Bowling has long been popular in Southern Oregon, and there is little question among players who had the greatest influence as the sport flourished.

Bowling has long been popular in Southern Oregon, and there is little question among players who had the greatest influence as the sport flourished.

Fred "Andy" Anderson, one of the best bowlers in the Pacific Northwest during his playing heyday and a generous center owner and teacher of the game for decades, was at the heart of it all.

The affable icon passed away at age 94 early Wednesday morning from natural causes, and family and friends are remembering him for his quick, bright smile, his giving nature and his love for bowling.

His imprint is detectable here and throughout the region, they say.

"Oh, not just Southern Oregon," said Sam Sorensen of Portland, who bowled with Anderson for years before moving north. "He put Medford on the map. There's no other way to describe it. He was the heart and soul, the foundation of what bowling is today. No one, and I mean no one, ever did or will do as much for bowling as Andy did.

"Everywhere we went, bowlers and proprietors knew what Andy meant to bowling. He was the ambassador."

Scharie Bostrom, Anderson's step-daughter, said it's difficult to put into words the impact Anderson had in building and overseeing the bowling community.

"He was just the kind of bowler, the kind of guy who would do anything to help with bowling," she said. "That was his love. He loved bowling and loved everything about it. The people, the atmosphere, everything."

Remarkably, Anderson continued to bowl well into his 80s.

He competed in his last state tournament in 2003, said Coe Brown, another longtime friend and teammate, and sported an average of about 150 in his final years of competition.

"He was a bowling enthusiast," said Brown. "He wanted to do stuff even up to last year, when he couldn't get around that well."

Anderson first picked up a bowling ball as a teenager in 1932, attempting to topple pins at a cramped, four-lane alley in Newport.

Anderson worked several jobs prior to moving to the Rogue Valley in the late 1940s. He delivered milk and newspapers and later served in administrative positions for Safeway and Pacific Fruit.

He was in the produce business when he moved here from Newport and immersed himself in the bowling community, first as a player, then in 1952, when he bought Medford Lanes.

When he took over the center on Riverside Avenue — it has since become Kids Unlimited — it had 12 lanes. A few years later, he added a dozen more, then in the early 1960s, he found himself with 16 lanes on his hands. Anderson had planned to open a second bowling center in south Medford and went so far as to order lanes. But Roxy Ann Lanes went in before he could complete the deal, so he expanded his existing business to 38 lanes.

Anderson continued to operate Medford Lanes until selling to Roy Rider and Bob Stroh in 1982.

Dottie Villa worked for Anderson in the 1960s and is now one of five bowlers to have received the Andy Anderson Achievement Award.

"He helped so many people," she said. "That was the most important award I've ever won simply because it was affiliated with Andy Anderson. He was my employer, my coach, my mentor, but most of all, he was my friend. There will never be another place like Medford Lanes during the era of Andy Anderson. He loved people and he tried to help everyone."

Anderson was no slouch as a bowler, either.

He won the Oregon all-events and singles championships in 1949. His all-events pinfall of 1,882 stood as a state record for 15 years. He also won the 1970 state doubles championship with Jim Carrigan.

Anderson was inducted into three halls of fame: the Oregon State Men's Bowling Hall, the Medford Sports Hall and the Medford Men's Bowling Hall.

When the Professional Bowlers Association formed in the 1950s, he was among the first members and remained part of the organization his entire life. His card number was 10.

One of the biggest reasons bowling took off in the Rogue Valley was the formation of a junior program in 1958 by Anderson and, later, his work with one of the game's all-time greats, PBA Hall of Famer Marshall Holman.

"He's the one who got all these buses together to go to the schools and get the kids," said Brown. "He charged next to nothing for them to come over and bowl, maybe a $1.50 for three lines. And he paid for their shoes."

In an earlier article on Anderson, Holman recalled how he bowled for the first time at age 12 and rolled a 71. He became hooked, and Anderson took him under his wing.

"There are two kinds of people in the world, givers and takers," said Holman. "Andy's the kind of guy who gives. Mainly, he was there for the kids. He didn't make decisions on the bottom line. He based them on his heart."

Sorensen was experiencing hard times in the 1960s, but Anderson made sure he had a place to bowl.

They often barnstormed the region with teammates, bowling at whatever centers happened to be hosting tournaments. The shared a lot of stories and a lot of laughs.

"His secret love was basketball," said Sorensen. "Andy was always on the move, and in the late 1930s, you can imagine what the roads were like. But he and a friend would always drive to Eugene from Newport to watch Oregon play."

The team Anderson was so fond of was the Tall Firs, the 1939 Duck team that won the first NCAA championship.

"He would always describe going to Mac Court and stopping at this place to get the best meal," said Sorensen. "The biggest steak, potatoes and vegetables and man could eat for 75 cents. The guy loved good food. Wherever we went, we ate in style."

And wherever they went, Anderson's signature white Brunswick ball went with them.

When he was bowling his best, Anderson averaged in the 190s.

"The lane conditions were a lot different," said Brown. "If you averaged 185 to 200, you were one of the better bowlers in Oregon. You had to be more accurate and a little better than you have to be now."

Brown described the white ball as "worn out," but it was old reliable for Anderson.

"When he was having trouble with something, that's what he used," said Brown. "He wasn't a cranker or anything. He shot down the middle and shot a straight ball."

Sorensen said Anderson did some of his best work simply by warming up and getting the attention of opponents.

"It was that famous white ball and his unorthodox delivery that always seemed to amaze our opponents," said Sorensen. "It was unique. I don't think his delivery could be copied. It was more herky-jerky. But it was so doggone accurate. We always used to refer to him as our secret weapon."

Bostrom honored her father in a tournament to benefit him several years ago by using the white ball and turned in a whopping series with it.

She now has the ball and his PBA card.

"Those are memories for us," she said. "They'll be with us forever."

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com