Steve Quinnell of Spring Grove with some Quad City League bowlers at the 2012 Nationals in Baton Rouge, La. Shown, left to right are: Robert Quinnell (Steve’s son), Karen Krzebietke, Steve Quinnell, Sue Klug and Robert Krzebietke.
Steve Quinnell of Spring Grove with some Quad City League bowlers at the 2012 Nationals in Baton Rouge, La. Shown, left to right are: Robert Quinnell (Steve’s son), Karen Krzebietke, Steve Quinnell, Sue Klug and Robert Krzebietke.
"It kind of happened easily that night," bowler Steve Quinnell recalled. "Everything was rolling the right way."

The date was Dec. 6, 2012, and the occasion was Quinnell's first perfect (300) game.

It stood as the fulfillment of a goal that rural Spring Grove resident had held for decades. Less than four years before, however, his main goal was just to live one more day.

Diagnosed with a rare blood disorder called Multiple Myeloma, Quinnell went through several hospitalizations, years of treatments and "a lot of experimental drugs" to survive.

"They gave me 12 hours (to live) a couple of times back in March and April of 2009," he said.

"My kidneys were shut down. I didn't realize it at the time, but that's what they were telling my family, that I might not last another day."

Also known as plasma cell myeloma or Kahler's disease, the condition that felled Quinnell is classified as "a cancer of plasma cells, a type of white blood cell normally responsible for producing antibodies," according to Wikipedia.

"I'm still on the maintenance program as far as this myeloma, which is getting to be more of a common blood disorder," he said. "It's still not curable, but they can maintain it."

A league bowler with Quad City since the 1980s, Quinnell has belonged to several teams that call Caledonia's Starlight Lanes home. He even bowled in

La Crescent as far back as the middle 1970s.

"I practiced many years before I was able to roll that game. I had many chances before," he said, "but you know, I never had the perfect fall of the ball."

Even an expert player, one who bowls strikes 70 percent of the time, he has only a one percent chance of rolling 12 in a row, according to authorities on the game.

Back in 2009, the quest for a perfect game instantly fell by the wayside as Quinnell fought for his life in a La Crosse, Wis., hospital.

"When I was down, they used a hoist to get me out of a wheelchair and into bed," he said. "Then I went from a wheelchair to using a walker. Eventually, I was back to where you wouldn't even know that I'd been sick."

A four-letter word kept surfacing as Quinnell remembered his journey - GOAL.

"My doctor kept writing down everything that was his goal, and one of those was to get me back to my 200 average," he noted.

In the winter of 2006-07, Quinnell had held a solid 214 average in knocking over the maples. Things were looking good.

Still carrying a 200 when illness forced his departure from the lanes, he saw that average fall to the 160s upon his return in the fall of 2009.

"I was awful weak," Quinnell said. "I may have come back to bowling about a year too soon. It was a long, tough time... especially when I first returned.

"In the hospital, they always had goals to make. I just kept plugging away, and I still kept farming.

"Leagues start in September and run 30 weeks. The USBC (United States Bowling Congress) re-wrote my average when I returned because I go to the nationals."

Finally, on that special night last December, Quinnell had returned to his old self and more.

"I was kind of relaxed," he said. "I don't know why, but I was. A few of my teammates didn't even know it was going on. They were visiting at the time, and they didn't have a clue."

Seven strikes in a row, eight, then nine... Word started to spread on what was happening. A ring of quiet rapidly spread around Quinnell as he picked up the ball.

"In the 10th frame it really started getting quiet," he said. "People were watching. That night it just seemed that everything was focused. Everything was just going smooth."

Three more strikes reverberated in the hushed, expectant alley and Steve Quinnell finally had his first perfect game.

At the recent Quad City Banquet Awards, Quinnell was honored twice, as the most improved bowler and the player with the highest scratch game. "I'm close to 200 again," he reported, that's 12.35 pins gained in one year.

Quinnell quietly said that "never give up" pretty much sums up the lesson he's learned.

"I always kind of kept my chin up," he said, "and tried to keep going straight ahead with a goal."