84-year-old fan entertains Tabor athletes
Ever since Joyce Kessler, 84, was in school at Lehigh, she has been involved with men’s basketball.
“I like basketball boys because I always was with them,” she said. “We pooled cars to go to games together.”
Now, she entertains them at her home in Carriage Hills.
Joyce played basketball at Tabor College one year before marrying George Kessler. They lived on a farm at Lehigh.
For years, the couple attended every Tabor home game. Joyce often kept her own stats, writing down the records of each player.
She got to know many Tabor students while working in the school kitchen there for 15 years, and she and her husband often entertained them in their home.
In 2015, after George’s death, Joyce sold her farm and moved to Carriage Hills in Hillsboro. She became friends with a Tabor basketball player who lived across the street.
That friendship began a tradition of hosting Tabor players during the basketball season. She always serves lasagna and zwieback.
Joyce sometimes boards players’ parents when they come to visit.
Three years ago, she met Noah Brown of South Carolina. The 6-foot, 6-inch post player invited a few others to join him for a meal at Joyce’s home.
“We started with three or four, but now it is more like seven or eight,” Brown said.
Several gathered Friday at Joyce’s home. Among them were Darian Ratzlaff, a senior from Hillsboro; Camron Moses, a freshman from Wichita; and Leon Srisamutr, a junior from England.
Two softball players — Rheanna Smith, a senior from Reno, Nevada, and Alicia Lopez, a senior from southern California – also joined them.
All affectionately called their hostess “Miss Joyce.”
“It’s nice to get a home-cooked meal,” Rheanna said.
They bantered with Joyce throughout the meal and waited expectantly after they were finished.
“Well, are you ready for dessert?” Joyce asked.
“Yes,” they said with one accord.
Everyone got up and took plates and utensils to the kitchen. While the women rinsed plates and got them ready for the dishwasher, the men spooned strawberries and ice cream into goblets containing pieces of angel food cake.
The group lingered for a while after they ate dessert, seemingly reluctant to leave the warm home atmosphere Joyce provided.
“I love doing it,” Joyce said.
She makes cookies and other snacks for the players at other times.
Now, she may be hosting softball players as the season gets under way.
“I love people, and I have time to do it,” she said.
Last modified March 2, 2022