Dick Koeck ’47 and his wife, Susan ’49 fell in love at University Park—with each other and with Penn State football. Throughout the next few decades, the couple periodically traveled to Happy Valley to attend games, tailgating with friends and cheering on their alma mater’s team.
“It’s just more fun to watch with friends,” Dick Koeck said.
That’s why, when he and Susan moved to an Erie retirement community, Dick decided to bring the spirit of Beaver Stadium to Springhill Senior Living on game days, offering to organize PSU pigskin parties in the common room.
“I knew there were a few Penn Staters at Springhill and I just thought ‘Why not try and get them all together to watch games?’” he said.
Anywhere from twenty to thirty enthusiastic residents, including many alumni and former Penn State Behrend faculty members and administrators, gather for each game.
Among the attendees Penn State Behrend alums may recognize are: Dr. Ed Masteller, professor of biology emeritus; Virginia McGarvey, who along with her late husband, Ray, was a great supporter of Behrend; and Ethel Kochel, wife of Behrend’s first leader, Irv Kochel, and an honorary alumna of the college.
“Oh, yes, Ethel is always there with her cowbell,” Koeck said with a chuckle.
Another resident brings a stuffed Nittany Lion mascot that sings a Penn State tune, blue and white flags are hung. The Springhill tailgaters sing the school Alma Mater and Fight Song and they do Penn State cheers, complete with pom-poms. Penn State apparel is practically required.
“Except for white-out games, of course,” Koeck said.
And what would a football party be without food?
Springhill does it right, serving up traditional tailgate favorites, such as hamburgers and hot dogs, sausage sandwiches with peppers and onions, pizza, wings, etc.
One benefit of tailgating at Springhill? It’s not an alcohol-free zone.
“Oh, sure, we might have a few beers,” Koeck said. “Gotta have that at a tailgate party.”
Plans are already underway for Penn State’s next big game – the Rose Bowl on January 2, 2017.
“It has been amazing to watch the team rise to the challenge and win each week and make Penn State proud,” Kochel said. “It is always fun to have Penn Staters together to watch the game, and we are all so excited that we are going to the Rose Bowl again!”
Koeck can hardly wait to see his team in the “Granddaddy of Them All.” He already knows what he’s wearing.
“The last time Penn State played in the Rose Bowl was in January of 1995, and I’ll be wearing my sweatshirt from that game,” he said.
Penn State won that game, defeating the Oregon Ducks 38-20, so Koeck has good reason to don his lucky shirt when the Nittany Lions take on the University of Southern California Trojans at the 2017 Rose Bowl on Monday, January 2.
Koeck’s parting thoughts?
In typical Penn State football fan fashion: “WE ARE…!”
Rose Bowl Trivia: Why Monday?
The Tournament of Roses has had a “Never on Sunday” tradition since 1893, the first year since the beginning of the Tournament, that New Year’s Day fell on a Sunday. The Tournament wanted to avoid frightening horses that would be hitched outside churches and thus interfering with worship services so the events were moved to the next day, January 2. Though horses are no longer outside local churches, the tradition remains to this day. —tournamentofroses.com