NORMAN — Sometimes it’s hard being an Oklahoma State fan. Bleeding orange and black in a crimson and cream world can get the best of you at times. So when you meet another Pokes fan, usually there is an instant bond.
I had the pleasure of meeting one of OSU’s finest a few years ago.
Mabel Ruth “Mike” Stephanic not only served this country as a World War II Army nurse, but she was also a proud and, never quiet about it either, fan of OSU. She’d roll around the halls of the Norman Veterans Center in a wheelchair that was decked out in orange and black.
Being a true Cowgirl, her Eskimo Joe’s cup was never far from reach. “Mike,” a nickname she got at a young age, died on Oct. 18 at 94 years young.
During my last visit with Mike, she told me that she was the oldest of two children born in Topeka, Kan., but she grew up in Ponca City.
“My dad was a quintessential Virginia gentleman. But he was strange in one way that he thought a girl should be able to take care of herself,” Stephanic said. “I learned to box. I played tackle football. I was the only girl in a neighborhood of all boys. So while my name is Mabel Ruth — I was named for my mother’s sister and a cousin — the boys decided that was too much of a mouthful, so I was christened Mike. And I’ve been Mike ever since. I’ve been Mike since I was about 3 or 4 years old. Mother never did call me Mike, but practically everybody else did.”
Being a Cowpoke wasn’t the only thing that drew me to Mike. She always had a smile and a laugh to share. When I told her she was a trailblazer for being in the Army back in the day when women were supposed to keep the home fires burning, she disagreed. In fact, she argued with me. She told me she was too ornery to be a role model. Ornery, maybe, but Mike was a true hero.