All posts by Ray Francis

A Little Bit of BLBC History, 8/4/2023

A couple months ago I took a walk through El Cerrito’s Sunset View Cemetery. The columbarium happened to be open, so I took a walk through the halls. As I looked around, I found the remains of one of the BLBC’s founders: Dr. J. W. Henderson, D.O., along with those of some of his family. I went to the office to confirm that this was the BLBC’s Dr. Henderson (for whom the first green — the one next to the corporation yard building–is named for). The address on file for this Dr. Henderson was the Capistrano Avenue address for the BLBC’s Dr. Henderson.

A little bit of incidental history and happenstance that I thought I’d share.

Remembering June Browne

Many years ago, June Browne and her husband Howard joined my wife Shelagh and me at an Oakland East Bay Symphony concert that ended with Samuel Barber’s poignant “Adagio for Strings.” The piece begins with one of the more quiet sections in classical music, and at that moment a very loud fight broke out in the back of the Paramount Theater between an usher and a patron. The orchestra and Maestro Morgan soldiered on through the yelling, but then, post-fight, they played the entire piece again. Shortly afterwards, I saw June at the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club and mentioned the wildness of the night. She focused on the positive: “At least we got to hear the piece twice!” That was June: she did not turn a blind eye to problems, but if something had a silver lining, she resolved to find it.

June passed away this March after an illness and a short spell under hospice. She would have celebrated her 100th birthday in July. Our most senior continuous member, she joined the BLBC in 1988. June and Howard served the club in various ways. For many years, Howy (as he introduced himself) edited the paper version of the club’s “Green Sheet” newsletter. He also provided many photographs at club events, which he cheerfully did with skill. June could be counted on to help set up and clean up at club functions and for many years served on the Memorial and Endowments Fund as a valued trustee. June bowled amiably for many years–always a good sport and good team mate.

As Howard’s health declined from Parkinson’s, June made sure he could still attend events at the club, even as he bowled shorter and fewer games. After Howy died in 2007, June handled the big change in her life with grace and considerable verve. She continued to enjoy concerts, singing in the choir at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, and traveling internationally.

Born in Riverside in 1923, June told me that her father died not long after she was born. Her mother struggled as a single parent, and June learned at an early age that women labored at a disadvantage in the world. The old saying went that for a woman to be considered as good as man, she had to perform twice as well. June did not seem at all daunted or–based on her personal observation–worried by this prospect. Whip smart (her knowledge of art, literature, and science ran impressively wide and deep), canny (as anyone who played poker with her soon found out), and realistic, June used her formidable intellect and resilience in anything she pursued. A proud graduate of UC Berkeley, she earned her degree in chemistry and worked in a lab. She met Howard (she once said about dating Howard, “He was such a good driver, and that impressed me in a young man.”), married him, and they began a family.

With their four sons, they took family trips in a camper and worked on their stunning mid-century modern house in the Kensington hills (she lovingly pointed out parts that Howard, ever the hands-on engineer, built or modified in the house). She created a beautiful garden in the back with fruit trees and flowers that in her later years gave her great pleasure to look upon. She liked that some of the neighborhood cats adopted her–they knew quality.

June launched into her 90’s with an energy that many friends decades younger could only envy. She continued to sing in her choir, she went to shows, she took grandchildren on trips to Europe, she toured with her choir, and she played poker regularly at the BLBC clubhouse. Game for anything!

June liked to entertain. She graciously hosted small events in salon style, and she liked a good conversation about serious things over appetizers and wine. She liked hearing about new things. Some people may have looked at June and thought her a little formal in her way; I never heard her call her husband “Howy,” she always called him “Howard.” She did not seem to care for anything diminutive in things or in people; she preferred everything at full-strength. Any time spent with June after that initial introduction revealed a sincere, curious, and generous person. June liked a good laugh, and her mischievous grin responding to a well-delivered bon mot served as quite a reward.

We at the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club will miss June. But mostly we will fondly remember her time with the club and the times she worked and played with us. We offer our condolences to her family, and thank them for sharing June with us for 35 years.

BLBC Brings Trophy Back “Over the Hill”

2019 “Over the Hill” Challenge Players at Rossmoor LBC

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club sent seven triples teams to Rossmoor Bowling Club in Walnut Creek for the “Over the Hill” Challenge. The BLBC competed against them and indulged in a little bit of the friendly rivalry typical of the match since the Challenge began in 1969.

After a hiatus of twenty years or so, the clubs resurrected the event in 2016. Scheduling conflicts in 2019 prevented that year’s challenge from happening, so the clubs agreed to hold the 2019 version of the challenge on February 15, 2020 (the 2020 games will take place this August at Berkeley).

Berkeley went into lunchtime with a healthy advantage of 6 wins and only one loss. After the break, Rossmoor returned resurgent, as the afternoon games revealed. Some of the games went down to the wire, but Berkeley prevailed to win 5 of the afternoon games. The final total for the match: 11 wins for BLBC and 3 wins for Rossmoor LBC. Credit to Rossmoor for wonderful hosting and very sporting play. We’ll see them again in August!  Well done to everyone that bowled yesterday, especially to some members representing the club for the first time.

