Sarah Lewis, 102, died Monday, just a few minutes after Tayna Fogle sang the University of Kentucky's fight song to her. Singing that song was something Ms. Lewis had done several times before thousands of UK fans.
"She was the No. 1 fan of the University of Kentucky women's basketball program," said Fogle, a power forward and captain on the UK women's basketball team that won the Southeastern Conference tournament in the early 1980s.
In Ms. Lewis' younger days, she would peek inside Memorial Coliseum during UK men's basketball games and listen to the school's band. That's how she learned the fight song. Years later, when Fogle, whom Lewis helped rear, was on the UK women's team, Ms. Lewis got to listen to the band up close from inside the coliseum.
After that, her singing career blossomed, so to speak, with her performing the fight song at UK women's basketball alumni games and other events. In 2007, she sang the song from midcourt before a crowd of about 5,000 UK women's basketball fans, Fogle said.
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Ms. Lewis, who didn't make it past the sixth grade, never attended UK, but she taught Fogle and her siblings many valuable lessons over the years. And she was always there for them, attending their school functions, cheering them on at basketball and softball games, and providing them with a home away from home, Fogle said.
Ms. Lewis told them what it was like not being able to attend UK games in her early years because she was an African-American, about all the U.S. presidents elected in her lifetime and about not being allowed to vote, then being allowed to do so.
Ms. Lewis, whose only child died in infancy, met Mary Montgomery Fogle, a who had eight children, many years ago. The two became best friends, with Ms. Lewis serving as a second mother or grandmother to the children, Fogle said.
"She's the only granny that I have ever known ... She took us shopping. She cooked. We got to go to her house on weekends," Fogle said.
"I'm so glad that her and my mom met; I'm so glad her and my mom were best friends and that she was willing to be a part of our lives, and my mom was willing to be part of hers."
Ms. Lewis, a Springfield, Ohio, native, who came to Kentucky as a child after her mother inherited a farm in Garrard County, was used to caring for others. Her mother died when she was 5, and she was sent to Lexington to live with an aunt who had been paralyzed by a stroke.
The child cared for her aunt and elderly neighbors and cleaned homes, earning 50 cents a day. Later, she was a housekeeper for the William Rouse family in Lexington for many years.
She was a spry little lady, almost to the end, according to Fogle.
Three weeks ago, Ms. Lewis sought medical treatment for swollen legs. A few days later, doctors found cancer in her lungs and liver. She went home to Connie Griffith Manor to die.
"She was ready. She told us that she was tired and she was ready to go home. She was happy," Fogle said.
When Ms. Lewis's pastor came to visit a few days before her death, she shooed him away.
She told him "Would you please leave? You're keeping me from coming home," Fogle said.
In addition to Fogle, Ms. Lewis is survived by six of Fogle's siblings and their children; a sister-in-law; and several nieces, nephews and cousins.
Services will be at noon Saturday at Greater Faith Apostolic Church. Visitation will be after 10 a.m. Saturday at the church. Smith & Smith Funeral Home is handling arrangements.