin said he runs the business today with the lessons he learned from Bill Jr., his mentor in more than just business ownership.
“For me, personally, he kind of showed me the ropes of bowling and business, and how to be a really good person, honestly,” Griffin said while getting Sheridan ready to open for business one afternoon recently.
“… He’s known around the state by a lot of people. But here, for all those years, he was the head guy. All the questions went through him. He just showed (me) more than bowling, too. It was how to run a business, how to be a better person, how to act and do all that. He showed me all that, for sure.”
Marine, businessman, coach
Marescalco graduated from Bradford High School in 1954 and enlisted in the Marines at age 17. He was the Honor Cadet of his platoon and was stationed in Japan for a year before being honorably discharged in 1957.
Marescalco would carry his identity as a Marine with him throughout his life.
“Once a Marine, always a Marine,” Alfredson said.
After being honorably discharged, Marescalco began his career in land surveying, in which he would spend over five decades working in the Kenosha County Surveyor’s Office and later with his son, Glen, at Marescalco Countywide Surveying.
Ever the businessman, Marescalco purchased Sheridan Lanes in 1973 and also owned the adjacent Sheridan Self Storage — along with Barb, of course — from 1996 to 2021.
“His business was just never stopping,” Griffin said. “It was always growing and growing. Just going to the next level for him was his thing.”
Bill and Barb also had four children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, and Bill was always busy with family endeavors, in addition to his businesses. He built anything his kids and grandkids could think of and on holidays would gather all the youngsters together for “Jack stories,” which were tales of missions with his imaginary best friend, Jack, a dog.
Also an avid golfer and baseball fan — he lived and died with his beloved Chicago Cubs — Marescalco played pick-up baseball games at Roosevelt Park growing up, organized the Kenosha Blue Streaks summer team for his friends and played slow-pitch softball well into his 50s. At age 78, Marescalco joined his family by training for and competing in his first 5-kilometer run, even earning a medal for his age group.
According to his obituary, Marescalco was always quick to say, “I love you,” and when asked how he was doing, his usual response was, “Never better.”
“You hear it all the time, but nobody disliked him,” Alfredson said.
Marescalco also impacted an untold number of students while coaching the Tremper High School boys bowling team for years. When the program was started, the high school bowlers were essentially left to their own devices. So Marescalco stepped in to lead them after about a year and subsequently coached the Trojans to three state titles.
There’s now a trophy case at Sheridan packed with accomplishments from the Tremper bowling team that Marescalco jumped in to coach in its infancy.
“You see the wall around the corner? I mean, all the state titles,” Alfredson said. “A lot of kids got to know him through the high school program.”
Said Barb Marescalco: “He just absolutely loved coaching those boys. There were so many good kids that came up.
“… All these kids were just such good kids. … That was his pride and joy, was that high school stuff. He loved competing.”
Legend on the lanes
Of course, Marescalco himself was a fierce competitor who accomplished a ton on the lanes.
His first year of league bowling was in the Guttormsen Lakeshore Classic and the Surfside Bowl Tri-City Classic leagues during the 1958-59 season. It was certainly appealing for Marescalco to follow in the bowling footsteps of his accomplished father.
“At the age of 12 or 13, I carried my dad’s bowling ball as we traveled to the National All-Star Tournament, held at the old Chicago Colosseum,” Marescalco recalled in a bio for the KBA/Kenosha USBC Hall of Fame.
“From that time, I wanted to be a good bowler, like my dad.”
Well, “Junior” sure accomplished that.
The younger Marescalco’s bowling achievements included 13 perfect games, nine 800 series and three titles in the Match Game Tournament, the biggest Kenosha bowling competition each year. Marescalco competed in a remarkable 49 consecutive Match Game Tournaments, missing 50 straight only when he had to sit out one year due to throat cancer.
But he recovered to come back and compete in a few more Match Game Tournaments, making it more than 50 in his legendary bowling career.
For years, in the 1970s and 1980s, Marescalco bowled on the Squirt team, a squad loaded with big names from Kenosha bowling history, including Alfredson, Randy Shupe, Jeff Rampart and Tom Kaddatz. In the 2000 Wisconsin State Seniors Championship, Marescalco bowled a 783 series and with partner Dennis Albrecht won both the optional scratch and handicap doubles titles.
At one time, according to KBA/Kenosha USBC records, Marescalco was the first Kenosha bowler to record four 800 series in one league season.
When asked what Marescalco did so well on the lanes, Alfredson said it was his meticulous nature that led to Marescalco’s longtime bowling success. There’s a reason Marescalco was a land surveyor for five decades, after all.
“He was meticulous about everything he did,” Alfredson said. “His bowling was the same way, really deliberate. He was splitting boards out there all the time.
“The kids nowadays throw at an area like this (puts hands out wide). He was throwing at an area like this (puts fingers close together). Just his nature, everything from his appearance to his handwriting. Everything he did.”
That led to a level of consistency that allowed Marescalco to compete among the leaders in tournaments for many years. Maybe he didn’t always win, but he was a routine qualifier for the Match Game Tournament finals and was always just steady and consistent.
“He was always bowling in everything, just making it through and making cuts,” Griffin said. “He won here and there, but he would always be there.”
Which is why it felt so strange when Marescalco was not there for the Match Game Tournament for the first time in seemingly forever when it was held in 2022 at Surfside. He’ll be fondly remembered during this year’s tournament at GRC and especially next year when it’s held at Sheridan, his home alley, for the first time since his passing.
Marescalco’s legacy will shine forever on the Kenosha.com Match Game Bowling Tournament. It’s a legacy that was built through everything he did for others through the sport of bowling and throughout his life, in general.
“It was more of giving back to the game,” Griffin said. “Yeah, he was a great bowler, but it was almost more of what he could give back to other people.”