Obituary: Garlan Giddings, world-class blind bowler

  • Article by: JOY POWELL , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 3, 2013 - 4:17 PM

In his work life, Garlan Giddings was a longtime computer programmer for Wells Fargo. But outside of work, he had a much more intriguing identity — as one of the world’s top totally blind bowlers.

Giddings, who lost his sight in a car accident when he was 19, “always refused to let his blindness define him,” said his wife, Nancy Giddings.

He belonged to the American Blind Bowling Association and was known as one of the world’s top totally blind bowlers. His average score was 126; his best score was 226.

“Gar” Giddings, of Ramsey, died July 27. He was 68.

Highly competitive, he was always seeking ways to improve his bowling with the strong math and memorization skills gained over 37 years as a computer programmer for Wells Fargo, a job in which he used Braille and the latest technology, Nancy said.

His work “was logical, and he was a highly logical person,” she said.

Gar kept bowling scores in his head and used geometry in his bowling. “He had an amazing mind,” Nancy Giddings said.

Born in Anoka, he was one of six children who lived on a family farm in what’s now Coon Rapids. His family moved to Chisago City when he was 11.

The accident occurred on Jan. 31, 1963, when he was a freshman at the University of Minnesota’s agricultural campus in St. Paul. After intensive training in how to live with blindness, he went back to school in the fall of 1965 and graduated in 1969 with a degree in animal science. He had to give up plans to farm, though, because he couldn’t drive a tractor.

He learned computer programming in 1969 in Cincinnati, where he also joined a blind bowling league.

In 1970, he moved back to the Twin Cities and became a computer programmer for Wells Fargo.

He and Nancy met in May 1983 at a neighborhood bar, where she fell for his dry sense of humor. They were married late that year.

Eleven years ago, he borrowed bowling rails from the American Blind Bowling Association so he could bowl with his wife, children and others at a church outing. “When we went to return them, they invited him to bowl” with them, Nancy said.

Soon, he was an avid bowler, and the game brought him new friends, life skills and a fun outlet for the fierce determination that was one of his strongest traits.

“He loved the sound of the pins falling,” his wife said. “He was constantly thinking of how to do it, how to better his score.”

For a few years, he held the nation’s third-highest bowling average in the nation, 126. His highest series ever was 513.

In 2007, Giddings bowled for Team USA in the International Blind Sports Association’s Blind Bowling Tournament in Australia. He won a bronze medal in a singles event for the totally blind and finished fourth worldwide in the all-around category.

He also belonged to the Twin Cities Blind Audio Dart League, and enjoyed traveling and camping with Nancy.

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