Floyd Burns is celebrating his 80th birthday Tuesday by bowling 80 straight games at a Mesa bowling alley. It’s the third time the Mesa man has celebrated his birthday by bowling his age in games.
When he turned 77, he bowled 77 games in 12 hours, 32 minutes. His average score was 164.
At 78, he bowled 78 games in 12 hours, 20 minutes, earning a score of 214 on his 78th game.
He skipped his 79th birthday and now is taking up the all-day challenge again for the big 8-0.
“This year, I’m going to take my time and enjoy it,” said Burns, who has been bowling since his early 20s. “I’m not going to try and beat any records.”
However, this is the last time he plans to celebrate his birthday this way because “everyone makes too much fun of me,” Burns said.
The spry 79-year-old isn’t worried about injuring himself. He bowls in two leagues and bowls at least twice a week.
“If the ball fits you, and you just roll it out there, you can bowl all day long,” Burns said. “Most people throw it, and that’s what wears them down.”
He thought of the idea after reading about a 70-year-old woman who bowled 70 games, and then bowled 71 games the following year.
“I said, 'if she could do it, I could,’” Burns said. “It’s just something I want to try to do.”
Burns still works two part-time jobs. He works at Rod’s Ace Hardware store on Brown and Gilbert roads in Mesa. He also works as a crossing guard and playground aide at Hale Elementary School in Mesa, where his daughter, Doris Jackson, is an office specialist.
Jackson said she tried to talk her dad out of another bowling birthday.
“I wanted to celebrate his birthday as a family, but this meant way too much for him,” said Jackson, who plans to watch her dad from beginning to end on Tuesday. “We decided we’re going to support him and have fun. He doesn’t do anything if he’s not having fun.”
Rod Blanco, owner of the hardware store Burns works at, thought the idea was “crazy” when he first heard of Burns’ birthday bowling plans.
“That’s an awful lot of stress and strain for someone his age,” said Blanco, who lives in Gilbert. “But he’s a remarkable man. He’s pretty spry and full of energy. He has the work ethic of the people you want to have.”
Burns likes to stay busy. He’s retired twice and has done many jobs throughout his life. He worked 18 years in a saw mill in Washington state, drew mock-up electrical diagrams for 707 jets for Boeing Aircraft in Seattle and worked for himself as a handyman.
He’s drawn up house plans and office furniture layout plans, worked as a general project manager for a retirement home, and taken care of his son’s five-acre ranch in San Antonio, Texas, for five years.
When he’s not working or bowling, Burns enjoys woodworking and handyman work. He makes birdhouses, flower boxes and rose trellises, and likes to fix electrical items in his backyard workshop.
Burns was born in Osceola, Mo., nine days before the stock market crash of 1929. He moved to Arizona because his wife and daughter had asthma.
Burns was married to his late wife, Marlene, for 48 years. The two have one son and three daughters, along with 16 grandchildren and more than 30 great-grandchildren.
After his wife’s death, Burns married his wife’s best friend and next-door neighbor, Thelma Jean, in 2001.
Burns is known around town as a nice guy.
Blanco said he buys bubble gum for the children who visit the hardware store.
Jackson said the children and parents at Hale “all adore him,” and one parent said she loves Burns’ enthusiastic wave every time she drives by the school when he is manning the crosswalk.
“The kids are so excited,” Jackson said. “It’s the talk of the playground.”
Burns is expecting a big crowd on Tuesday. He has family and friends coming in from eight states.
He has his day all planned out. He’ll start bowling at 8 a.m. and bowl 10 games at a time on two lanes, using the letter of his first and last name as the name for each round of 10 games.
Burns will wear his Ace Hardware cap and bowling shirt, white pants and his own white bowling shoes.
He will bring along his five bowling balls, including his 14-pound Ace Hardware ball his boss bought him for Christmas a few years ago.
If you go
What: Watch Floyd Burns bowl 80 games on his 80th birthday.
When: 8 a.m. until he finishes, around 9 p.m., Tuesday
Where: Brunswick Zone Mesa, 1754 W. Southern Ave.
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