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Published: Friday, 1/9/2004

Bowling proprietor enjoyed his customers

NAPOLEON - Thomas J. Schwaiger, a bowling proprietor for many years, died of emphysema Wednesday in Henry County Hospital here. He was 71.

Mr. Schwaiger turned to working at a Lima, Ohio, bowling alley in the 1950s when he was laid off after working briefly at a Van Wert, Ohio, manufacturing plant.

At Westgate Lanes in Lima, he learned how to operate and maintain pin setters and other bowling equipment. He parlayed his knowledge to become manager of Bryan Lanes from 1961 to 1968.

In late 1968, he became owner of Paul s Bowl-A-Way in Napoleon when he bought the facility.

“He really enjoyed teaching people how to bowl and drilling the balls,” Jo Schwaiger, his wife, said. “The people were so nice to him.”

Acquiring the business was a risk with a wife and four small children to support, but the decision paid off, she said.

“Every one of us worked there,” she said. “As soon as the kids could walk, they had to work.”

In 1979, with the aid of 10 investors, Mr. Schwaiger built River City Bowl-A-Way in Napoleon, becoming so successful he eventually was able to buy out the original investors, his wife said.

Her husband was well-suited to the demands of operating a bowling alley seven days a week. “He liked to keep busy and he liked the people,” she said. His sons acquired the business last summer.

Mr. Schwaiger was a member of St. Augustine Catholic Church and its cemetery committee. He was a member of the Knights of Columbus and belonged to the National Bowling Proprietor s Association.

He was an Army veteran of the Korean War.

Surviving are his wife, Jo Schwaiger; sons, Paul and Randall; daughters, Victoria Delventhal and Jolene Sigg; brother, John; sisters, Joanna Kettinger and Carol Mulligan, and five grandchildren.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Monday in St. Augustine Catholic Church. The body will be in the Walker Mortuary after 2 p.m. Sunday. The family suggests tributes to St. Augustine Catholic School, the Filling Memorial Home of Mercy, or the Henry County Society for the Handicapped.

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