clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

In Memory Of Elizabeth King

As you've probably noticed, if you read the front page, we've had some personal issues to deal with over the last couple of weeks. Over the years that I've been involved with DBR, as the site grew bigger than we ever expected, I've tried to keep a certain level of privacy. There are times though when that's not possible, and the death of my mother, Elizabeth King, is one of those times.I mention her not simply because she's my mother but because she was an extraordinary Duke fan and a lot of you guys knew her and were her friends and relatives, and this is the best way to let you know what happened.

She died Sunday after a number of difficult situations became too much for her to overcome. She put up a brave fight but couldn't overcome it all.

But really, we (and she) got several years more than we expected to get, because by any reasonable standard, she should have died in 2001, when she came down with streptococcal pneumonia, and also developed serious kidney problems, suffered a heart attack, multiple blood clots, and a temporary form of diabetes, among many other medical crises. But she had an exceptionally strong will to live and so overcame every bit of it. She got back on her feet and continued to live her life her way, zealously independent until quite recently.

As I said, she was a Duke fan through thick and thin, and a walking history of the program. She started attending games early in her life, and was regular by her teen years. She went to every Dixie Classic game, and every ACC and Final Four that Duke was part of, with the exception of 2001, when she was so terribly racked by pneumonia.

She got her season tickets in 1960 and sat in those seats without fail (and I mean without fail) from the 1960 season until this year, when she had to miss the Virginia Tech game. We've tried to figure out how long a streak that is, but haven't had time to put it together. But almost 47 full years without missing a single home game is a pretty good streak by anyone's standards.

The Hart children, and three cousins (on the left), somewhere around late 1941. Elizabeth is in the back right corner. Julia, Deryl, and John Hart are on the steps below her. The cousins are Peggy, Bertha Lee, and John Johnson, descending.

She knew Vic Bubas well and became life-long friends with players from that era, including Jeff Mullins, Freddie Lind, Mike Lewis, and Jack Marin, among others, and also Dave Long, who was (forgive us if we misremember) a team manager. Jack was very kind recently and brought her a wonderful dinner while she was attempting to regain her health and watched a game with her. Small kindness you might say, but it lit her up like you wouldn't believe.

She had many friends from the Foster era as well, including Scott Goetsch, Steve Gray and Mike Tissaw, among others.

In the early years of Coach K's tenure, while many people complained, she understood what he was trying to do, that he was building something, and had nothing but scorn for his impatient critics.

And really that was one of the most amazing things about her: she did any number of things brilliantly - piano, singing, needlepoint, book binding and psychiatry form a partial list - but her enduring passion was Duke basketball, and she had a feel for the game which was amazing.

She understood precisely what Coach K was trying to do when it wasn't apparent; she understood the problems of the 1979 Foster's team before they were entirely evident; she could look at an opposing team and pick out who you didn't want on the line.

She was, by profession, a student of personality and psychology, and she applied those skills ruthlessly to basketball. If she had ever had any desire to, she could have made a killing as a bookie.

But that wasn't her world. She was the most honest person I have ever met. She wouldn't take a penny from the sidewalk if it wasn't hers. The only thing she ever intentionally did wrong was to speed, and even then, she never went over 70 in a 65 zone.

She also had a knack of making friends with people of radically different ages. So while guys like Mullins and Gray would look for her in her seat when they returned for visits, she had dozens of friends who were barely out of their teens. People appreciated her kindness and returned her tremendous sense of love. This was very evident during her illness, when friends began to pop up on a regular basis, inquiring about her, calling to express their concern, or just, at the end, to ask us to tell her they loved her and missed her. It was overwhelming and hugely appreciated.

On another level, I want to acknowledge three people who were simply amazing during her illness. First, my brother Bill King, who put his life on hold to help care for her. He learned her medicines and her treatments; he knew everyone who treated her, and gave himself a working medical education in a very short period of time. He also revealed a nobility that people might have guessed at but didn't really see until it was needed. Suffice it to say that I'm lucky enough to say that my brother was my hero when I was a child, but is even more of one as a grown man.

The second person I want to acknowledge is my mother's secretary and office manager, Beth Oliver. Thos were her titles on the forms anyway, but she became much, much more. She became my mother's best friend over the years and told me she saw mom as her second mother, since she lost her own at a very young age.

She shopped for Mom, visited her every day while she was ill, wrote her bills, washed her hair in the hospital - you name it, she did it. She became part of the family in a most profound way, and we'll always be indebted to her for what she did. If any of you are lucky enough to have someone like that in your life, count your blessings. It doesn't happen very often. Beth is an extraordinary woman and friend and I'm blessed to now call her my sister.

And third, my wife, Aimee, who has been incredibly loving and supportive as my mother's health failed. Losing one's mother is very difficult, but Aimee has kept me grounded and sane during a very, very trying time. As time goes by, I grow more and more aware of how lucky I am that she is in my life. She is an amazing person in any number of ways.

Finally, a number of you have sent very kind e-mails over the last couple of weeks. I haven't had time to answer everything, but I read them all and appreciated every one of them. They lifted my spirits a great deal. A lot of the fun has gone out of basketball for now - for one, I can't call Mom to get her insights on the brackets, something I looked forward to every March - but I still share her passion for the sport, for Duke, and for the friendship of good people. Thanks to everyone again for all the kindnesses extended recently. It's made a huge difference to me and to my brothers as well.

If you knew her and would like to send us memories you have of her, please do. If we get enough, we'll put them together in the near future. We haven't decided on what to do in lieu of flowers, but one gesture I know she would appreciate: raise your fist in the general direction of Chapel Hill and say: this one's for you Liz - Go To Hell, Carolina, Go To Hell!