The following story originally ran on Feb. 11, 2004:

Rose Pestell clenches her hands and raises them over her head in triumph after bowling her first strike of the afternoon. Even at 90 she still partakes in an irrepressible bowling victory dance. She is joined this afternoon by several elderly “Suburbanites” – the name given to this group of women bowlers nearly 50 years ago. Pestell is the oldest member of the bowling team. However, you would never guess that by looking at her. She appears to be one of the youngest.

“We are not that good, and we get sick a lot,” said Pestell. She’s not sure why anyone would be interested in her bowling game. “I am not good or anything,” she laughs. “I happen to be lucky that I am living the life I’ve always lived. … I realize that’s unusual.”

A year ago, Pestell, a River Forest resident, feared she would have to give up bowling due to an arthritic condition. Luckily, she recovered and was quickly back in the game with no plans to slow down.

“You don’t plan too much future at this age,” she explains. “My future is here, I’m living now.”

There are 18 young women who make up the six bowling teams in this league at Circle Lanes in Forest Park. However, the number is dwindling weekly as women drop out due to illness. Before the women bowl, they gather around to swap novels, gossip and talk about health.

Pestell’s bowling average is currently 120. However, sometimes she bowls 150, according to Laura Corry the Suburbanites’ secretary. She has been bowling with Pestell for the past eight years. “She bowls better than me,” said Corry, who is merely in her 70s. “She has a good game and is a very sharp lady.”

Suburbanite Helen Fay Kutz explains that the women used to be better. “At this age we are lousy,” she said. “We used to be better, but we still try.”

When the group was first formed, many had young children. Pestell had elementary school children when she first started – two boys. Her bowling game was interrupted throughout the years by trips to Europe. She enjoyed traveling alone for half a dozen weeks at a time. Pestell would travel by boat, which took nine days. She would sail to Italy to visit family, or just to get away.

Pestell has outlived many of her loved ones. Her mother died at age 47, her father at 67, her brother at 26, and her husband at 80. “It’s embarrassing to stay around so long,” Pestell grins. “I’m overstaying my welcome.”

Rose is still completely independent, aided only by the help of friends.

“My only worry is that my independence will stop,” she said. “What is it they say? I wish to go to bed and wake up dead.” Fearing illness or injury, Pestell takes good care of herself, crediting her longevity to her healthy diet.

“I always prepared meals from scratch,” she said. “As I look back, I have had a good and interesting life,” Pestell said. “I value my friends tremendously.”

Could a Rose at any other age bowl so sweet? The Suburbanites continue to bowl at Circle Lanes in Forest Park as they have every Tuesday for 50 years.

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