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101 and still listening

By Staff | Feb 28, 2014

Tim Chapman/PCT Rugby resident Inez Thorstenson is the proud great-great aunt of five members of the Rugby High School basketball programs. Thorstenson listens to nearly every RHS game on the radio. Also pictured are great-great nieces and nephews (back row) Allie Foster, Brad Heidlebaugh and Zach Miller; (front row) Shea Heidlebaugh and Landen Foster.

Good luck trying to tell Inez Thorstenson something she doesn’t already know about Rugby High School basketball or the Minnesota Twins.

Thorstenson, 101, knows the Twins need better pitching because she listens to most games on the radio. She even jokes about ending her run as a fan if they don’t shape up.

The Twins are secondary though. Thorstenson is more concerned with how the Panthers are doing on the court because she’s the great-great aunt of five players at RHS.

The dial is firmly set on 1450 AM when great-great nephews Brad Heidlebaugh and Zach Miller are playing, or when great-great nieces Shea Heidlebaugh and Allie Foster take the floor. Eighth-grader Landen Foster, another great-great nephew, played for the junior varsity this year.

Thorstenson said her favorite part of tuning in is hearing Rugby ahead in the final score.

“I feel sad when they lose,” she said Sunday from her room in long-term care at Heart of America Medical Center.

Getting to games isn’t as easy anymore, but Thorstenson doesn’t mind listening from home. She rattles off names like Presthus and McLean, going back more than half a century to RHS teams as if they played just 10 years ago.

“Everybody else is amazed at me and I don’t even think about it,” Thorstenson said. “I just go on. I used to go to all of the games. There was a time where I didn’t have any (relatives) playing, but now they’ve come back.”?The latest group includes Brad Heidlebaugh, a likely first-team all-state selection this year.

“It means a lot that your family and people around the community are still listening to us even at an old age and they’re still supporting us,” Brad said. “It really means a lot to her to be able to see her great-great nephews, who come and see her and support her while she supports us.”

The group of five visited with Thorstenson on Sunday, bringing big smiles to everyone involved. When Shea Heidlebaugh spoke with her, Thorstenson was quick to ask about the sophomore guard’s ankle, which was injured in a game five days earlier.

“Don’t stay away too long,” Thorstenson told Shea. “I don’t think they can get by without you.”

Longevity runs in Thorstenson’s family. Her brother, Kermit Blessum, 103, lives in the Bottineau area. Her brother Melvin Blessum lived to be 101 and other brothers and sisters lived into their 90s.

“She’s supports us and that’s really nice knowing that she still listens to our games,” Allie Foster said.

Thorstenson’s room includes loads of pictures of relatives, including one of five generations of women beginning with her. RHS boys basketball coach Mike Santjer gifted her with a photo of the team last year.

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