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Couple in their 90s love each other and the Shockers

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, at 6:18 p.m.

They are there every night the Wichita State men’s basketball team plays — Section 119, Row 20 — even when they don’t feel so hot.

And at 95 and 92 years of age, Carl Young and Betty Brunk-Young don’t always feel so hot.

“I’ve had both knees replaced, both of my shoulders repaired, but I figure I’m gonna make it,” Carl said. “I’m expecting to live to be 100.”

Betty, who was in charge of the Kansas Credit Union on the WSU campus for years, is trying to keep up through various ailments of her own.

“But I’m not as energetic as Carl,” she said. “I’m slowing down.”

You wouldn’t know it by watching her at a Shocker game. She’s been a fan and season-ticket holder since the early days of the Ralph Miller era in the 1950s, she said. And when she and Carl got married in 1993, after losing spouses they had been married to for decades, she gave him black and yellow fever.

“At this age,” Betty said, “we keep each other going pretty good.”

On this Valentine’s Day, there is no better love story than Carl and Betty.

Betty used to work in the same building at WSU with Carl’s sister, Jean Harrison. They were great friends and realizing how full of life both Betty and Carl still were after losing their spouses, Jean decided to play matchmaker.

Carl said he knew Betty in passing because of his sister’s friendship with her.

“After a while, we just became more acquainted,” Carl said. “We both had some of the same interests. We enjoyed traveling and going to new places. We still do.”

Carl has two children. One, Chris, was killed in a car accident more than 30 years ago.

Betty has two children, including Steve Brunk, a Wichita realtor and member of the Kansas House.

Carl’s daughter, Dianne Huffman, said her father and Betty are a perfect match.

“I’m just tickled to pieces they found one another,” said Huffman, who lives with her husband in Creston, Iowa. “When Betty came along, you just can’t help but love her. And they do love basketball. They just love it. No matter how they’re feeling, they want to go to those Wichita State games.”

Betty said her interest in basketball took off after she started working at Wichita State.

“All of my friends there started telling me what a wonderful things sports were,” she said. “At that time, we had football, too. They told me I would like basketball more because it was faster.”

A friend at the alumni association arranged for Betty to get tickets and she’s been a die-hard since.

Carl has become just as crazed, he said.

“I’m as much of a fan now as Betty is,” he said. “Too much so, I think. It’s terrible to get so wound up.”

For years, Betty said, her seats were across Koch Arena from where they are now.

“This is our first year in Section 119,” she said. “Now we’re sitting behind the teams instead of looking at them and it’s been the hardest thing for me to get used to. I like our old area better.”

Carl and Betty live near a lake on Cedar Pines Golf Course in Andover. Carl still takes immaculate care of the yard and they have a regular schedule to feed the geese and ducks when their great-grandchildren visit, said Steve Brunk.

“My dad passed away some 20 years ago and when my mother remarried Carl, he just kind of slid right into the family,” Brunk said. “He’s a great guy and we’ve all come to love him. And for a couple in their 90s, they still do great. My mother still plays a pretty sharp game of bridge and still does all of the accounting in the games.

“And Carl has nine or 10 brothers and sisters. One of them is an older brother who only recently gave up his motor home travels. So there are some good genes there.”

Carl and Betty arrive for Shocker games a couple of hours early. They park in a handicapped space and open up a sack lunch that they eat in the car.

“You should see all the people who do the same thing,’’ Betty said. “Then we usually get to our seats about 45 minutes before the game starts.’’

They feel lucky to have met one another so late in lives that keep going and going.

“They still tease each other and laugh a lot,” Huffman said. “They just enjoy one another. My father has always been a very strong German who thought there was women’s work and men’s work. But now he does the dishes, cleans the house and helps cook. It’s been just wonderful watching the change in him.”

Huffman said she and her family try to see Carl and Betty every couple of months, and always look forward to the visit.

“So many of my friends who have older parents, they sometimes just dread being around them,” Huffman said. “But it’s just fun to be around my dad and Betty. They’re not in perfect health. They have things wrong with them. But you wouldn’t know it because they don’t talk about it.

“They’re not into their illnesses, they’re into each other.”

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