By Steve Wilaj
It’s slightly more than a year later, but looking out into a room full of people doing what his son loved the most, Bill Lovell couldn’t help but become emotional.
“It’s still hard,” he said. “It really is.”
Lovell was referencing to the surprise passing of his son, William Lovell Jr., who died suddenly on Sept. 12, 2012. The 27-year-old Struthers High graduate had a passion for bowling.
“He loved the sport,” the senior Lovell said.
Fittingly enough, the Lovell family continues to carry on the memory of Billy Jr. through his passion. They’re also helping others along the way.
For the second year in a row on Saturday, Holiday Bowl in Struthers hosted the William J. Lovell Jr. Memorial Scratch Challenge — a bowling tournament to honor Lovell as well as raise money for a scholarship.
“The goal is to keep my son’s name going on and to help a kid from school go to college,” Lovell said.
While this year the Lovells are doing the giving, last year they were the recipients of the inaugural bowling tournament.
Still dealing with the initial shock of their unfortunate loss, the Lovell family approached local bowler and PBA member Adam Barta about creating an event.
“I kind of took the bull by the horns and did it,” said Barta, who was dealing with his own struggles at the time of the event, which occurred on Dec. 22, 2012. Barta’s father was battling cancer and passed away on Dec. 26. “But I felt the need to try and help a family that I’d known for the past 15 years.”
He did just that, raising enough money to help the Lovells pay for funeral expenses as well as Billy Jr.’s headstone.
“If it wasn’t for Adam Barta ... ” Lovell said. “It’s amazing what he does for us.”
Initially, Barta and Lovell thought it would be a one-time event. But after a strong turnout of 148 bowlers last year, the men decided to expand.
“We’re keeping it moving forward,” Barta said. “Now we’re able to do a scholarship fund for him.”
The scholarship will benefit a male and female from the Struthers High bowling teams. Requirements are at least a 3.0 grade-point average, be a full-time student and to submit an essay.
Although the account isn’t finished yet, Lovell is pleased with where it’s heading. A big reason was Saturday’s turnout, which included even more bowlers than last year.
The event was headlined by five PBA bowlers that were brought in by Barta — Liz Johnson, Billy Oatmer, Bill O’Neil, Ted Hannahs and Mike Machuga.
“I know enough people across the country to get support,” Barta said. “If you treat the bowlers right, they’ll come. Obviously today, they’re supporting it again.”
Johnson, who recently won the women’s U.S. Open in July, simply couldn’t deny Barta’s request.
“You can’t say no to help a family in need over an unfortunate situation,” Johnson said. “It’s very impressive and a very humbling event to be a part of.”
The prize money for the top finisher was $2,000. All things considered, Barta said the event is a victory for everybody.
“It’s a win for the people that want to come watch and it’s a win for the bowlers because the prize money’s really good,” he said. “And obviously, it’s a win for the Lovells — a great family with a big heart. With a family like that, you try to do as much as you can to help them out.”