From Seatmates To Family: How Beaver Stadium Helped Two Worlds Collide
Eight years ago, Harold Beers and Laura Malmberg-Schlote were complete strangers with one thing in common: their love for Penn State football. A year later, Beers and Schlote would go on to begin forming one of the unlikeliest, yet strongest relationships ever brought together by the common bond of Penn State.
What started as being seatmates ended up turning these two into family.
When Beers graduated from high school and joined the Navy Reserve in 1953, Schlote hadn’t even been born yet. Beers, later on, went to work for Penn State for 29 years as a power plant mechanic, while Schlote graduated from Penn State in 1984.
Beers and Schlote became seatmates by chance in 2013. And from the beginning, he flashed his quick-witted, fun-loving personality by cracking jokes to Schlote. When they met, he introduced himself by saying, “Hi, I’m Harold Beers, but you can call be Budweiser.”
It took about three years for the friendship between Schlote and Beers to strike a chord, but after that, it grew only stronger. They were together seven Saturdays a year for almost seven years, cheering side by side and taking in the common bond of Penn State football.
One of Schlote’s best memories of Beers is how even when he began using a wheelchair during his later years, he always managed to stand and salute for the national anthem.
“What struck me is, as soon as the national anthem was getting ready to play he hobbled out of his chair and over to the railing, had a cane in one hand and saluted the entire national anthem with the other,” Schlote said. “He was stoic. There was nothing that was going to stop him from saluting the national anthem.”
The pair even had a special touchdown celebration.
“I told him, ‘Hey Harold, if we get a touchdown, I’ll give you a kiss,” Schlote said. “He goes, ‘I’m counting on it,’ so that became our thing. He would get a kiss after every touchdown.”
One crucial component of this perfect equation of friendship was Beers’s nephew, Lew. Lew would pick Beers up before every game and transport him to the stadium in his motorhome. Rain or shine, Beers was often time one of the first fans inside, and one of the last to leave.
This year, Schlote expected things to continue as normal. She planned to show up for the first game of the season in late August and continue her banter with Beers, hopefully giving him plenty of kisses, because that’d mean Penn State was playing well.
“Each year you wonder how things are going to be,” she said. “I got to the point where I knew one year he would not be there. I did not think it was going to be this year.”
Schlote’s husband Bob saw Lew before the first home game of this season against Idaho. Lew informed Bob that Beers wouldn’t be able to attend due to health concerns. Schlote and her family had to make the sad adjustment of not having their seatmate next to them for the first time in years.
As sad as that adjustment was, it didn’t compare to later in the season when Lew called Schlote to tell her that Harold was going to be taken off of dialysis. The next day, she and her family drove two hours to go see him.
Schlote said Beers was in good spirits when she arrived. She came up with an idea when she realized that Beers probably didn’t have much time left. She told Beers that he needed one more game at Beaver Stadium and that he should come to see Penn State play Rutgers the following weekend.
“I told him, ‘Look how many kisses you will get. We’re supposed to beat them 70 to nothing,'” she said.
The weather for that late November game was dreary and bleak. But with his doctors’ approval, Beers showed up. Same spot. Same seat. Same seatmates.
Schlote reached out to Mark Stanton from the Nittany Nation Facebook group to see if Beers could get the special opportunity to meet the Nittany Lion. For his last game ever in Beaver Stadium, he did just that.
“At the end of the game I put my hands on his face, nose to nose, looked in his eyes, and I said, ‘I love you, Harold. You’ve been a great friend. I’ll see you on the other side,'” Schlote said. “I gave him a kiss, and I had to walk away because I was a hot mess.”
Beers passed away peacefully on Thursday, December 5, less than a week after the Rutgers game. That last game in Beaver Stadium exhausted him, but it was the perfect opportunity to say goodbye to Beaver Stadium, and to Schlote, one last time.
What started out as seatmates ended up becoming something far greater. At Beers’ services this past weekend, Schlote served as a pallbearer. She also brought blue and white pom poms to lay in his casket, so he could be laid to rest with his beloved blue and white by his side.
Schlote and Beers went from seatmates to friends to family, forming a special relationship and reminding every fan that those Saturdays inside Beaver Stadium each year can be about so much more than football.
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About the Author
“We believe that laughter will help us all get through this current situation and help us make sense of it.”
Whether it was a high-flying dunk from Lamar Stevens, a deep touchdown from Sean Clifford to KJ Hamler, or an electric pin by Mark Hall, many student-athletes made their marks on Happy Valley over the last eight months.
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