Fire strikes beloved bowling alley; crowdfunding push to aid cleanup

By | January 26, 2018

PORT JERVIS, N.Y. — Minisink Lanes bowling alley, a popular local establishment for more than four decades, was devastated by a fire on Jan. 20.

The fire occurred at approximately 3 p.m., shortly after Saturday youth bowling leagues finished for the day. The building was empty at the time and no one was injured.

The bowling alley is owned by Matamoras, Pa., resident Raymond Willis, Sr. The 72-year-old Vietnam veteran, who has operated the business for 45 years, is known for hosting fundraising events for charitable causes and families in need.

Jay Willis, Raymond’s son and the proprietor of Willis Amusement, described the fire as “unexpected and tragic.” He said his father is seen as “a pillar in the community, touching several generations — as many parents and grandparents would bring their children to bowl in leagues and tournaments.”

Willis added that his father had discontinued hazard insurance on the building last year because of its increasing cost. Raymond Willis lost his wife and business partner, Jamie Willis, to cancer in 2015.

Raymond bought Minisink Lanes shortly after completed his 1969-70 military service, during which he served in active combat in Vietnam.

During its heyday, the bowling alley boasted 20 lanes, a full bar, a snack bar, a pro shop and an arcade.

Inspectors said the fire started in the kitchen area but were still seeking a cause. The building is not salvageable. Demolition and cleanup costs could total as much as $50,000.

Local residents have shown an outpouring of support. A GoFundMe page has been set up online with the goal to offset the cleanup expenses:

—Dean Lamanna