McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

Local Sports

December 31, 2012

Ralph Perona, Journey begins and will likely end here

McALESTER — The journey of Ralph Perona, an 88-year-old McAlester resident, begins and will likely end in Oklahoma. He was born in Savanna in 1924, moved to McAlester in 1928 and has lived here continuously since 1981.

In between his childhood and his final destination, however, he spent almost 30 years living in England.

“Everybody used to ask me, ‘When are you thinking about going home?’” Perona said Thursday. “I said, ‘Every day.’ I was always homesick.”

Perona joined the United States Air Force in 1942. The Air Force sent him to RAF Burtonwood, a Royal Air Force station in Warrington, England, where he became part of the ground crew.

“We were in a combat zone,” Perona said. “I was supposed to be an aerial gunner, but I never got it.”

Perona worked as a staff sergeant in Alexandria, Va., for three years following his term in the Air Force, then went to England with his first wife, Elsie, in 1951. Perona worked at a plastic manufacturer in a town called Weaverham until 1963, then at a General Motors plant in Ellesmere Port until 1981.

Elsie, whom Perona had married in 1948, died in 1957.

“They were treating her for dry-eye, and she died of kidney trouble,” Perona said.

When Perona returned home to McAlester, he said the city seemed nothing like the small town in which he’d grown up.

“It was just built up,” Perona said. “All the places that I knew had gone.

“I didn’t know anywhere but McAlester. We didn’t have a whole lot of money (during my childhood), and we didn’t go anywhere.”

Perona worked for T.H. Rogers Lumber Company for 10 years in McAlester, then retired. He met his second wife, Rosalee, at Grand Avenue United Methodist Church, and they married in 1983.

“I have been very lucky in both marriages,” he said. “I had two fantastic wives.”

Ralph has two grown children, which has in turn led to grandchildren and even great-grandchildren.

“They’re multiplying too fast,” Perona said. “I can’t count.”

Seeking a new community, Perona eventually got involved with the McAlester Scottish Rite Masonic Center.

“They wanted someone to help with the superintendent there to keep the place in shape, and they didn’t know who to get,” Perona said. “I said, I’ll do it,’ so I started working there and I worked there 16 years. I finished there when I was 70-something.

“Now I’m 88, so I’m not doing nothing anymore but bowling.”

Perona took up bowling first at Rocket Bowl, then at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant and finally at Great Balls of Fire. He bowls in the Thursday-afternoon Senior Men’s League at Great Balls of Fire, which he described as a “real nice bowling alley.”

Bowling has quickly become his favorite activity.

“If I have a doctor’s appointment that comes on Thursday, I can’t do it,” Perona said. “I tell the doctor he has to make it a Wednesday or a Tuesday.”

Perona said he likes bowling because of “the challenge.”

“You’re trying to beat the next guy, and even beat yourself,” he said. “I don’t like to be last. I want to be first.”

When bowling, Perona has a very consistent approach. He finds the exact same spot behind and to the left of the middle arrow on the lane. He takes a few small steps forward, then bowls an almost perfectly straight shot at the head pin.

“I look at the No. 1 pin and look at the shadow,” Perona said. “I try to follow that shadow down to the No. 1 pin. I don’t always do it, but that’s what I try to do.”

The highlight of Perona’s bowling career came earlier this year at Great Balls of Fire. Normally never bowling better than a 130, on that one night he bowled a 217.

“They kept saying, ‘You have another shot,’ so I turned around and shot again,” Perona said of that game. “They said, ‘You have one more,’ so I turned and I shot again. Made four strikes right at the end.”

Perona said he’s definitely had to adjust his bowling style as he’s gotten older. He switched to a 12- or 13-pound ball because of weakening arm strength, and he started sliding his right foot back on his follow-through to correct balance issues.

But no matter what physical limitations Perona may face, his competitive spirit and love of the sport won’t allow him to give it up. 

“As long as I can walk, I’ll bowl.”

Contact Matt Goisman at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local Sports
  • NaShay Alexander Lady Miners come back against Cowgirls

    The Hartshorne Lady Miners sent eight to the plate in the bottom of the third inning, scoring six runs to come back and beat the Kiowa Cowgirls 7-5 in Thursday’s summer league game at the Pittsburg County Softball Complex in McAlester.

    July 26, 2014 4 Photos

  • Megan Jernigen and Taylor Jones Lady Hornets edge Lady Buffs

    Megan Jernigen’s two-run inside-the-park home run gave the Stuart Lady Hornets the only lead they’d need, eventually beating the McAlester Lady Buffaloes 3-1 Thursday at the Pittsburg County Softball Complex in McAlester.

    July 25, 2014 5 Photos

  • Lindy Morgan EOSC names Morgan new cheer coach

    Eastern Oklahoma State College has selected Lindy Morgan of Wilburton to lead the college’s new co-educational competitive cheerleading program.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Disc golf takes local overseas

    Local disc golfer Matt House shot a five-over 197 for the first three rounds, missed the cut for the finals and finished tied for 84th in the Professional Disc Golf Association’s European Masters tournament July 17-20 in Stockholm, Sweden.

    July 25, 2014

  • Softball Complex Maintenance Crew 1 Softball Complex field crews hard at work

    Rain has been an ongoing issue for softball leagues this summer, but Pittsburg County Softball Complex director Randy Norman and his crew have done everything they can to drain the fields and hold games four nights a week.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • The Earthtones take stage tonight

    Tonight, McAlester will have an opportunity to enjoy some new age folk music at Rotary Park at the amphitheater.

    July 24, 2014

  • WSL returning to McAlester

    The World Softball League so enjoyed its “Bash for Bats” tournament July 12 at the Pittsburg County Softball Complex in McAlester that it’s decided to come back for the WSL Jersey Showdown Softball Tourney on Aug. 30 at the Softball Complex.

    July 24, 2014

  • Casey Fernandez 1 Ex-Buff Fernandez reaches golf semifinal

    Casey Fernandez, a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi and former golfer for the McAlester Buffaloes, made it all the way to the Oklahoma Golf Association’s State Amateur Championship semifinals before losing to Tulsa-Jenks golfer Preston Crawford on Wednesday at The Patriot Golf Course in Owasso.

    July 23, 2014 2 Photos

  • Maceo Thomas 1 Thomas key to McAlester disc golf growth

    For Maceo Thomas, one of the founding members of the Eagle Hill Disc Golf Club, the 12 golfers who came out for Saturday's mini-tournament in Krebs is a welcome sign of how much disc golf has grown since the club formed in 2011.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • Josh Ramsey Ramsey wins Eagle Hill tourney

    Josh Ramsey threw 10 birdies and eight pars, needing just 44 total strokes to win Saturday’s mini-tournament at Eagle Hill Disc Golf Course in Krebs.

    July 21, 2014 5 Photos


Do you agree with the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision?

     View Results
AP Video
Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Palestinians and Israeli Soldiers Clash Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kerry: No Deal Yet on 7-Day Gaza Truce Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Gaza Residents Mourn Dead Amid Airstrikes Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground Ohio State Marching Band Chief Fired After Probe Raw: Big Rig Stuck in Illinois Swamp Cumberbatch Brings 'Penguins' to Comic-Con Raw: Air Algerie Crash Site in Mali Power to Be Restored After Wash. Wildfire Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive
NDN Video
Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.