Meridian great-grandmother loves the Broncos

Oct 20 2012 - 2:41pm

BOISE, Idaho -- Bea Hendrix knows as much about first downs and fumbles as fabrics and French seams. She's been a football fan since she was a teenager growing up in south-central Idaho in the 1930s.

"She knows every rule," said her daughter, Julie Mellinger, who lives in Meridian. She often makes calls before the refs, and is usually right.

"She can sit and talk football with the best of people," Mellinger said.

The fit-and-feisty 88-year-old is a cross between Betty Crocker and SportsCenter. She has likely watched or listened to more high school, college and pro games than some modern coaches -- and made many more quilts, placemats and purses.

"I tell you, I love football," said Hendrix, who often sews while watching games in her room at Grace Assisted Living in Meridian. "If there's a football game on, I'm on it."

Hendrix followed Boise State before moving to the area from Buhl in 2011, and now she's a huge fan.

"You get here and there's just a fever," she said. "You just get sucked in."

She didn't have to think long when staff at Grace Assisted Living solicited "bucket list" wishes from residents: What one thing did they want to do that they hadn't done?

Hendrix's wish: See a game on the blue.

"We haven't ever done this before, so we had no idea what people would have on their bucket list," said Sharon Pryor, who handles spiritual care at Grace's five Valley facilities. They promised to grant one wish per facility this year.

Hendrix got five tickets to the BSU-UNLV game Saturday. She's going with her son, Gerry Hendrix, and Mellinger, as well as their spouses.

"Man, she's excited about the game," said Mellinger, who delivered a black sweat shirt to her mom Wednesday for use at Saturday's game -- the school's first-ever blackout, with players and fans all wearing Johnny Cash's color.

Mellinger was surprised by her mom's wish, but only because the frail 5-foot-tall woman broke her wrist, shoulder and hip in separate falls last year. Hendrix shows no sign of suffering serious injury, but she now uses a walker and is much more cautious.

"It just amazes me with her age and everything she had happen last year that she is still up and going," her daughter said.

Hendrix wants to get a taste of tailgating before the game, so her family is borrowing a wheelchair from the living facility.

WHY FOOTBALL?

So where does Hendrix's interest in football come from? The short answer: a teacher.

She went to Filer High School, where the football coach taught physical education.

"One spring he made us learn all about football. We had to learn all the rules," Hendrix said.

But the girls didn't get to play the game -- not even "powder puff," as their version was later called. Hendrix didn't mind.

"That's one of the best things to ever happen to me," she said of learning the game.

Hendrix was married soon after graduating from high school in 1942. She and her husband, J.C. Hendrix, raised three children and grew potatoes, beans and grain on a farm outside Buhl.

The Hendrixes went to all the Buhl High football games and liked to watch the NFL on TV. J.C., who died in 2002, also loved the game.

"We'd argue about whether a call was right or not," Bea Hendrix said.

They moved off the farm in 1961 and bought a bus company. Bea drove a school bus, worked as a teacher's aide and ran the district's copy center before retiring at 76.

Hendrix now has four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

BEA'S BRONCOS

Hendrix said she listens to more games on radio than she watches on TV.

She doesn't sew during BSU games, and during tense moments, she sometimes walks into the hallway.

Hendrix said she has great admiration for head coach Chris Petersen. His calm and cool demeanor reminds her of late Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry.

"He doesn't throw fits like so many of them do, and he cares for his players -- you can tell that he does," she said.

Her favorite past players include Titus Young, Kellen Moore and Shea McClellan. She doesn't have a favorite on the current team, though she's impressed with D.J. Harper, Chris Potter and Matt Miller -- and sorry that Mitch Burroughs is injured.

What's she looking forward to most about Saturday's game?

No hesitation.

"Winning," she said. "It's my first game. They've got to win."

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