Florida bowling legend Max Booke dies Sunday at age 93 By Dick Evans



    ColumnistDickEvans.jpg Max Booke, whose career took off when he joined Piper Aircraft in 1936 and soared after he entered the bowling business in 1961, died Sunday at the age of 93 in Jacksonville.

    Booke was a unique individual because he started out dealing with boring financial books and wound up dealing with complex human beings. More important, he was successful in both endeavors through his striking personality.

    He devoted so much time and energy to civic functions that they named a fire station after him in the Greater Jacksonville area where he has lived for more than a decade.

    To know Max Booke was to like him and appreciate his ability as a businessman who got involved in his communities' endeavors. He spent a lifetime trying to help communities he lived in by collecting books for a library, raising funds for a high school athletic associations and recreation departments, working for the United Fund, soliciting donations for hospitals and trying to make life more enjoyable for retirees and the handicap.

    Somehow he also found time to belong to the Elks, Lions, Kiwanis, B'nai B'rith and Junto (Benjamin Franklin Club). Every organization welcomed Max Booke with open arms because he was known for his dedication, devotion, tireless energy and wit...he knew how to poke fun at life and himself

    While attending St. Bonaventure College in 1934, Max Booke went to work for Taylor Aircraft Corp., in Bradford, Pa., and became office manager in 1936. When Mr. Piper and My Taylor had a disagreement, Max Booke made a wise decision — he decided to stay with Mr. Piper.

    At age 23, Max Booke was elected as a member of the Board of Directors of the Piper Aircraft Corp. where he developed the first Airport Accounting System, which later was marketed nation wide.

    But one of his brothers, Ben, was living the warm life in Miami and wanted Max to join him in the bowling business. In 1961, Max and wife Marlette moved to Miami to be with his brother and took a job with the Championship TV Bowling chain as Assistant to the President.

    Ben, who was managing five bowling centers at the time, gave Max an A-to-Z education about the bowling business and it was a perfect fit for a man who had spent his early life working with figures.

    Three years later the Booke brothers joined Charles Marquee as partners in a 16-lane center in Boca Raton, a small Florida community in those years that was best known for its polo field. Under Max's direction, University Bowl expanded to 24 lanes and became the 'in place' for residents and tourists in Boca Raton.

    He completely immersed himself in the bowling industry. He became president of the Palm Beach Bowling Proprietors Association then became President of the Bowling Proprietors Association of Florida. Within a short time he was elected to the office of treasurer of the Bowling Proprietors Association of America. He also served for many years on the BPAA Executive Directors and the Legislative committees.

    In 1994, the Bowling Proprietors Association of Florida renamed the annual Presidential award to be the Max Booke Presidential award for all of his work within the bowling industry.

    In 1978 Max Booke combined his two talents — dealing with figures and people — and started a real estate company that specialized in buying and selling bowling centers. His was only the second company in the United States to work exclusively within the bowling industry.

    They sold University Bowl in 1982 and he then moved to Howey in The Hills, Fla., and 10 years later to Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., where he spent his life volunteering his time to community events like the PGA Players Championship, Churchmen's Association of Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida Life Care Retirement Association, Beaches Kiwanis Club and Cypress Village Unit Leaders Association.

    Max Booke also remained active in bowling real estate as a consultant for Dave Driscoll & Associates. Everyone knew they could book on Booke's honesty so his bowling real estate sales in Florida alone exceeded 65 million, and that was long before real estate became so valuable in Florida.

    But Max Booke never buried his head in books and bowling pins. Instead he got involved in community life as illustrated by a few of Max's "Proudest Moments" listed below: Appointed by Gov. Kirk as Chairman of the Employment of The Handicap for the state of Florida and thrice was invited to the White House to meet with fellow leaders of the National Employment of the Handicap, elected first man of the year by Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce in 1970, chaired the 'Booke for Books' drive that helped launch the South Miami public library, was presented the HIXON award, the highest award given to any Kiwanis member by the Jacksonville Beaches' Kiwanis Club, Was given the Golden Deeds award by the Exchange Club of Boca Raton at a city-wide function and Knighted 'Sir Max of the House' by the Economic Council of Palm Beach County.

    'Sir Max' graciously gave of his time and talents throughout his fruitful life right up until his death Sunday April 11.

    He is survived by Marlette, his wife of 43 years, his daughter Bonnie Roche (New York City), nephews Tom Booke (Boynton Beach), Brad Booke (Las Vegas), Frank Booke (Anniston, Ala.) and Mike Booke (Minneapolis) plus nieces Brenda Allen (Lander, Wyo.) and Anne Des Rosiers (Cleveland).

    Services are scheduled Monday afternoon at the Max Booke Firehouse and his body was donated to the University of Florida and his ashes were to be buried in Delaware.

    In lieu of flowers, Max Booke requested that his legion of friends send donations to the Mayo Clinic Foundation, 4500 San Pablo Road, Jacksonville, Fl., 32224.

    Email address: Evans121@aol.com.