CLARKSBURG - Even when they are struggling a bit on the softball diamond, the members of the Palomaki Family Chiropractic team of the Iron Range Women's Softball League know they can count on their rooting section to be there for them every single game.
And that rooting section has at least 200 years combined cheering experience.
The team members refer to this special group of fans as The Grandmas (and Grandpa). The five women and one man have been watching the softball players - and their other children and grandchiildren in other sporting ventures - compete for many years now.
The Grandmas who cheer on the Palomaki Family Chiropractic softball team are, from the left, Joan Pruitt, Lois Waters, Ruth Rogers, Audrey Bergman and Mary Skewis. Below, Skewis is happy to see her granddaughter, Christi McElroy, far right, and her great-granddaughter, Ava, 10 months, who attended the Palomaki Family Chiropractic softball game to cheer on family members. Mary has a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a granddaughter and a granddaughter-in-law on the team. Bottom, Bob Waters is the team’s loyal Grandpa fan, showing up at every game to cheer the women on. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
Many, many years.
"I have been attending sporting events since 1957," said Grandma Audrey Bergman, who has a daughter and a daughter-in-law on the Palomaki team. "Softball, baseball, basketball, football, wrestling, volleyball ... I did it all. I must have gone to thousands of games through the years.
"When my boys played fast pitch (softball) that was my favorite," she said. "But this is good, too."
Bergman has in total five sons, two daughters, a daughter-in-law and numerous grandchildren she cheers on.
Grandma Ruth Rogers is the matriarch of the cheering group at age 93. Sports have been a lifetime favorite of hers.
"Oh, yes. I played softball when I was younger. I think I must have played every position," she said. "I liked them all. I love to watch the games still."
Grandma Lois Waters estimates she has spent more than three decades watching the females in her family play softball.
"It's enjoyable watching my granddaughter (Rebecca Waters Korpi) play," she said.
Grandma Joan Truscott, too, has a granddaughter on the team. A daughter is part of the squad as well.
"It has been quite a few years I have been coming out for this," she smiled. "I just love watching them."
The ladies of the cheering group bring lawn chairs and sit en masse. But the male member of the team's entourage stands while viewing the action.
"I'm an honorary fan," said Grandpa Bill Waters. "They even got me a cap. I don't sit with (The Grandmas) unless I have to. They have their gossip going ..."
Grandma Mary Skewis has daughter, a daughter-in-law, a granddaughter and a granddaughter-in-law on the team.
"I try to make it to all the games," she said. "They didn't have organized sports when I was young, but I have always enjoyed watching."
"We grew up in the time before girls were allowed to play ball," Grandma Bergman said.
"We could skate and we could ski," Grandma Skewis said. "But we didn't play these team sports."
The women on the team appreciate The Grandmas' and Grandpa's backing.
"It's great," said Katie Trudgeon, one of the younger members of the team. "They are very supportive. And they let us know if it's boring."
Jenni Palomaki added: "They are here rain or shine and we appreciate it."
That appreciation is exhibited by the special treatment The Grandmas and Grandpa receive.
"They treat us so well," Grandma Bergman said. "When you get to a certain age, I guess people do."
Grandma Skewis pointed out the women had bought T-shirts and sweatshirts for their fan group.
"These are gifts the girls got us. So sweet," she said.
But beyond clothing, the team brings cookies, popcorn and even pizza as treats for the older crowd.
"We have to spoil them," said Rosemary Korpi, Grandma Skewis' daughter. "There's not much to cheer about when you're watching our side."
But that doesn't matter to the elders.
"We're more the silent types of fans. When they do something good, we yell," Grandma Bergman said.
"Especially when they're behind," added Grandma Skewis.
This particular Wednesday evening, there was a lot to cheer about. Palomaki beat its opponent, U.P. Rehab Services, 16-14.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253.