ARLINGTON, Texas - LaVerne Carter, a United States Bowling Congress Hall of Fame member, died Thursday night of heart failure. She was 86.
During her competitive career, Carter might have been identified more for being the wife of bowling legend Don Carter, who at the time was a dominant force in the sport. But LaVerne Carter also had a successful career on the lanes. She was elected to the USBC Hall of Fame in 1977 for Superior Performance and later was inducted into the Professional Women's Bowling Hall of Fame in the Pioneer category.
She won her first national championship in 1951, claiming the Women's International Bowling Congress all-events title. She would finish second in singles at the tournament that year, and also would take second in all-events at the 1953 event. In 1974, she would lead her Kalicak International Construction team to the team title, rolling a 716 series that at the time was the second-best series in WIBC tournament history and the highest in team event. The 23 years between WIBC titles remains a tournament record.
Carter would team with future USBC Hall of Famer Marion Ladewig to win the Bowling Proprietors' Association of America National Doubles title in 1958 and 1959.
Her best season as a professional came in 1964, when she won the 1964 Bowling Proprietors' Association of America All-Star (now U.S. Women's Open) tournament, averaging more than 200 and finishing with a record 683. She also captured the World Mixed Doubles Championship, was selected Woman Bowler of the Year by the Bowling Writers' Association of America and was named to the 1964 Women's All-America Team by the Bowlers Journal.
LaVerne Thompson was born in Brentwood, Mo., on July 30, 1925, and started bowling in a junior league in the early 1940s in Tucson, Ariz., where she became known as one of the top bowlers in the state. She moved to Los Angeles in 1946 at age 21, where she picked up the nickname the "Blonde Bombshell" for her colorful, high-kicking style on the lanes. A year later, she would launch the "Bowl With LaVerne" instruction and exhibition program. The popular program would eventually be held in 168 centers during its seven years.
She married Don Carter in 1953. 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). She and Don divorced in 1964, and LaVerne moved to Las Vegas where she lived until she moved to Florida in 2005 to be closer to her children. Don Carter died on Jan. 6 in Miami at age 85.
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.
Funeral services are pending.