Silvio “Sil” Angelotti was to candlepin bowling what Johnny Appleseed and Will Rogers were to the heartland of America — larger than life.
You may have known about his family bowling alley complex on Primrose Street and the elegant homes he used to build. You may have recognized his strong business sense and passion for his Italian heritage.
But, as I reflect upon his recent death at age 87, what you probably didn’t see was the man behind the scenes, the qualities of life that were not always so obvious.
He promoted his sport to the ultimate — while always using bowling to help others. The special needs children he catered to at Pilgrim Lanes month after month were just as important to him as the bowling stars who flocked to his arena.
Sil liked nothing more than to give some underprivileged or handicapped child a fighting chance to build some self esteem. I know. More than once, he’d call to remind me of his handicapped league and the Down’s syndrome child who rolled 100.
“He’s special,” Sil would tell me, “but not physically or mentally. Because he could roll 100, others also felt they had that chance. The kid is building bridges for his peers. Bowling can do that.”
No doubt, Haverhill has always been a hotbed for candlepins. While Sil held court on one end of the city, his counterpart Ernie DiBurro served as Sil’s bookend at Academy Lanes in Bradford. And somewhere in the middle, you had St. Joseph’s Alleys.
Out of these three institutions came some of the finest bowlers this world has seen. Yes, the best in the world. Okay, so candlepins are only popular in northern New England, but it’s no fault of the gurus who’ve continuously promoted the sport.
The sight of Don Gillis hosting his TV specials at Pilgrim Lanes drew the cream of this crop to our city. At Pilgrim, bowlers like the Sargents (Mike and Chris) set their world standards. And others too numerous to mention also bowled great totals.