Berkeley Takes the Trophy

Green Closed for Maintenance. See you Feb. 14!

A note from our Greens-keeper: The BLBC greens are closed for maintenance. As the picture shows, when we mean maintenance, we mean it! We expect the work to be completed by February 14. Thanks to our Greens-keeper and the volunteer labor of our members, we will have the green in good shape for bowling when the weather turns nicer. See you then!

That’s a Wrap for Winter League 2020

The co-winning teams for the 2020 Winter League. L-R: Gareth Cole, Andy Vevers, Rose Selby, & Mike McNorton

The annual PIMD Winter League finished up its last week on Saturday January 25th and Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club members did exceptionally well. The competition is a Pairs tournament and teams from most of the Bay Areas bowling clubs participated in the three week competition.  

Each team played a total of nine games over the course of three consecutive Saturdays. After the first two weeks of competition, only a point separated the the top three teams. Berkeley’s defending champions from last year — Andy Vevers and Gareth Cole — held a slim lead of one point over Palo Alto’s team of Rose Selby and Mike McNorton. Berkeley’s other team of Shawn Roney and Jerry Knott and Jim Corr tied with for second. Berkeley’s Rob Hoey and his partner Tim Christie from Palo Alto stood within striking distance at fourth place. 

As it should in any closely contested and well played tournament, it all came down to the final day of play. The final day of play confirmed the 2020 contest to be closely contested with very good play on offer from all the team. Jerry and Jim and Andy and Gareth played each other in the first game. Jerry and Jim came to play, and they took the win despite the efforts of Andy and Gareth to rally. Jerry and Jim’s win put them in the driver’s seat for the First place tournament finish.

Alas, it was not to be. They lost their next game against a team from San Francisco that put a dent in their title aspirations. Meanwhile, the Palo Alto team of Rose and Mike quietly and convincingly won all their games and gained advantage of the Berkeley pairs first game slip up to take the top position. Andy & Gareth did all they could by winning their other two games of the day, but it all came down to the last couple of bowls of the tournament. Fortunately for the Berkeley lads, Rose and Mike could not take the maximum points on their final game, which left the field with a tie for 1st place. In view of the high levels of skill and grit on display, many may consider this a fair outcome.

Third Place Winners: Jerry Knott & Jim Corr

The final results were as follows:

Tie 1st –   Andy Vevers & Gareth Cole (Berkeley)

Tie 1st –   Rose Selby & Mike McNorton (Palo Alto)

3rd –        Shawn Roney/Jerry Knott & Jim Corr (Berkeley)

4th –        Tim Christie (Palo Alto) & Robin Hoey (Berkeley)

Fourth Place Finishers: Tim Christie & Rob Hoey

As the reader can see, a really good result for the Berkeley teams that further cements our reputation as one of the most competitive clubs in the greater Bay Area.  Many thanks to the San Jose Lawn Bowling Club for hosting a well run and genuinely fun event.

No Lessons on Nov. 23 & 24

The Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club is pleased to host the PIMP “Champion of Champions” event on Saturday and Sunday. Club champions from around the PIMD for two days. This means there will be no free lessons on those days, but there should be plenty of amazing bowling on view!

BLBC 2019 Singles Match: Vevers Takes the Prize

We had a wonderful day of bowling yesterday at the club. Beautiful blue skies graced the whole day, the green was it’s usual impeccable self and the level of competition was a credit to the Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club. Many thanks to those that helped make the day run smoothly – Annie for rolling the green and then marking all day, Susan Jamart for providing help and snacks. Bob, Rolly and Cathy also for spending the whole day marking the games. Without them the day would not have been the same. 

2019 BLBC Singles champ Andy Vevers & Runner-up (& 2018 Singles Champ) Gareth Cole

Ten participants played three random draw games to decide the top four players that would advance to the knock out round. After the first three games there were two undefeated players: Robin Hoey and Gareth Cole (the defending champion) and three players who were 2-1. Cris Benton and Andy Vevers squeaked by into the play offs on plus points, with Frankie Napoli unluckily missing out by one solitary point!

The Semi Finals were Gareth versus Cris and Rob versus Andy. Gareth squeaked out a win in a very close contested game against Cris and Andy managed to overcome after being down early against Rob.  So the final was our Tournament Director, Andy, against the defending champion, Gareth. In what was an entertaining game to watch, Andy luckily managed to squeeze out the win and became the 2019 Berkeley Lawn Bowling Club’s Singles Champion!

Thanks again to everyone that helped make the day a great success.

Fun Events Available at BLBC

“I wanted to reach out to the Berkeley Lawn Bowing Club and thank you for a really great time on Sunday afternoon. Everyone enjoyed themselves tremendously. Please share this with the instructors who were with us on Sunday, they were fantastic and really made it fun.” Consider having a group event at the BLBC. For more information, please send an email to: (please type “Events Coordinator” in the subject line).

Lessons Cancelled for Some October Dates

Please note that there will not be free lawn bowling for the following dates in October:

  • October 5 & 6 (BLBC hosts the PIMD Novice Singles Tournament)
  • October 19 (BLBC hosts the PIMD Aussie Pairs Tournament)
  • October 26 (BLBC Novice Singles Tournament)

Free lessons shall still be available on the remaining dates.