Cancer survivor ardent follower of prep sports (video)

Oct. 13, 2012 at 5:13 a.m.

Dewan Lemke, of Victoria, cheers for the Titans at the Victoria East and Victoria West rivalry game Friday evening at Memorial Stadium.

Dewan Lemke, of Victoria, cheers for the Titans at the Victoria East and Victoria West rivalry game Friday evening at Memorial Stadium.   Kathleen Duncan for The Victoria Advocate

Dewan Lemke was never the best athlete. But her years on the Stroman High basketball team gave her an appreciation for large and loud crowds at varsity sporting events.

"I wasn't good in sports. My husband, he's all in his yearbook at Industrial. He was Mr. Athlete and everything. He was an All-Star at Industrial. Me? Not so much at Stroman."

Four decades later, the Victoria resident is arguably the most ardent supporter of high school athletics in the Crossroads.

Though Lemke can almost see Victoria East High School from her home, she and her husband, Gayland, have season tickets for Cuero football. There is not a Friday night she is not somewhere in the Crossroads, catching a local football game.

Since the Gobblers were up in Giddings on Friday night, she engaged in a frenetic, but fun agenda instead.

First, she was off to watch Victoria West attempt to win its 30th straight district volleyball match over Victoria East in the afternoon. Then, she stopped by a Subway for dinner and swept by her home on Timberlane Drive to nab her husband before ending the night at Memorial Stadium for the Battle for the Sword between the Titans and the Warriors.

"I love it. I like the rivalry," Lemke said. "Memorial was such a big school with so many athletes. It was such a big attendance. It was OK, but I like it when they split up and did the rivalry. I like this East-West. It brings me back to Victoria High vs. Stroman days."

Nothing - from a breast reconstruction surgery the day before the inaugural contest two years ago to a scheduling quirk this year - is going to keep Lemke from catching the East-West football game.

"The following night, my friends picked me up. I was all wrapped in bandages and pain and they drove me to the East-West football game," Lemke recalled about the November 2010 game Friday afternoon in her home. "I could not miss that game."

She was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in her right breast in March 2006. Since cancer ran in her family. Lemke had a double mastectomy later that month. In June 2006, she endured six months of chemotherapy before another six weeks of radiation during the 2006 holiday season. Dewan even had a radiation treatment on Christmas Day that year.

"The year and a half I went through the treatments and I couldn't attend the games, that fact that I missed and couldn't go like I used to, I think it inspired me to beat it," Lemke said.

She waited to have the reconstruction surgery until 2010 when she had beaten the disease and after her hair, eyebrows and eyelashes returned.

Dewan, whose blonde shoulder-length hair has returned, has remained cancer free.

As dreary as that 18-month period was for Lemke, she appreciates the ability to exercise during the moments she's not catching up on local sports. The obsession starts anew every morning when she reads the newspaper.

"The first thing I do is go to the obituaries," Lemke said with a smile. "If I'm not in there, then I go straight to the sports department. I'm always worried about the sports department."

Over the years, Dewan - who doesn't have a smartphone or a computer - has established a network of friends and others who keep her updated on scores of her teams. The two VISD schools, as well as Cuero, Industrial, Yoakum and Refugio are on her hit list.

The Lemkes are Cuero season ticket holders because their nieces are students in the Cuero Independent School District. Gayland works in Refugio, so they follow the Bobcats as well.

"We played sports in high school," Lemke said. "We both worked and we looked for things to do at nights on the weekends. Way back then, we were going to football games, basketball games and baseball games.

"Then, some of my neighbor's kids would play and I would follow them. I got nieces and nephews - and (now) great nieces and nephews. My friends' children played. Then we go back to our alma maters and my husband works in Refugio. It's just a lot to cover."

For years, Lemke was primarily a basketball and football fan. However, her good friend Stephanie Davis had a daughter on the West volleyball team.

The Warriors dominance in volleyball always made watching them fun. Darian Buster, Davis' daughter, has since graduated, but Lemke is still a fan of the Warriors volleyball program.

Theresa Novosad is another friend of Lemke's whose children played varsity sports in the Crossroads. Her son graduated from Cuero in 2008 and was on the 2005 football team that lost to Hutto in the state semifinals.

The Lemkes wanted to support the Novosads so they purchased season tickets and have done so every year since.

"For someone who has no children to be so active and watching high school sports is amazing to me," Novosad said. "She's never raised any kids, but she likes watching them."

Novosad said going to games is a way for her friend to meet people. Not only does Lemke understand the sports she ardently follows, she gets to know the players through conversations with their parents in the stands.

Without fail, Lemke said, people ask her during those conversations in the stands whether she is supporting anyone. Her answer is always the same: "No, I just love sports."

That love was never more apparent than on Friday night.

"It's exciting. I like the crosstown rivalry," Lemke said. "I picture one team is Stroman and Victoria High. I picture the 'We've got spirit, yes we do, we've got spirit, how about you?' chants. . Victoria is lucky in that they get to experience this crosstown rivalry."

Related stories:

East Homecoming king and queen announced, Click HERE

Students crowned honorary king, queen, click HERE

Fans continue to build East-West rivalry, click HERE

PHOTOS: Get more photos from Friday's Battle for the Sword here and here.

VIDEO: See the sights and sounds from Friday's game between Victoria East and Victoria West here.



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