(L-R) Michelle Var Konda, Kelly Helmer, Whitey Heidenburg, Fran Bax, and Peter Cambio at the BBA Hall of Fame Dinner
The 16th class of inductees into the Hall included Peter Russo, Sr., Peter Cambio, and Fran Bax in the Outstanding Ability category, and Kerm Helmer and Eugene “Whitey” Heidenburg in the Meritorious Service category.
Buffalo Bowling Association’s (BBA) Chairman, Greg Merkle, kept things light as he introduced the 5 inductees and distinguished guests in attendance. Members from local men’s, women’s, and youth bowling associations, New York State Association representatives, Erie County representative, the press, and many friends and families helped to congratulate the five new members as they were introduced.
Merkle then introduced each inductee one by one leading off with the late Kerm Helmer being honored in the “Mertorious Service” category. Kerm’s daughter Kelly Helmer accepted the award on behalf of her late father.
Helmer is best remembered for his endless dedication to the collegiate division of youth bowling. Kerm coached bowling at Erie Community College for 37 years leading the Men’s and Women’s teams to a total of 41 National Championships. He also was instrumental in many collegiate and youth tournaments including the Empire State Games, and chaired many local, State, and National committees. Kerm passed away after a brief illness in October of 2002.
The introduction of the late Peter Russo, Sr. followed. Russo’s granddaughter, Michele Var Konda, accepted the award on his behalf and gave a heart warming remembrance of her late grandfather and his passion for bowling.
Russo was recognized in the “Outstanding Ability Section” of the Hall for his achievements in his 25 ABC National Tournaments, 25 NYS Tournaments and 40 Buffalo Association City Tournaments. Peter and his partner won the 1955 City Tournament Doubles Championship.
Merkle then introduced Eugene “Whitey” Heidenburg, Jr. in the “Meritorious Service” category. Whitey was honored and accepting of the award as he and his late father (inducted during the 1970’s) became the first father/son duo to be inducted into the BBA Hall of Fame.
Heidenburg has been the Executive Secretary of the Bowling Proprietors of WNY since 1982 as well as a Life Member of the Proprietors Association. Whitey began as the Proprietor of Ideal Lanes before retiring to work with the Proprietor Association, as well as perfecting his golf game with his many life long friends that were in attendance this evening to honor his award. He is also co-founder of the All-Star Traveling league, which began in 1981.
Peter Cambio, “Outstanding Ability Section,” showed appreciation to his family for allowing him to compete in many tournaments while he missed family functions. Pete became the last member inducted from the 1966 Simon Pure Team that won the NYS Team Event. He also won an ABC Eagle as a member of the 1975 ABC Team All Events Champion. Pete was also inducted in the NYS Bowling Hall of Fame in 2001.
The final inductee was honored in the “Outstanding Ability Section.” Fran Bax, Niagara Falls, NY, was also thankful to family and friends for allowing and helping him attain the heights that he has reached in his bowling career.
Bax led his 1983 team to the ABC National Tournament Team Title with a career high 848 series. Fran has many top 10 finishes in the National Tournament and carries a 205 composite ABC Tournament average, in addition to over 49 - 300 games and 34 series’ over 800.
The night came to a close as Stephen Donahue, Director American Bowling Congress and Executive Director New York State Bowling Association, presented ABC Certificates to the inductees. Mr. Frank Sedeta, Erie County Parks Department, a representative for Erie County Executive Joel Giambra, then presented the inductees with Special Citations honoring their achievement.