Donald Bernovich can't contain his bowling enthusiasm to tenpin alleys. Whereas many homeowners favor rock gardens or flower beds, Bernovich's landscaping involves an intriguing homage to his favorite pastime. Clusters of hundreds of bowling balls dot his front yard, while bowling pins pop up hither and yon, all in various motifs.
Donald Bernovich can't contain his bowling enthusiasm to tenpin alleys.
Whereas many homeowners favor rock gardens or flower beds, Bernovich's landscaping involves an intriguing homage to his favorite pastime. Clusters of hundreds of bowling balls dot his front yard, while bowling pins pop up hither and yon, all in various motifs.
"It's a bowling-ball garden," he says, chuckling as always. "It's pretty in the spring."
Bernovich is 73, but his mercurial, lively manner and patter give him the countenance of a man 15 years younger. He started bowling in his youth in Farmington and now has plenty of time for the hobby: He is divorced, and his seven adult children live out of state, and he has long been retired from the Peoria & Pekin Union Railroad.
Bernovich, who moved to his home in Marquette Heights years ago, bowls in four leagues right now. He calls his teammates "young kids," as they're just in their 20s, 30s and 40s. But Bernovich holds his own with a 180 average.
A few years ago, he noticed that his favorite alley, Sunset Lanes in Pekin, often had to replace old balls and pins. The damaged items ended up in the trash, so he asked to keep them.
Bernovich began bringing the balls and pins home, where he sculpts his bowling tributes. The balls, in many colors and often cracked, are typically piled in pyramids. To keep them in place, he relies on perfect balance - call it tenpin feng shui.
"It's pretty hard to take bowling balls and get 'em to stay in place," he says. "There's no glue or nothin'. They just stay in place."
In other places, single balls sit atop poles, pop-art thingamabobs whose three finger holes give them the appearance of orbicular birdhouses. Others rest on the ground, just looking pretty.
Meanwhile, pins serve as various adornments. A few hang near bird feeders and from poles. But most rise from the ground, either as accents to the bowling-ball piles or as sentries along walkways.
"They pop up, just like flowers," Bernovich says, grinning.
Bernovich's ornamentation includes front-porch flags of his favorite sports teams: the Chicago Bears, Peoria Pirates and Fighting Illini. From sticks and poles all over the place, Old Glory pops up in various sizes, a nod to his Korean war service in the Navy.
The overall hodgepodge tends to catch the eye of passing motorists.
"People come by, they stop and they laugh," Bernovich says, grinning in self-satisfaction.
The yard also sports multiple signs in support of ABATE, the motorcycle-rights organization. In fact, riding is almost as dear to Bernovich's heart as bowling.
Bernovich has two bikes: a monstrous '83 Honda Venture and a sporty '96 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe. At Oak Ridge Cemetery in Farmington, he spent $3,000 to have a tombstone crafted showing him atop a bike. Under his name is the inscription, "Smiley Says Riding is Heavenly."
"Smiley was my nickname in high school, because I smiled a lot," he says, still smiling.
Phil Luciano can be reached at email@example.com or (309) 686-3155.