John's Journal: Catching Up With Old Friends At Moose Lake-Willow River
Posted: Saturday, October 1, 2022 - 11:24 AM
In January 2020 I traveled to Moose Lake-Willow River for a boys basketball game. I was drawn there by Mary Ellen Dewey, who at the time had kept a scorebook for every basketball game she attended over 58 years. I had a wonderful time, chatting with Mary Ellen, her husband Pat, sons John and Paul and their grandkids.
In 2020, Paul Dewey was an assistant boys coach for the Rebels. Now he's the head coach and Pat, a career educator and coach, has been pulled out of retirement to serve as an assistant coach for his son's team.
The Dewey's grandson Luke is a junior who also plays football, so when I watched the Rebels face Mesabi East on Friday in that sport in Willow River, it was great to see Mary Ellen and Pat again. We stood on the field after the game and caught up. It was wonderful. They are terrific people.
I'm re-posting the story that was originally posted on Jan. 20, 2020, because it's too good not to share...
Everybody In Moose Lake And Beyond Knows Mary Ellen Dewey
MOOSE LAKE – My plan in going to Moose Lake for a boys basketball game on Thursday night was pretty simple. The subject of the story that would result was Mary Ellen Dewey. I didn't know much about Mary Ellen until a couple days earlier, other than the amazing fact that she has kept a scorebook for every basketball game she has attended over 58 years. We talked on the phone Tuesday and I knew I was in for a real treat.
She was a 15-year-old sophomore (then she was Mary Ellen Funda, "Like in fun," she told me on the phone) at St. John's Academy in Jamestown, N.D. The fact that a boy she liked, Pat Dewey, was on the basketball team probably played a role in Mary Ellen learning how to keep a scorebook. They graduated from high school in 1965 and got married several years later as Pat became a coach. Mary Ellen and her scorebook have always been there for basketball games when Pat was coaching, when their two sons played, and now as they have grandsons playing at Moose Lake-Willow River.
While in Moose Lake for the game, I Tweeted some photos of Mary Ellen and a brief description of her 58 years with a scorebook in her lap. I soon learned that the best way to describe Mary Ellen and Pat is to let people who know them best do it. The Tweets began to fly …
I don't think Mrs. Dewey ever missed a game that Dew coached. She's a wonderful woman, thanks for sharing her story. … Josh Weise.
She and her husband are both amazing human beings. Kindest and nicest people you'll ever meet in your life. They always greet everyone they meet with a warm and genuine smile. I had the honor of playing for her husband and I don't think she ever missed a game. … Ben Drilling.
A perfect story to share statewide on a wonderful woman and family. … Tim Franklin.
I was fortunate to grow up in Sandstone with the Dewey family as my "other parents." I would often tease my Mom that her many wonderful home cooked meals were excellent, but not on the same level as Mary Ellen Dewey! … Rob Lundorff.
Mary Ellen and Pat Dewey! Two of the greatest people in the world!! … Tom Wetschka.
Her and Pat are two of the nicest people I've ever met and worked with in my broadcasting career. Mary Ellen also makes a killler "Death by Chocolate" dessert. … Jim Erickson.
I received a little gift from Mary Ellen and her kitchen; she sent me home with some delicious blueberry muffins. She is well-known for bringing bars for officials and goodies for her family’s teams. It’s remarkable that Pat is so fit and trim from a lifetime of those treats; he coached for 32 years in nearby Sandstone (the school is now East Central), including basketball, track and field, football and baseball, and also worked as the athletic director before retiring.
Mary Ellen has been there in the gym every time, while also maintaining baseball scorebooks and joining Pat on football scouting trips.
“When you are married to a coach and they come home after a game, they replay the whole game,” said Mary Ellen, who was a basketball player in high school. “There weren’t computers, you did stats with a pencil.”
When the Moose Lake-Willow River Rebels score – which they did a lot in Thursday’s 84-40 victory over the Silver Bay Mariners – the hometown fans cheer and Mary Ellen’s head quickly dips into her scorebook as she notes who got the points. She has spent a lot of time as an official scorekeeper over the decades, but now she primarily keeps a book from her bleacher seat.
“She does a fantastic job,” said Rebels coach Wes Cummins. “I’ve had managers do my stats but I can go to her after games because she keeps real detailed stats. And (Mary Ellen and Pat) do scouting for us; they’ll email me a whole scouting report.”
Mary Ellen and Pat are called Grandma and Grandpa by lots of young folks, most of whom are not their grandchildren. Their grandsons who play for the Rebels are senior Ben, sophomore Sam and eighth-grader Luke. Their father, Paul Dewey, is an assistant coach and they have a little sister, Isabella, who is on a sixth-grade basketball team coached by her (actual) Grandpa Dewey.
Mary Ellen is a very busy 72-year-old. She writes high school sports stories for the local newspaper, writes a weekly recipe column and has been handling local folks’ taxes with H&R Block for 43 years.
Thursday’s game had all the typical trappings of a classic high school event. There was a 50-50 raffle with proceeds going to the choir and band spring trip, root beer floats sold to benefit the post-prom party, hot pizza at the concession stand, a large group of enthusiastic student fans, and senior basketball player Michael Olson singing a splendid national anthem. Everybody knew Mary Ellen and Pat.
“I keep track even if my kids aren’t involved,” she said. “I pay attention to the game instead of people-watch. I’ve always done that even if I don’t have people playing.”
How different would it be if Mary Ellen and her scorebook weren’t in the gym?
“It's never happened,” Cummins said. “I guess we’d probably first call the police.”
As grandson Sam put it, if his grandma wasn’t on hand “There'd be a hole for sure.”
Mary Ellen and Pat also travel to the Twin Cities for games involving two more grandkids, children of their son Dan. Mary Ellen has saved all her scorebooks from multiple sports but has no idea how many games she has witnessed. There are periods in which she has kept score for 10 games in seven days.
“I would never go to Arizona in the winter,” she said. “I don’t know how people do that when they have kids playing.”
Pat said, “She's passionate about it. Sometimes she's the first fan here.”
Mary Ellen and Pat have attended every boys state basketball tournament since 1970. By that time of the year, basketball is winding down. Mary Ellen doesn’t much care for that.
“I go through popcorn withdrawal in April,” she said with a smile.
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at email@example.com