92-year-old BYU fan still ‘loyal, strong and true’

Many students live and breathe for BYU football, but their school spirit doesn’t come close to that of a 92-year-old born-and-bred Cougar fan who has been to almost every football game for the last 42 years.

Avonell Rappleye has lived a life of dedication to BYU. Loyal, strong and true, wearing white and blue, Rappleye can still be found at every BYU home football game in her seat on the east side of the LaVell Edwards Stadium.

“Nothing will ever keep me from going to a game,” Rappleye said. “As long as someone will take me there, I’m there, until the day I die.”

Born in 1921, Rappleye was raised to be a Cougar. Her earliest memory of BYU was seeing her oldest sister go off to BYU to become a school teacher. When Rappleye turned 18, she followed in her sister’s footsteps.

“After high school, I was offered a four-year, full scholarship to the University of Utah,” Rappleye said. “But I didn’t want to go the University of Utah. I had always wanted to go to BYU, as long as I could remember. My dad had a hard time with that because he thought it would be good if he didn’t have to pay for my education. But he got through that because I wanted to go there so badly.”

Rappleye attended BYU football games as an undergraduate in 1939, where she was a member of BYU’s band, said her son, Charles Rappleye.

Avanelle Rappleye has been a BYU Cougar since 1921. Photo by Ari Davis
Avanell Rappleye has been a BYU Cougar fan since 1921. Photo by Ari Davis

“As a student, she learned the school hymn,” Charles Rappleye said. “It’s not a song many people know now, but the band will still play it sometimes and she’ll sing along.”

After earning her undergraduate degree in elementary education, Rappleye left Provo to teach school. However, she admits she couldn’t stay away long before coming back to BYU to take the classes she needed to become a doctor.

While on campus, she met her husband, Foster Rappleye. Like many Cougars past and present, they met at a party, hiked the Y for their first date and were married in the Salt Lake Temple a few months later, Rappleye said.

Along with her husband, Rappleye taught her seven children to love BYU as much as she did.

“We pretty much had no other option,” said Kathy Sue Barrett, Rappleye’s daughter. “Even when I said I wanted to go to BYU–Idaho, she was like, ‘No, no you don’t!'”

When her children were young, Rappleye listened to the football games on the radio. She started attending every game regularly in 1970, only stopping for one season in 1991 to serve a mission in Connecticut with her husband. And until a few years ago, she would attend all of the basketball games as well, Barrett said.

Once her children were old enough to attend school, she worked as BYU’s assistant director of evening classes, holding that position for 15 years. At one point, she had five children attending BYU at the same time, Barrett explained.

“We loved to have Mommy on campus,” Barrett said. “We would go in and see her all the time. I even had her look up my (now) husband’s class schedule. It worked!”

Each of her seven children attended BYU and graduated with either an associate’s or a bachelor’s degree. While she worked on campus, Rappleye also earned a master’s degree in counseling.

Her family said she continued to attend the football games with her husband until he passed away in 2004; she now attends each home game with her son, Charles.

“I’ve always been an avid fan. I always have and I always will,” Rappleye said.

Rappleye lives in Orem and has seven children, 53 grandchildren and 108 great-grandchildren.

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