Betty Gibson had been dealing with Alzheimer's disease for the last few years and that was harmful to her zeal for Minnesota sports, and particularly Gophers men's hockey.
"My grandmother never missed watching a game until her Alzheimer's took over,'' wrote granddaughter Erin Gibson on a Twitter message. "She knew every player, including the recruits. Other than being with her family, Gophers hockey was her absolute favorite thing.''
Gibson, 89, died Sunday in Rochester. She had lived there since the mid-1960s, although Betty's hockey roots went back to International Falls. Her father Walt Scheela was the Falls High athletic director and at the forefront in starting the Broncos hockey program in 1948-49.
In order to launch hockey, the Broncos played either at on outdoor rink downtown or across the bridge at Memorial Arena in Fort Frances, Ontario.
Meaning, those five state championships, including four in five years, came with the Broncos playing home games in Canada. The title years were 1957, 1962, then 1964-65-66.
Scheela also had been the driving force in 1941 to name the high school teams in honor of Bronko Nagurski, the football legend from the Falls. Prior to that, the teams were "The Men in Purple and Gold.''
Betty Scheela was in high school when her father helped lead the charge to start hockey.
"Mom was in school with Dick Dougherty, and then he went to Minnesota and had a great career with the Gophers,'' said Bruce Gibson, the oldest of Betty's 12 children. "That's where her passion for the Gophers started, I'm sure.''
Dougherty teamed with Eveleth's John Mayasich and Minneapolis South's Gene Campbell to form what for years Gophers coach John Mariucci called college hockey's greatest-ever line.
Those Gophers had found a clear path to the NCAA title in 1954, but then they were upset by RPI in the championship game in Colorado Springs.
(An aside: First hockey game I ever monitored on radio in Fulda, Minn. Had never seen a game in any form, but it was the Gophers, so I was a depressed youth.)
"Larry Ross was also at the university for a couple of years as a goaltender,'' Bruce Gibson said. "My grandpa Walt hired Larry as the Falls hockey coach and he had the job for 30 years.
"We were living in Rochester and I remember Walt calling us and saying, 'We're playing at South St. Paul. I'll leave tickets for you.' That was one of the Tim Sheehy teams.
"Doug Woog was with the Gophers then, I think, but he was at that game. It was great, and South St. Paul had this new arena.''
Did Betty Gibson approve of Woog later when he became the Gophers coach?
"She was always very opinionated, and I'm sure had her moments of criticism aimed at Woog, but, yes, she liked Doug,'' Bruce said. "And she loved Herbie Brooks, for winning those titles with the Gophers and the U.S. Olympic gold medal.''
Oldest offspring Bruce laughed slightly and said: "But even with Herbie, she always thought Larry Ross should be the Gophers coach.
"Larry and Walt Scheela were the best of friends. When grandpa Walt died, Larry and I were two of the pall bearers.''
Elizabeth Gibson and her husband Donald started off their family in International Falls, moved to Wyoming, moved back to the Falls, then to Illinois, and finally to Rochester.
"My mom was either pregnant or recovering from pregnancy from 1950, when I was born, until1963,'' Bruce said. "Eight girls and four boys. No twins, but I think we have two sets of siblings that were born in the same year.''
The Gibsons were divorced in 1976. She remained Mom in Charge. And through the "Cheaper by the Dozen'' chaos, Betty maintained her ardor for Minnesota sports – Gophers hockey, but all teams, really.
Bruce said she could get just as upset watching a Vikings game as a Gophers hockey game.
"And when she was at a game, with her kids or grandkids playing, the referees and umpires always knew Mom was around,'' he said. "I remember just playing slow-pitch softball in an adult league, and she was there getting on the ump.''
Her father Walt did more than pioneer hockey at Falls High. A quarter-century before Title IX, he started a girls softball team that would find games in the area. Betty played on some of those teams.
Nine of Betty's children were able to be at her bedside when she died on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. at Rochester East Health Service.
The connection to Gophers hockey remained strong into the 2000s. Ben Gordon came out of the Falls and played four seasons for the Gophers from 2004 to '08. Betty Gibson and Gordon's grandmother were distant cousins and close friends in the Falls.
Gordon is now a Gophers assistant coach. "We would get Mom to Mariucci for a few games when Ben was playing,'' Bruce said. "We also would make it to the state tournament. She loved that.
"Prior to the Alzheimer's getting bad, Mom designed her own funeral. It's going to be next weekend and there will be Gophers stuff.''