It is the day after a Seattle Mariners’ loss and Thea Forsyth is concerned about Taijuan Walker.
Now 97, Forsyth started watching the Northwest’s favorite team with her sister, Alice, in the late 1990s. They followed the team through magical seasons like 2001 when the club set a franchise record with 116 wins and kept cheering through the lean years.
Although her sister has passed away, Thea makes it a point to catch every Mariners’ game from the living room of her Spokane Valley home. With Seattle off to an encouraging start this year, Thea has been enthused. When Walker, one of the team’s best young pitchers, was pulled after two innings against Houston on May 6, she could tell that something wasn’t right.
“It looked like Walker was hurt,” Forsyth said. “I hope he’s going to be OK.”
Even though it’s been 15 years since her favorite team qualified for the post-season, Thea refuses to be a fair weather fan.
“You don’t just stop following a team because they struggle,” she said. “You stick with them.”
Forsyth’s friend and fellow Valley resident JoAnn Howard brought Thea a Mariners’ official game program and a “No. 1 Fan” license plate after attending a game at Safeco Field in Seattle several years ago. She says Thea is “one of the most loyal fans” she knows.
“Thea really supports the Mariners no matter how they are doing,” said JoAnn who, like Thea, attends the Evergreen Ward in the Spokane East Stake. “It’s fun to talk about the games with her because she’s really dedicated to the team. She’s just a very sweet lady and a good friend.”
Forsyth’s allegiance to local teams includes following the Gonzaga University men’s basketball team during the cold weather months. References to the Zags can be found throughout her residence, including a pillow stitched by a friend and a special hand-drawn birthday card from a great-grandchild festooned with a Bulldog design and school colors.
“Sports is a great outlet for her,” said Chad Galloway who is married to Thea’s daughter, Sandy. “I’m glad we have the Mariners in the summer and Gonzaga in the winter.”
Earlier this year, Chad and Sandy – also members of the Evergreen Ward – took Thea to a Zags’ home game at the McCarthey Athletic Center. The trio sat in a special section near the GU band and student section better known as “The Kennel Club.”
“It was noisy but it was great to be there,” said Thea. “That tuba was something else.”
Gonzaga defeated Santa Clara 84-67 on Jan. 28 with Forsyth part of another sold-out crowd of 6,000. Afterward, Zags’ standout senior Kyle Wiltjer, who scored 35 points in the game, sent Chad a text thanking him, Sandy and Thea for their support. Wiltjer was given Chad’s number by a Gonzaga teacher who knows the Forsyth family.
When the Zags fell out of the top 25 national rankings this season, Thea maintained faith. She rooted the team on through monumental conference wins against BYU and St. Mary’s late in the season and watched as Gonzaga upset Seton Hall and Utah in the NCAA tournament. Despite a three-point loss to Syracuse in the Sweet 16, Forsyth said the team proved many doubters wrong.
“It was too bad, too sad when the lost, but it was a great year,” she said.
Thea arrived in Spokane Valley with her husband, Charles, in 1948. The couple moved to Greenacres from their home outside Cardston, Alberta. Thea remembers the move being more difficult for Charles, who had been raised on a sprawling homestead and had to adjust to life in rural suburbia.
“It was a bigger change for him,” Thea said.
Born in 1919, Thea was a youngster when the effects of the Great Depression in the U.S. spilled over into Canada.
“My dad was a carpenter, there wasn’t much work,” Thea recalls. “Most of the food we had came from our garden.”
When Thea first moved stateside the biggest luxury was a modern stove.
“We’d had a wood stove back home, so it was a nice change,” she said.
The Valley has gone through no shortage of changes in the nearly 70 years Thea has called it home. From the construction of an interstate highway to bustling retail sites where fruit stands once stood, the change has been steady.
“It was nothing like it is now,” she said. “There used to be quite a few orchards and they’re mostly gone now. It’s a busy, busy place but I don’t know where else I’d like to live.”
Thea and Charles built a home in Otis Orchards in 1954. Sandy remembers her mom on the construction site, pitching in on the project.
“Mom is a hard worker,” Sandy said. “She’s just very ambitious, whether it’s yard work, gardening or baking. She’s been a wonderful mom, just always very supportive.”
Charles, who was employed 30 years in the Iron Workers Union, very rarely had store-bought bread. Thea’s homemade bread remains the topic of glittering reviews from relatives and neighbors.
Charles passed away in January at the age of 100. The couple’s family tree includes two children, four grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
Charles and Thea were sealed in the Cardston, Alberta Temple. They celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary last September. Long before computers and programs like FamilySearch, the couple began working by hand on name extractions for temple work. Their volunteer service spanned 28 years.
These days, Thea watches Mariners’ games on a TV a few generations advanced from the black-and-white cabinet version she and Charles had in the 1950s. With her favorite team battling for a division title, Thea knows there is reason to believe Seattle might finally qualify for baseball’s post-season pinnacle.
“They’re playing good,” she said. “If they’re going to get to a World Series, they better do it this year. I might not be around next year.”