Mae Stephens is a competitor.
As she approaches 100 years of age, her presence at Phantom Lanes at Fort Hood has been known to strike fear and intimidation every week she bowls against a male-dominated team. After all, what guy wants to get beat by a 98-year-old Copperas Cove woman?
But beat them in the game of bowling, she does. And she has made a lot of friends down on the lanes.
“I played her twice, and she beat us both times,” said fellow bowler Joe Fuhrman. “I’m 65, she’s 98 and has a 100 score average; mine is 47. You’d think you should feel sorry for her; then she comes around and beats you.”
Stephens turned 98 Jan. 15, celebrating with a party on Jan. 12 and a bowling event the following Thursday. Her family orchestrated an evening of fun, games and memories at Phantom Lanes.
“I never saw so many children at my birthday,” she said.
Mother Stephens, as she is referred to among her church family, has seen many changes in life.
“I want an iPad,” she said when she saw her grandson with one.
She remembers climbing a favorite pine tree in South Carolina as a 6-year-old with her younger brother and sister; then sliding down, leaving it stripped of bark.
“My mother used to ask us if we had saws in our butt when she saw the holes in their underwear,” Stephens said. “As a little girl my older brother would let me ride the plow as he plowed the field.”
She said she was a tomboy, and around age 10, chopped cotton and did chores such as hitching a horse to the wagon along with her brother when he went to the woods to chop wood.
Later in life, Stephens learned to bowl, joining a league. She still bowls every week. Others at the bowling alley take notice.
“I’m 34 years old and just impressed at seeing her go,” said Mark Morgan, a Fort Hood resident. “It’s impressive to see her still in the game.”
Don Wright, who writes a bowling column for the Killeen Daily Herald, said Stephens is “amazing.”
“Last week she bowled and her team told her to stay home because she felt pain, and she said, ‘No, I want to bowl’,” Wright said.
As for advice on longevity, Stephens said this during her birthday party: “Keep your hand in God’s hand.”