CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (BP)--Frances (Newton) Moss is living proof that you’re never too old to start a love affair.
Frances Moss, a 103-year-old resident at the Grandview in Campbellsville, Ky., visits with the Campbellsville University Lady Tiger basketball team.
- Photo by Richard RoBards
Moss, who will be 104 in February, and Lady Tiger Basketball, which is 46 this year, are now connected thanks to Campbellsville University trustee Barry Bertram.
“It was just coincidental that we met her,” Lady Tiger Coach Ginger Colvin said. “It’s really good for our kids to bridge a gap, and this is a pretty huge gap.”
Moss is older than the aggregate age of any five present-day Lady Tiger players, older than the combined ages of most of the players’ parents and older than the combined ages of all three Lady Tiger coaches.
But they hold one thing in common -- a love for basketball.
In 1908 when Moss was born, the Model T Ford had just come off the assembly line, the Chicago Cubs won their last World Series and the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified authorizing the federal government to collect income taxes.
That last point is prophetic, considering that Moss spent 27 years with the Internal Revenue Service in Louisville, Ky.
“That’s a slap against me’” Moss joked. “I usually just tell people I worked for the government.”
Moss played ball in high school at Taylor County back in the mid-1920s. That was when women’s basketball played with six players -- three on offense and three on defense. After each made basket the ball was jumped again at mid-court so the presence of a good center was paramount.
“I was a very poor player,” Moss said, “but I was tall.”
Lady Tiger Mary Jehlik, at 6 feet 3 inches tall, might disagree. By today’s standards Moss would probably be a point guard - spouting out orders. Standing in at a wiry 5-foot-7 during her playing days, she was one of the taller players on her team.
“I wasn’t a goal shooter,” she said, “but we had some feisty players for that.”
“We’ve done a lot of community service projects,” Colvin said, “but I hope this one sparks a little interest. Mrs. Moss played and is still interested in the game. I just want the girls to know there are things going on besides what’s on campus.”
The team met with Moss for more than 30 minutes and then some of the players toured the Grandview, a nursing and rehabilitation facility where Moss lives, afterwards and met other residents.
“It’s just a neat opportunity to invest in the community, be a blessing and be blessed in the process,” said Kristi Ensminger, a CU assistant coach who is attending Louisville Baptist Theological Seminary. “The girls just loved it and many of them said they wished they could have had more one-on-one time with Mrs. Moss.
“We’ll be going back, I’m sure.”
Bertram, who is a retired Commonwealth’s Attorney, is a regular visitor to the Grandview. He occasionally sings to the residents and spends time getting to know most of them. When Bertram discovered that Moss was the half-sister of Peggy Graham, who along with her husband Chick, is a big fan of CU basketball, he offered to take Moss for a ride around town.
Moss grew up in Campbellsville and lived in a house just across Underwood Street (now Tiger Way) from what is now Druin Hall. The changes at the university startled her, only having been driven through campus once since she moved away. Bertram stopped at the Powell Athletic Center and that’s when she had a chance meeting with a couple of Lady Tigers -- Mackenzie Lee and Katie Allen.
When Moss found out that she was going to meet all the Lady Tigers, she said, “This is going to be the high point in my life as far as basketball is concerned.”
The day of the actual meeting, she said, “I can’t tell you what it means for all of you to come see me. The Lord has been good to me and he’s been good to me today, too.”
Moss has outlived most of her family. Her mother died when she was 18. She and a sister had to take care of the home and a 4-year-old younger brother. But she still managed to play basketball.
“My daddy loved basketball and that was part of the reason I wanted to continue- to please him,” she said.
Moss, who regularly watches university programming, was happy to learn that some of the Lady Tigers’ games are broadcast live.
“I’ll have to check that out if someone will remind me,” Moss said. “I loved (basketball) when I played. I’m sure I’ll love watching the Lady Tigers just as much.”
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