SAN DIEGO – The Gophers Goal Line Club held a special breakfast Tuesday morning to recognize Warren and Ardella Quarnstrom, both age 91, who had never been to a bowl game before this trip to the Holiday Bowl.
The Quarnstroms, who live in Marshall, Minn., flew to San Diego with the Creative Charters group, arriving Monday. They were eating their eggs Tuesday at Joe’s Crab Shack, along with 200-plus Gophers fans, when a surprise guest arrived.
Gophers coach Tracy Claeys stopped by the restaurant to personally deliver the Quarnstroms an autographed football.
“I appreciate you all coming out here,” Claeys said over the restaurant’s loud speaker. “I know San Diego is not the cheapest place to visit. Have fun at the game. Give ’em hell, and go Gophers!”
Holding the football moments later, Warren Quarnstrom said, “I still have two years of eligibility left.”
After enlisting in the Navy during World War II, Warren got his undergrad degree from the University of Minnesota before getting his law degree from the Minneapolis College of Law. Norma graduated from St. Olaf and went on to teach in Edina.
They were high school sweethearts who married on Nov. 23, 1950. For their honeymoon, they went to Madison, Wis., where they watched the Gophers lose to the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium two days later.
They remained big Gophers fans, as Warren went on to practice law in Marshall, finally retiring in 2009 at age 83.
They have a son and daughter who both graduated from the Carlson School of Management and a granddaughter who attends the university now.
In early December, when the Gophers received their bid to play in the Holiday Bowl against Washington State, two friends of the Quarnstroms, Lee and Norma Raske, suggested they all go to California.
“We said, ‘Sure, let’s go,’ ” Ardella Quarnstrom said. “We like to travel.”
They were at Qualcomm Stadium for Tuesday’s game and will have another day to enjoy San Diego before flying back to Minnesota on Thursday. So far, it’s been a good trip, they said.
“I didn’t mean to cause this much disturbance,” Warren said of all the attention they’ve received from fellow Gophers fans — and Claeys.
As fans left the restaurant, Bob Hughes, the Goal Line Club president, stood at the door, shaking hands.
“How about Tracy Claeys? Is that incredible?” Hughes said. “We’ve never had a coach quite like him. True Gophers fans love him.”