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Alzena Wright, 91, groundbreaking pro bowler April 30, 1921 -- May 22, 2012

Alzena Wright of Buffalo, the city's first African-American female professional bowler and a member of the Buffalo Women's Bowling Association Hall of Fame, died May 22 in Hospice Buffalo, Cheektowaga. She was 91.

Known as "Al," she was born Alzena Harris in St. Petersburg, Fla., and moved to this area during World War II.

In 1946, Mrs. Wright went to work at Nabisco Co., where she joined an employee bowling league and fell in love with the game. She moved briefly to Cleveland, where she earned a license in beauty culture and continued to bowl.

After returning to Buffalo, she worked as a beautician for many years and continued to bowl.

In 1959, Mrs. Wright was among a group of bowlers who became stockholders in Monroe Lanes on Genesee Street. She worked at the bowling alley in all capacities -- including learning how to operate and repair the pin-setting machines.

Mrs. Wright was a certified coach for the Young American Bowling Association. She also organized several bowling leagues going back to 1960; many of them remain active.

Becoming a mother didn't deter her participation. Her children became known as "lap babies," as they were passed from one person to another as Mrs. Wright bowled.

Mrs. Wright was named the Upstate Women's Classic member of the year in 1969 for the Rochester-based Genesee Invitational. She won two titles on "Beat the Champ," a televised program in Buffalo.

She was a member of the Buffalo Bowling Senate and National Bowling Association. Not only did Mrs. Wright participate in many local, state and national tournaments, but for more than two decades she put together squads to compete in the Petersen Classic in Chicago -- sometimes transporting bowlers in the family motor home.

Knee surgery in the mid-1990s reduced her participation in eight bowling leagues to just one.

In 1997, she was inducted into the Buffalo Women's Bowling Association's Hall of Fame.

Through the years, she worked at many jobs. In recent years, she was a teaching assistant at Harriet Ross Tubman School 31 in Buffalo.

Her husband, Junior, died in 1985.

Survivors include a daughter, Carolzena Snow; and a son, Nathaniel Sr.

Services will be at noon Friday in St. John Baptist Church, 184 Goodell St. at Michigan Avenue.

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