(Photo caption: Don and LaVerne Carter with children Cayce and Jim)
WINTER GARDEN, Fla. – LaVerne Carter, the first wife of the late Professional Bowlers Association superstar Don Carter, died Thursday night of heart failure. She was 86.
The former LaVerne Thompson, who achieved stardom on her own in the formation years of professional women’s bowling, was a member of the United States Bowling Congress (1977) and Professional Women’s Bowling Association (1995) Halls of Fame. She earned the nickname “the Blonde Bombshell” for her colorful, high-kicking showmanship on the lanes.
Carter, who was born in Brentwood, Mo., developed her bowling talents as a teenager in Tucson, Ariz., and moved to Los Angeles in 1946 at age 21 where her popularity grew quickly because of her beauty and colorful antics on the lanes. She conducted a “Bowl with LaVerne” instructional program which was hosted by nearly 200 bowling centers across the nation over a span of seven years.
She proved her talents were more than showmanship in 1951 when she won the Women’s International Bowling Congress all-events title and finished second in singles. In 1974, her 716 series – the second highest in WIBC Championships history at the time – led her Kalicak International Construction team to the WIBC title.
In 1958, Carter teamed with Marion Ladewig to win the BPAA National Doubles title, and a year later they successfully defended their crown. But her crowning achievements came in 1964 when she won the BPAA Women’s All Star title and the PWBA Golden State Classic (one of her two PWBA titles) on her way to earning Woman Bowler of the Year honors.
She married Don Carter in 1953 and she had two children, son Jim (born in 1954 with Don) and daughter Cayce (born in 1950 with first husband Bill Haverly, a Los Angeles police investigator). And she became the “first lady” of the PBA when her husband played a pivotal role in the formation of the PBA in 1958 and was elected the organization’s first president. She and Don divorced in 1964, and LaVerne moved to Las Vegas where she lived until she moved to Florida to be closer to her children in 2005. Don Carter died on Jan. 6 in Miami at age 85.
A long-time member of the Brunswick Pro Staff, LaVerne Carter, like her former husband, was a charter member of the original Professional Women’s Bowling Association which was an outgrowth of the Chicago 700 Club and formally organized under the leadership of Georgia Veatch in 1960. In 1960, she also helped promote the sport by doing an exhibition tour for Ebonite in Japan.
LaVerne Carter’s impact on women’s bowling, however, was noted by author Andrew Hurley in his book, “Bowling Alleys.” He noted that women were fighting for their place in the sport in an era when bowling was considered a man’s sport. “Nothing was more threatening to men than the presence of the likes of LaVerne Haverly…and the way she has thrown pin-fans across the country into a tantrum.”
One of her most celebrated moments was a Chicago exhibition match against Ace Caulder, a noted Chicago bowler who proclaimed to the news media and fans, “No blonde or brunette or even a red-head is gonna beat a man of my stature; it’s still a man’s world.” LaVerne proceeded to beat him in six of seven one-game matches.
LaVerne Carter is survived by son Jim (Nancy) of Winter Garden, Fla.; daughter Cayce Carter of Winter Garden, Fla.; three grandchildren and five great grandchildren.
Services are pending.