Readers: This is a piece I wrote to be read at the services for Betty in Sacramento, California.
"BIG RED BETTY" WALKER
November 1, 1933-February 9, 2009
Husker Pride Worldwide lost one of its brightest stars this week with the passing of Betty "Big Red Betty" Walker of Lincoln, California. She was the consummate Husker fan who was passionate about her team. And her love of Husker football wasn't limited to just wearing red on game days. In fact, she could recite details about Husker football games dating back to the early '50s when she first became a Husker fan. Betty knew the names of players and coaches who for over 50 years had been a part of the Husker football program. She celebrated the many Husker victories and agonized over the sometimes painful losses.
To be sure, the 1950s was not a good time to become a Husker football fan. In fact, between 1950 and 1961, the Huskers enjoyed only three winning seasons.
Betty and I became friends when she started writing me several years ago, commenting on something I had written on Huskerpedia.com. I could tell this lady knew her stuff. And although she loved her Huskers, she was never afraid to speak up when she felt her team deserved some criticism.
When Gary McGirr (Northeast Kansans For Nebraska) and I began Husker Dan's Army several years ago, it was Betty who stepped to the plate and became our first donor. She liked the idea that we were using the money to send Husker Care Packages (T-shirts, media guides, baseball caps, posters etc.) to troopers who were serving in the Middle East and who had registered with us. Through the generosity of people like Betty, we have been able to bring a touch of Nebraska to 100s of American men and women serving in the armed forces.
Although Betty and I never met, I feel as though I knew her. We talked many times on the phone after she had been diagnosed with cancer. She told me about how she had grown up on farms in the Nebraska towns of Walbach and Sutton. We both played musical instruments and laughed that one day we'd start a band together!
After Betty traveled to Los Angeles to see the Huskers play Southern Cal in September of 2006, she sent me some pictures she had taken of her trip. One of them was a photo of her and Roger Craig who was a star running back for the Huskers in the early '80s and went on to play with the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers of the NFL.
In November of '07, Betty told me the bad news. Her cancer had spread and she was told that she had only months to live. A little birdie I know told several people about Betty's situation, including former Husker head football coach and current Husker A.D. Tom Osborne, former "Voice of the Huskers" Kent Pavelka and former Nebraska Heisman trophy winner Eric Crouch. All of them called Betty to give her their support and, of course, to talk about Nebraska football.
At that time, I asked Betty if it would be okay to write something in my column about her condition. I also asked if I could include her email address so that Husker fans could write her. And write her, they did! Betty told me she received over a hundred email messages from Husker fans all over the globe. All of them wished her well and said they would keep her in their prayers.
And a year ago, I launched my first annual Husker Dan "Danno Awards" list that recognized the best of the 2007 Husker football season. I included an award for the Best Husker Football Fan. But instead of using that title, I decided to call it the "Betty Walker Award". And from here on, the award will always carry her name.
When she told me the bad news, she lamented that she wished she could live long enough to see just one more Husker football game. And when the Husker season began late last August, Betty was still with us. In fact, she got to live long enough to see the entire 2008 season, including the Huskers' Gator Bowl win over the Clemson Tigers.
Betty "Big Red Betty" Walker will be missed terribly. But I wouldn't be surprised that sometime this fall, when the Huskers are in a very close game and need to make a critical play, Betty will be looking down from her Big Red chair in Big Red Heaven next to Bob Devaney, Brook Berringer, Jake Young and Wayne Meylan and lend the Huskers a helping hand.