There are some things, at age 104, that Mary Ellen Purucker cannot go a day without. One is milk. She loves milk. She likes to read this local newspaper, too.
And at this time of year she doesn’t miss much news about the Kansas City Chiefs — more specifically quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Her most prized possession is a Mahomes jersey, autographed by No. 15 himself.
She has never met him. But if that day ever comes she knows what she will say: “I’ve been a great admirer of yours.” She considers him wise beyond his 27 years, with great finesse on the field. She’s followed his development since his college years.
“Actually I liked him before he came here, when he was at Texas Tech,” she told The Star at home in Claridge Court, the Prairie Village retirement community where she spends most days resting.
Purucker has cheered for the Chiefs longer than she or her family can even remember. That kind of devotion by female football fans is celebrated in the new movie “80 for Brady.”
In it, four octogenarian Tom Brady fans — played by Jane Fonda, Sally Field, Lily Tomlin and Rita Moreno — set out to watch him lead the New England Patriots in the 2017 Super Bowl. (That was before Brady moved to Tampa Bay, retired, un-retired, then retired again.)
The movie reminds us that the passion for football transcends gender and age.Consider, for instance, the “founding mothers” of the NFL.
The 2019 NFL Films documentary “A Lifetime of Sundays” told the history of the league through the memories of four NFL team owners, all women, all in their 80s and 90s. One was Norma Hunt, wife of Kansas City Chiefs founder Lamar Hunt.
“If she could have been down at Union Station (for the last Super Bowl victory rally), she would have been there,” Richard Purucker said of his mother, who gets around in a wheelchair.
She had no time to watch football in all those whirlwind years of raising three children, running a business, volunteering, raising money for local causes, sponsoring a polo team and riding horses — she rode well into her 80s.
She and her husband, George, ran their own companies in Kansas City. She decorated local businesses — banks, country clubs.
George created the large, decorative crowns that for years hung over downtown Kansas City streets at Christmas. The family worked on the first ones in their Prairie Village basement.
“She was very active in almost everything,” her son said. “Later on when she had more time, she really enjoyed sitting and watching football. It was a special day when Sunday came around. … Sunday was a special day to sit down and watch the Chiefs play.”
It still is. Her fellow residents at Claridge Court know when the Chiefs are playing — there’s she is wearing her red Chiefs scarf.
“People ask me, how do you get so old? You just do,” she said.
“What I really think is her secret to longevity is … after my dad passed away, which has been quite a few years, she was always active in everything,” said her son. “She was very social. She did volunteer work. She played bridge. She was always doing something, and had lots and lots of friends.”
“I was very lucky because I had a lot of friends,” his mother said. They’re important “to face life and what it has to present to us.”
Her friends keep tabs on her. When she celebrated her 102nd birthday during the pandemic, the Kansas City arts and society magazine The Independent posted a photo of her on Facebook, noting that “the lovely and inimitable Mary Ellen Purucker turned 102 years young on August 26th with a safe celebration at Claridge Court.
“Mary Ellen shared her treats from Yum Bakery with residents and staff, proving she is as generous as ever.”
Purucker was born in Cincinnati and is jokingly reluctant to share that there were other teams she rooted for before she and her husband moved to Kansas City after World War II. Then again, the Chiefs didn’t even come to Kansas City until 1963.
P.S.: She still roots for the Bengals unless they’re playing the Chiefs.
“Don’t go there,” she said, laughing. “I can’t help it. That’s where I was born.”
She predicts the Chiefs will win 20-10 Sunday, “because of Mahomes.”
She’ll be watching for as long as she can stay awake. She might be wearing that Mahomes jersey, signed: “To Mary Ellen, Thanks for all your support!”
It was a gift from her daughter’s husband. He played baseball, she said.
He is pretty well-known, she said.
His name is Sandy Koufax, she said.
He could really throw a ball, too.