By CHRIS LARICK
Those who knew Lou Bishop agree on at least one thing.
Bishop had a big heart.
Paula Bishop, widowed from Lou at too young an age, remembers that Bishop would always kissed her goodbye when he left for work in the morning.
“One day he left, then turned around and came back. He said, ‘I forgot to kiss you goodbye.”
There came a day too soon when Lou didn’t go to work. He dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 40, nearly 40 years ago.
Unknown to all, Lou’s big heart was faulty, something that had gone unnoticed during physicals for athletic evens and before he entered the Army Reserves right out of high school.
Bishop was one of the best athletes at Grand Valley High School in the late 1950s. The school didn’t offer football until several years later than that, but Bishop excelled in basketball and track.
The 1956-1957 Mustangs team went 21-2, the best record in school history, winning the Ashtabula County championship. The two best players on that team, Jim Dodd (who was inducted into the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 2004, the second year of inductions) and Bishop were juniors. The graduation of key seniors from that group kept the Mustangs from repeating the following year.
Grand Valley was coached by William Searcy at that time and included, in addition to Dodd and Bishop, Bill Shipman, Bill Whitten, Norman Huisinger, Kelton Slane, Roger Gaede, Dick Allen, Bud Brehm and Joe Shukys.
Bishop will join his teammate and best friend, Dodd, in the ACBF Hall of Fame on Apr. 7 at Conneaut’s New Leaf Center A four-year varsity letterman in basketball and track, he was chosen All-Ashtabula County second team as a junior and first team as a senior. He totaled 790 points for his career, 319 of them (18 per game) as a senior. He is already a member of the Grand Valley Hall of Fame.
For his part, Dodd held the school record (and for many years, the county record) in scoring with 1,377 points.
“We were best friends through grade school and high school,” Dodd said recently of Bishop. “We went into the army (reserves) together.
In fact, an entire group of Grand Valley male students went into the army reserves together, making that decision as 17-year-olds.
“We went into active duty in August,” Dodd said. “Twelve or 15 boys from Grand Valley joined the reserve. There was no (war) at that time.”
The Orwell boys probably didn’t realize how fortunate that decision would turn out to be. Just a few years later, the United States became involved in the Vietnam War, taking many of their contemporaries into a conflict that would become most unpopular in this country.
After he got out of his army reserve obligation, Bishop went to work at Lincoln Electric, where he worked until his death at the age of 40.
“He worked there for many years,” his widow, Paula Bishop Smith, said. “He was Man of the Year there one year. He was going to become Man of the Year again the year he died. He was the only man in Lincoln Electric history to be nominated twice.”
Paula, also a Grand Valley student, was several years younger than Lou.
“I knew him, maybe since I was 10 years old,” she said. “He was friends with my sister. I was about seven years younger than he was.”
Paula and Lou lived in Richmond Heights, then Mentor, during their marriage. They had two daughters, Tracy and Jill. Paula also had a son, Steve, by an earlier marriage. Lou treated them all as his children.
“He was a friendly person,” Paula said of Lou. He loved parties, loved food and beer. He was good at any sport and loved his kids and wife.”
Bishop was a particularly good bowler. He bowled two 299 games, one game short of perfection. As any bowler will tell you, the only way to do that is to have 11 straight strikes and leave one pin standing on the final ball.
“He had one of them on April Fool’s Day,” Paula remembers. “He called me to tell me and I thought he was joking with me. He got a real nice ring from the bowling association and got a watch for the second one.”
After losing her husband of just 12 years at such an early age, Paula remarried (Gary Smith) 12 years later. Smith died in 2012. Paula’s children, Steve, Tracy and Jill, are 53, 48 and 46 respectively. Paula has since moved back to Orwell.