Chester “Gene” Mady had bowling in his blood.
For 47 years, he owned Mady’s Bowling Center, which he operated with his father, Chester “Chet” Mady before eventually passing it on to his sons Bret and Bart. Gene Mady not only was an impressive bowler but a gregarious family man and business owner who was welcoming of friends and strangers alike.
Gene Mady died Dec. 7. He was 84.
Mady was born in Minneapolis, the oldest of two children. He attended Edison High School and began to bowl at age 16.
In 1964, Mady and his father bought a bowling alley in a strip mall in Columbia Heights that they renamed Mady’s Bowling Center and which later would be known as Mady’s Bowl and Lounge. The old-school basement bowling alley with wooden lanes became a city landmark.
When Bret Mady was growing up, the bowling alley on Central Avenue had a small snack bar with a malt machine and a skillet for burgers. His father put in a bar and a full restaurant, which became famous for its pork tenderloins.
Mady started a lot of bowling leagues at Mady’s and trained a lot of bowlers who later became some of the best in the state, Bret said. During the bowling center’s heyday, he even brought in coaches and invited a few professionals to the establishment, Bret said.
His father worked mainly during the day but would also fill in when needed at night. “Every day, he did everything,” Bret said.
Gene Mady was “very open” and “very community-oriented,” Bret said.
Bret remembers his father teaching him how to bowl.
“All the kids started bowling as soon as they could walk,” Bret said.
Mady had bowled in several leagues including the Minneapolis All Star League, Minneapolis Classic League and the Minneapolis Traveling League.
He participated in 15 American Bowling Congress (ABC) National Tournaments and many other city and state competitions. He helped start a tournament to benefit veterans and was chairman of the North Metro School Team League. He served the Young American Bowling Alliance for 31 years, the Bowling Proprietors’ Association of America (BPAA) for 30 years and the ABC for 10 years as a league secretary. He served as president of the Minneapolis and state chapters of the BPAA and was recognized with the Pioneer Award. In 2006, Mady was inducted into the United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame.
Gene Mady also created a Las Vegas-style bowling league in which members would hold their end-of-season banquet in Las Vegas. “He would always tell jokes at the banquet, some of them off-color,” Bret said. Mady once got close to bowling a perfect game with a single game score of 299.
In 1997, Mady passed the bowling center on to his sons, though he continued to help out at the alley. But despite the Mady family’s best efforts, the bowling alley fell on hard times and was forced to close in 2011. Gene Mady cried when he announced the closure to his leagues.
“Some of the best bowlers in the Twin Cities once bowled here,” Mady told the Star Tribune at the time. “But many years ago, I predicted a slowdown because not enough people commit to anything. And with bowling, you gotta do it.”
Mady is preceded in death by his wife, Joanne, and, besides his two sons, is survived by sister Collette “Cookie” Knopik, daughters Sheryl Olson and Kathy Ek and numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Services have been held.