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The process was involved, but doable they slid a frail Simoneau, too weak to walk, into a Omega Speedmaster Ladies Price

On the heels of Leda's opening came the Winnegs' Gate City Bowl, an early '60s arrival to a comparatively sparse Daniel Webster Highway. In Hudson, Earl Libby, Leo Noel and Adrien Labrie used their initials to name their new L N L Bowl on Lowell Road.

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´╗┐Cofounder of Leda Lanes in Nashua remembered

But recently, as summer waned and September's cooler, shorter days came into view, so did a growing sense that it wouldn't be long before Ray would no longer be going to work, a lifelong seven days a week, 12 plus hours a day routine he treated more as an extension of himself than a means to make a living.

"That's what he did when his brother died," his son Howard said of Edgar Simoneau, who was 57 and president of Leda Lanes when he died in May 1982. "Close a half day for the funeral, then open up. It was always his thing: 'You never close.'"

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His passing comes three months shy of the 52nd anniversary of the day he, Edgar, their mother, Leda, and then Mayor Mario J. Vagge celebrated the grand opening of their new venture, a small, boxy, 18 alley candlepin bowling center the brothers built on a 3.5 acre lot after moving a rambling chicken coop the seller threw into the deal.

While not an uncommon ritual for many born and bred Nashuans like Ray, his reasoning was as unique as the man himself.

They never said as much, but the Simoneaus may have been motivated to install this rare, newfangled luxury after years of bowling and working Omega Seamaster For Ladies in the swelter of Plaza Alleys, the old Railroad Square arcade they owned before and for several years after opening Leda Lanes.

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A long, leisurely tour of the freshly appointed Kegler's, with its slew of new, framed pictures along the walls, capped the cofounder's final visit. Looking around, he smiled a bit, then fixed his gaze on a particular photo.

Bowling's popularity soon prompted local businesses and industries to form teams and leagues, whose numbers skyrocketed post World War II. At the time, Nashua boasted several candlepin centers: Plaza; the Jonis brothers' City Alleys, at Main and West Hollis streets behind the old Rosebud; and Nashua Bowlaway, on East Hollis at or near where Headlines is now.

On Tuesday, the obit for which Ray watched, tongue in cheek, for years finally appeared, four days after he made his final visit to his beloved Leda Lanes and three days after he lost a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer. Friday, about the time the post funeral celebration of life would wind down.

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"He wanted to see the place one more time," Howard said. " I guess it was a sort of closure for him."

"It's an old picture of the chicken coops," Howard said. "When they first bought the land, they split the coop in two to move it. They're still out back, being used for storage."

Between hosting more and more leagues over the years and its loyal base of families and date night bowlers, Simoneau saw the need to expand, which he did by adding a dozen lanes and opening a snack bar, the first incarnation of today's Kegler's Den.

Another expansion in the early '80s put lanes 31 36 in place of Kegler's, which Simoneau and Howard moved to the other side of the building and reinvented as the restaurant lounge we know today.

Almost unheard of outside New England and parts of eastern Canada, candlepin bowling ranked at or near the top of the region's favorite early and mid 20th century pastimes. Fun, easy to learn and relatively inexpensive, the sport drew young and old to a busy network Omega Speedmaster Alligator Strap

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Nashua was introduced to tenpin, or duckpin, bowling in 1962 when the United Bowling Center, later Nashua Ten Pin Bowl, became Gate City Bowl's neighbor. It closed in 1995 under the name Fair Lanes.

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"When they built (Leda Lanes), everybody said they'd never make it out there in the boonies," Louise Patterson, Ed Simoneau's daughter, said when Leda celebrated 30 years in 1989.

of candlepin centers that once dotted the map of every city and town.

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Though clearly failing, Howard said his dad had only one "real bad" day Friday, the day before he died.

Though it surely wasn't needed that Saturday, Dec. 12, 1959, many grand opening visitors took special note of a banner strung across the front advertising perhaps its most impressive amenity: air conditioning.

Born in December 1930 to Balcom Street residents Delphis and Leda (Soucy) Simoneau, Raymond Leo Simoneau was weaned on the Great Depression, an experience that probably contributed to the unbending, no excuses work ethic he later instilled in four generations of family members who worked at Leda Lanes.

Among those questioning the brothers' sanity was Vagge, Howard remembers his father telling him. Indeed, for a businessman whose car dealership sat smack dab in the middle of downtown Nashua, it must have been hard for Vagge to envision bowlers traipsing "way out" the old Milford Road for a few strings.

wheelchair, borrowed a wheelchair accessible van and set out for Leda Lanes.

The Simoneaus and their loyal customers, first at Plaza and later Leda, were right there in the thick of its popularity.

It was among the alleys, billiard tables, video games and a Kegler's fresh off its most recent spruce up that Simoneau asked to spend much of his precious remaining time, Howard Omega Speedmaster Moonwatch White Face

"That's my dad; he insisted on coming here right up to the end," he said.

Every morning for years, Ray Simoneau began his day by opening the newspaper and scanning the local obituaries.

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"He'd look through (the obituaries), stand up and say, 'Well, guess I gotta go to work today,'" his son Sean recalled with a laugh. "'My name's not in there.'"

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