HATTON, N.D. -- The beloved “Beer Grandma” who won hearts as she was shown on the scoreboard drinking beer during UND hockey games has died.
Beth Delano, a season ticket-holder from Northwood, N.D., who attended UND hockey games since the men’s program began in 1947, died Saturday at Hatton Prairie Village. She was 90.
Delano became a local celebrity in 2009 when a camera operated by what was then known as the Fighting Sioux Sports Network caught her drinking a beer during a UND men’s hockey game at the Ralph Engelstad Arena. The crowd gave her a roaring applause, according to Herald archives.
“If she could raise her beer to get the crowd going, she would do it,” her son Gordon Delano said. “It was a highlight for her, something both her and Dad truly enjoyed.”
She enjoyed going to games with her husband, Robert, until he died in 1999. She then would go with her friend Mary Haraldson of Northwood, Gordon Delano said.
He remembered looking up at the TV while watching the game. When he looked up once, he saw the pair.
“I saw Mom throw her hands up in the air and I said, ‘Now she is going to drink a beer,’ ” he said.
And that’s exactly what she did, for thousands of fans watching the game at the arena and on TV. Her son said his phone started to light up with calls and messages to tell him his mother was on TV.
She appeared multiple times on the scoreboard before then-UND President Robert Kelley asked the network in the fall of 2011 to take the focus off Delano and to highlight other fans at the game.
“This was at a time when the university’s reputation was tarnished by national rankings related to alcohol consumption,” said UND spokesman Peter Johnson. “The Ralph leadership chose not to keep Beth out of the spotlight and Beer Grandma continued to be a fan darling.”
The arena’s staff took Kelley’s request into consideration to feature other fans, Arena General Manager Jody Hodgson said. But that didn’t mean they were going to cut the Beer Grandma out completely.
Beth Delano made her return to the big screen in the first period of an October 2011 game, drawing another thunderous applause, according to Herald archives.
“Beth was a much beloved fan favorite as part of at UND men’s hockey experience in the Ralph Engelstad Arena during the early years of this decade,” Johnson said. “When the television cameras inside the Ralph panned across the audience and locked in on Beer Grandma, she lit up the screen and the hearts of audience members.”
Delano previously told the Herald she had no hard feelings about the decision.
"People were just always gracious and generous," she said in a 2011 interview. "When you're my age and in my generation, in fact, you don't get that kind of attention very often."
Haraldson said her friend loved watching the games and had fun meeting fans.
“People for a long time would come up and say, ‘Oh, can we have our picture taken with you?’” Haraldson said. “They just loved her, and she never said no.”
Delano was a sweetheart who was natural and genuine, which is why fans loved her, Hodgson said.
“It wasn’t a shtick. It wasn’t manufactured or artificial,” he said. “She truly loved the game and the hockey program. … People just genuinely liked her.”
In the last year of her life, she got to see and take pictures with the NCAA Division I trophy after the men’s hockey team won its eighth championship title last year. During the event at the Blue Line Bar and Grill in Hatton, she shared a beer with Brad Berry, the UND men’s hockey head coach, and Dave Hakstol, head coach for the Philadelphia Flyers and a former UND men’s hockey head coach.
Visitation is set for 10 a.m. April 15 at the Northwood Evangelical Lutheran Church with an 11 a.m. memorial service.