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Old Alma Mater’s Sons Are We

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Bart and Riley offer a reflection on the life of their dad, Larry Johnston

The Johnston Family - Orange Bowl 2006

The road to college sports fandom can be paved in a variety of ways. Some folks come by their passion by picking a team that they want to follow, some come by it through the school that they attended, and some come by it simply through birthright. In our case, there was never much of a question as to where our Wake Forest fanhood came from: our parents, Ann and Larry Johnston.

Some of our earliest and best memories are tailgating on the grassy strip of the Gold Lot outside Groves Stadium, and hanging out before and after games in the Hoops Room at the Joel. We had the opportunity to watch Tim Duncan dominate the paint against top tier ACC competition. We had the chance to sit at baseball games at the old Hooks Stadium and watch the Diamond Deacs play afternoon games in the spring North Carolina sun. We sat through years of terrible football but ultimately got the chance to attend the Orange Bowl in 2006 to inexplicably watch the ACC Champion Wake Forest Demon Deacons play in a BCS Bowl. These events are memorable not only because of the games that we watched, but also due to the fact that we attended them with our parents.

The Johnston family’s infatuation with Wake Forest is directly traced back to the fall of 1970 when our dad enrolled in the Wake Forest School of Law. Once he set foot on campus (as a life long NC State fan) he hardly ever looked back - attending nearly every home football and basketball game over the next four decades, including plenty of road contests in each sport.

We would like to say that this merely became a family tradition, but it was more than that, it was a way of life. If Wake had a home football or basketball game, there was never any question as to what we would be doing: we’d be in attendance and we would make a day (and/or night) out of it. If Wake was on the road, we’d either camp out in front of the TV in excitement, or crank the radio up and listen to Stan Cotten call the game.

Anybody who knows us certainly realizes that this passion and excitement our parents have for Wake Forest has carried over, as evidenced by our own attendance at the school, as well as our writing a blog dedicated to the athletics of Mother So Dear.

It is with a heavy heart that we share that our dad passed away on Friday, August 10th after a brief illness. While this is obviously a tough time for our family, we feel that it is important to share this news with the Blogger So Dear community and pass along a couple of stories that encapsulate how much Wake Forest meant to him.

The final football game that he attended was the Belk Bowl in Charlotte last December that saw a 55-52 Wake Forest win over Texas A&M. Larry was particularly excited about this game because he loved to see the Deacs take on the “big boys” of college football. He was in “rare form” this game, yelling from the opening kickoff to the final whistle (with only a small percentage of this enthusiasm due to the alcohol).

Perhaps the best football game that he attended was the 1979 comeback victory over the 13th ranked Auburn Tigers. The Deacs trailed 38-20 at halftime, and used a ferocious second half to stun the SEC power, 42-38.

Larry, obviously in attendance with his friends, did the only thing that he knew to do after the victory: head to the home of the only Auburn fan that he knew, knock on the front door, and parade through the house playing “O Here’s To Wake Forest” on his heralded kazoo.

These two stories are a big part of Johnston folklore because they encompass both his passion for Wake Forest and his overall, and often boisterous, enjoyment of life.

In light of the above, we would love nothing more than to read in the comment section below the best memories and stories that you have with your family members about Wake Forest. Funny and/or bawdy stories are particularly encouraged.

Finally, we would also be remiss if we did not take this presented opportunity to end the article the exact way that our dad would have wanted - with a spirited and wholehearted “GO TO HELL CAROLINA!”

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and as always, Go Deacs!