Bette Dick, 85, jokes with a staff member at Miller's
Merry Manor. Dick, a lifelong Notre Dame football fan, is going to the
Notre Dame vs. Navy game today through the efforts of an organization
called Never Too Late.
Tribune Photo/SHAYNA BRESLIN
To learn moreBob Haverstick, founder of Indianapolis-based Never Too Late Inc., said that group is always looking for wishes to grant to senior citizens age 65 and older. Never Too Late has granted more than 800 wishes since January 2000. Haverstick said the group has worked with a variety of wishes, including a couple who jumped out of an airplane, someone who wanted to pet a live tiger, and a 94-year-old who wanted to ride a motorcycle one more time. To submit a wish request or to donate to the group, go to www.nevertoolate.org or call (317) 823-4705.
WALKERTON -- What if you could have one wish granted toward the end of your life?
Bette Kocsis Dick's wish was to attend a Notre Dame football game one more time. She loves the team.
"If you cut my wrists I'd bleed green," Dick said.
The lifelong Fighting Irish fan is getting her wish because of Never Too Late, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to senior citizens. The organization's work is similar to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to terminally ill children.
The 85-year-old resident of Miller's Merry Manor in Walkerton is going to the Notre Dame game today for the first time in several years. Never Too Late has provided Dick and two nursing home staff members with wheelchair-accessible tickets in Section 114 for the game against Navy. The organization is also giving Dick $100, and the staff raised $36 more for her to buy snacks and souvenirs.
Notre Dame has given her a free parking pass for the game so the manor's wheelchair-accessible van can take her right to the stadium's gate. The staff is planning to decorate the van and is throwing Dick a mini-tailgate party before she leaves today.
Dick grew up in South Bend and as a little girl attended Notre Dame games with her older brother, Emery. They always got their tickets ahead of time and never had to worry about not getting in, she said.
"We would wait until the last minute because we knew we'd have a seat," Dick said.
And Dick was around to watch some great football. She was old enough at the time to remember Knute Rockne, whom she described as a "gentleman." She was also there for the Frank Leahy and Ara Parseghian years.
Although Dick can't remember all of the great coaches and players she has seen, her favorite player this season is "nice-looking" quarterback Brady Quinn.
Dick was born and raised on Napier Street, on the city's west side. The youngest of six children, she was just 2 when her mother died of pneumonia. As the baby of the family, Dick said she was spoiled rotten by her father, Emery, who worked at Oliver Plow Works.
When she wed another Notre Dame fan, Alex Dick, the pair went to the games together. They were married for 25 years until Alex's death. She went to the games with her brother again until he, too, passed away.
Administrator Erin Ginter said Dick has been living in Miller's Merry Manor for the past four years. Dick tries to watch all the games on television. If she misses one, she asks staff the score, Ginter said.
Ginter said Dick is the manor's biggest Notre Dame fan. She has a "Fighting Irish" flag on her wall and a teddy bear wearing a green shirt and Notre Dame pin. She even has a Parseghian bobblehead doll.
"She sings it (the fight song) in the hallway and she wears the shirts all the time," Ginter said. "She's pretty excited."
This will be the first Notre Dame game for Kelly Wolff, one of the staff members accompanying Dick. Wolff said that although she's excited for the game, she just wants Dick to have a good time.
"It's nice for her to have this opportunity. She doesn't have a lot of family support," Wolff said.
Bob Haverstick, founder of Never Too Late, said it took three weeks to find tickets. This is the second Notre Dame wish the group has helped to fulfill.
Haverstick said that last year 86-year-old Thelma Crowe from Concord, Calif., wished to go onto the stadium's football field. As a little girl, Crowe became a Notre Dame fan because of a guest living in her mother's boardinghouse. She remembered watching men cry as they listened to Rockne's funeral on the radio.
"She wanted to walk on the hallowed ground Knute Rockne walked on," he said.
Haverstick said these wishes wouldn't have happened without the help of the Notre Dame ticket office and staff. Former Notre Dame player Darrell "Flash" Gordon has also been a great help to Never Too Late on a few other wishes.
Earlier this year, Never Too Late granted a wish to a 1939 Purdue University alumnus who wanted to attend homecoming. Haverstick said they're happy to sponsor these college sports wishes.
"Notre Dame is a fun, exciting team to watch. ... She is going to see a whale of a game," he said.
Ginter said the granting of Dick's wish has prompted other Merry Manor residents to think about their own wishes. Haverstick said people in Dick's generation had this mind-set throughout life of constantly giving with little thought to their own personal wishes.
Many of them haven't told anyone these requests, and Haverstick said his organization seeks to grant as many as possible before it's too late.
"We're always looking for more wishes," he said.
Dick will be all decked out in green, navy and gold for the game and is taking her Fighting Irish flag.
"I can't wait to get there, I'll tell you that," Dick said.
Staff writer Jamie Loo: