It was a Saturday afternoon in the 1950s at the old Cougar Stadium. The wind was howling. The snow was swirling and stubbornly piling up on the bleachers. The BYU football team, still sporting leather helmets, looked longingly into the almost empty stands as their fans filed quickly out of the stadium. But there in the middle of it all, standing loyal, strong and true, was a young Noma Kjar.
“There was that much snow,” Noma said, holding her hands about a foot apart. “You’d have to push it off the seat, and we were all sitting there in the snow and we were playing Wyoming, so my friends from Wyoming came. And we all just sat there in our ponchos and let it snow.”
Ninety-four-year-old Noma went to her first BYU football game in 1946. In rain, snow or welcome sunshine she has been among BYU’s most loyal fans ever since.
Noma grew up playing sports. She played tennis and golf throughout college, but she always loved to watch football and basketball. Noma served in the Army for three years after graduating from the University of Utah and then married her husband, Joe Kjar, at age 24. She claims that nothing has defined her life more than her love for BYU and the atmosphere it has provided for her and her family to grow together.
“Life wouldn’t be very fun without BYU sports,” Noma said. “We follow BYU wherever we go.”
Noma switched her allegiance from the University of Utah to BYU after her husband was hired as a radio announcer for KSL where his duties included broadcasting BYU’s football and basketball games. The rivalry between BYU and Utah is heated yet congenial in the Kjar family, according to Noma’s oldest son, Greg Kjar.
“The irony of my mother is that she didn’t go to BYU, she went to Utah,” Greg said. “So, the fact that she changed her loyalties is quite amazing.”
Everyone in the Kjar clan knows that Noma is the boss and that BYU will always come out on top, even though they enjoy debating which school is more deserving of their loyalties.
“There is such deep respect for Grandma and her love of BYU,” said Noma’s daughter Susi Mabey. “The most amazing thing about mother is that she refuses to miss a game and she refuses to leave early.”
In the mid 1980s there was one game that Joe couldn’t accompany Noma to because he got sick. It was snowing that day and it was an afternoon game, but Noma refused to miss the game. She took the bus from Centerville to Provo, sat through the game, and then rode the bus home all by herself. This was about a five hour round trip bus ride on game days, according to Greg.
“This story is a good example of mother’s devotion to BYU sports,” he said.
Noma is still as devoted as ever to BYU sports as she approaches her 95th birthday. When Noma attended October’s Homecoming game against East Carolina with her grandson, her son provided the transportation because it is becoming more difficult for her to drive. In a moment of thoughtlessness he suggested that they may need to leave during the third quarter. Noma’s response was a forceful, “No, we’re not!”
Noma and Joe bought their football season tickets right after Joe started working for KSL broadcasting. Noma spent one game confined to the press box and decided that was unacceptable. She wanted to be out in the action with the fans, so the very next game they bought their season tickets in row 23 on the 50-yard line and that is where she still sits today.
“Sitting in the press box was awful,” Noma said. “It was so quiet. You’d go in there and there’s six people sitting in chairs with glass windows all around. You couldn’t hear the crowd or feel that you were at a football game, so the next time we went and we bought our tickets and we’ve been there ever since.”
Noma and Joe kept their season tickets even when he was called to serve for three years as a mission president in the Philippines Manila Mission and when Joe was called to be the Director of Historic Sites for the church in Palmyra, New York for two years. Noma has only ever missed a BYU game while serving those five years for the church.
“If you didn’t buy your tickets one year, you would lose them and everyone wants to be on the 50-yard line, so we knew we had to keep paying for them or we would lose them,” Noma said.
A highlight of their mission in the Philippines was when BYU was ranked No. 1 in football and made it to the bowl game, according to Noma. They found an Armed Service network in Manila that would carry the bowl games and invited church members over to their home to watch BYU play. The game was on at 3 a.m. in the Philippines. In order to watch it live, everyone brought their sleeping bags to the mission home and cheered on BYU into the wee hours of the morning.
Noma made similar sacrifices while serving in New York by staying up late and traveling to watch the football and basketball games. The only place they could find that had an accessible satellite dish in their mission boundaries was the Peter Whitmer home, so on game days Noma, Joe and some of the other senior missionary couples would drive the 28 miles to the Peter Whitmer home at 10 p.m. to support the Cougars.
Game days are big days for Noma and her daughter Susi. They leave for the game at least five hours before it starts to have plenty of time to enjoy the BYU atmosphere and lunch with the Cougar Club.
“I’d go to the game first before anything and other people know they don’t plan things for me,” Noma said. “I haven’t had to give up anything yet, but I foresee the time’s going to come when I can’t make it up those 13 steps I dragged my husband up.”
Noma has trudged up the 13 steps from the 10th floor platform to her 23rd row seats for almost 70 years now. Whether rain, snow or sunshine, whether with her husband or by herself, Noma has been there to cheer on her Cougars. She has watched the people in the seats around her grow up and pass on from this life to something better, including her husband, Joe. She does it all from the 50-yard line, all the while encouraging her beloved team with her trademark cheer, “You only need 10 yards, lover.”
“I just have to live long enough to see BYU ranked No. 1,” Noma said. “I’m gonna try to make it, so they’d better hurry up.”