His name was synonymous with candlepin bowling.
Not just in the state of Maine. Worldwide.
Charles Milan III — a Bangor native and the long-time owner of the Bangor-Brewer Bowling Lanes in Brewer who was inducted into the International Candlepin Hall of Fame in 2005 — died of pancreatic cancer at age 86 on Saturday, exactly 11 years after his wife, Marie (Gosselin) died of the same disease.
In 1969, Sports Illustrated named the John Bapst High of Bangor graduate one of the top 50 athletes from the state of Maine.
He became the first male bowler to be inducted into the Maine State Sports Hall of Fame in 1982.
Not only did he win the Maine State men’s candlepin championship 23 times — he was the runner-up in 2005 at the age of 68 — he captured several world championships as an individual, doubles and mixed doubles partner or as part of a team.
At the age of 78, he teamed with Gray’s Amanda Carroll to win the Can-Am Mixed Doubles title in 2014. There were 64 teams, 32 from New England and 32 from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
But Milan was much more than just a world-class bowler.
He was the consummate promoter.
“In 1985, he put together the World Candlepin Bowling Tournament with Kansas Snow from Canada. There were 12 teams from Canada and 12 from the U.S.,” said Chip Carson, a five-time state champion who manages the Bangor-Brewer Lanes.
The tournament left Maine in 2013 and has continued to be held in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, Carson said.
“Charlie was the king of bowling,” Carson said. “He was Mister Candlepin. Not only was he a good promoter, he was also, without question, the best candlepin bowler I ever came across. In my opinion, he was the best of the best.”
Carson remembered facing Milan in the 10-string state final 35 years ago.
“I averaged a 138. He beat me by one pin in the final box. He was a machine. He was 50 at the time,” Carson said.
Milan ran the Charlie Milan and Bridget Milan Memorial tournaments for several years and was also in charge of the American portion of the World Invitational Men’s Team championships.
He hosted bowling shows on television and also played in them, including one in which bowlers squared off against each other for the right to face Milan in a championship match.
“I can’t remember him ever losing one of those matches,” Carson said.
Whenever he hosted any kind of tournament, Carson said Milan had to go out and get advertising and sponsors for them.
“He could sell anything,” Carson said.
James Milan, Charlie’s son, said his dad was a “tremendous asset” for the bowling industry.
“He was a great promoter. He knew everyone in the industry, in Canada as well as in New England. They all knew Dad,” said James, who bowled with his father.
“He was a character. He was larger than life,” added James. “He was the life of the room. And he was a great dad.”
Carson began working for Milan at the Bangor-Brewer Lanes when he was 11 years old, saying with a chuckle that the labor laws were different back then.
“He helped me through many bad times. He was just a great guy who would do anything for anybody,” Carson said.
As a bowler, James Milan called his father a “fierce competitor.”
Carson said Milan’s success can be attributed to his determination and practice.
“Those were the two key things,” said Carson, who added that Milan won thousands of dollars in money matches against other individuals in the 1950s and ’60s.
Milan was a big reason Carson had the success he had.
“He never practiced with me, but he was the first one to support everything I did in the game of bowling. He took me to a lot of tournaments. We would be doubles partners. He treated me like gold,” Carson said. “And he was a funny guy. He was the kind of guy who could give you a little kidding insult and get away with it.”
“He had a great life,” said James, who was one of four children along with Charles IV, Dawn and John.
A funeral mass will be held at St. John Catholic Church at 217 York St. in Bangor on Tuesday, July 26, at 11 a.m.