Section 112, Row E behind the scorer's table at the Constant Center. Two seats.
As long as he could, Old Dominion supporter Gilbert Booker sat in one of them.
Booker died on Sunday, at 96 years of age. He would have turned 97 on Nov. 9.
At one point, he had missed only a handful of Lady Monarch games, but age sent him to a Portsmouth nursing home a few years ago.
He was a friend and an inspiration to me. I sat in front of him in 1997 when the ODU charter bus stalled on a French highway amid a blizzard. The Ticha Penicheiro-led Lady Monarchs spent the night on that bus with nothing but snow and tractor-trailers in view. ODU was on a 10-day trip to France and Portugal; we had just seen Lucienne Berthieu play against the Lady Monarchs hours before. The highway closed with us on it.
I wanted to scream that night. My legs ached. I was scared and hungry and there were no restrooms. Cell phones didn't really exist. Mr. Booker was calm, upbeat and unrattled. He had terrific perspective. I never heard him complain about anything over the years. He was an astute fan who had scrapbooks full of photos of the team that he started following as a hobby the day he retired. He didn't go to ODU, but I rarely saw him without his blue hat.
I can't be at his funeral on Saturday. My own mother is battling for her life in an Arlington hospital, and I am going to see her. She could use both his perspective and his strength. Frankly, those are things we could all benefit from.
RIP, Mr. Booker. You will be missed and remembered every time the ball tips for the Lady Monarchs.