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Conrad Chevarie: a profile in courage

NOT A QUITTER Berlin kegler Conrad Chevarie, who lost his right arm in an industrial accident last May, is learning how to bowl again lefthanded in four leagues at the Berlin Bowling Center. (Photo by Mike Gaydo) (click for larger version)
October 28, 2009
BERLIN — There are many types of courage in life, and Berlin's Conrad Chevarie has displayed plenty of that commodity in battling back from a tragic industrial accident that cost him his right arm this past May.

Chevarie's life certainly changed on that spring afternoon, but the upbeat Berliner is trying to regain a type of normalcy and that includes a return to his favorite past time — ten pin bowling at the Berlin Bowling Center.

The 60-year old Chevarie has been bowling for 41 years, competing in several leagues each week, and his proficiency in the sport has included participation in numerous New Hampshire State Bowling Tournaments and 11 National Bowling Tournaments.

His average, in the mid 180's, speaks for itself, as do his 299 single and 777 triple.

But all that changed — albeit temporarily — because of the accident.

Now the Berlin kegler is courageously returning to the sport he loves by starting all over and learning to bowl left-handed.

The always-smiling Chevarie, chatting comfortably in the Berlin Bowling Center Lounge before heading out to bowl in the Tuesday Night Commercial League, said, "I'm back to bowling four days a week — in the Tuesday Commercial League, the Wednesday Seniors League, the Thursday No. Country League, and the Couples League on Sunday — and it's a challenge. I've lost my dominant hand, so I don't have any choice in the matter."

The Berliner, now adjusting to a new prosthesis on his right arm, is carrying averages of slightly over 100 in his four leagues, and he quipped, "My wife and I bowl in the Couples League, and it's an accomplishment now to beat Mary."

While he's struggling to regain his former prowess, he's not forgetting to have a good time. "I'll never get back to where I was, but I can bowl better than I am right now. I'm not bowling well, but I'm having a lot of fun," Chevarie said. "I'm lucky I have a great group of teammates to bowl with. They make it great to be back."

Some changes have come with learning to bowl left-handed as well.

"I now use a 13-pound ball instead of a 16, and I no longer use a run-up approach," Chevarie explained. "I start near the foul line and use a one-step approach to deliver the ball."

And his return to bowling has been a "painful one." He explained, "I still have what they call 'phantom pain.' It's always there and never goes away, but I am taking treatment for it and hopefully someday . . ." his voice softly trailed away.

Berlin Bowling Center proprietor Norm Small, perhaps speaking for many of the bowlers who frequent his lanes, observed, "everybody was happy to see Conrad return. Bad things happen, but Conrad has shown that a person can go on. He was one of the best bowlers in town, and it's really something that he's so dedicated that he's back in the mix of things. His attitude and happy disposition are incredible after what he's been through, and he's an inspiration for all of us."

Returning to the BBC lanes, where he's enjoyed so much success and enjoyment, is only part of Conrad Chevarie's return to a semblance of normalcy. Returning to work or retirement are future possibilities — future being the key word.

A man whose glass is always "half-full," Chevarie added, "I'm alive, and I certainly have a lot to live for. I have my wife and six children, along with seven grandchildren and other family members. I'm going to get to enjoy them for a long time."

And part of Conrad Chevarie's enjoyment will, no doubt, come from his evenings at the Berlin Bowling Center with his many friends.

Matin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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