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Gale Sayers' widow thankful for outpouring of support; 'It has really blown me away'

Gale Sayers' widow thankful for outpouring of support; 'It has really blown me away'


After Gale Sayers’ death, his wife, Ardie, received an outpouring of support. She has received hundreds of calls or texts from people across the country.

Ardie Sayers wanted to say thank you.

For the hundreds of tributes across the country to her husband, Gale, the hall of fame running back who died Sept. 23. Especially for the cards, flowers and messages from her hometown.

Within a week, Ardie received almost 400 calls and texts. She didn’t know how so many strangers found her phone number. She’s grateful they did.

“It makes me stronger just to know all the people that love him all over,” Ardie said. “It has really blown me away.”

Perhaps the most special honor came last Saturday at Kansas, where the Jayhawks unveiled an 8-foot-tall Sayers statue outside the stadium, a ceremony originally planned for last April until COVID-19 interfered.

Sayers will be buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, and his wife would like to hold a proper memorial service. Again, the coronavirus has necessitated a delay.

“Let’s wait and pray that this pandemic goes down or goes away and we’ll just celebrate at a later date,” she said.

Ardie had a house full of flowers after Gale’s death, but she encourages people offering gifts in Gale’s honor to donate to the following:

  • Boys and Girls Clubs of America
  • The Cradle (the Ardythe and Gale Sayers Center for African-American Adoption)
  • The BRaIN Lab, University of Washington dementia research
  • The Gale Sayers Memorial Fund, benefitting schools that offer social justice and mental health education

Ardie, a South Omaha native, took care of Gale for years after his dementia diagnosis. “I did what I was supposed to do,” she said.

The disease precipitated Gale’s decline, slowly attacking his vital organs. He’d been in the hospital in September, when Ardie took him home to Wakarusa, Indiana, for his final days.

It was after midnight Sept. 23 when she whispered in his ear: “It’s OK. I know your body is tired.”

She told him to go to sleep. Go be with his mother, father and friends. “I’ll be all right.”

About 40 minutes later, she returned to his room and Gale was gone. He died peacefully without pain, Ardie said.

“I laid my head on his chest. He wasn’t breathing. I just gave him a kiss and told him to rest in peace.”

Photos: Gale Sayers through the years, 1943-2020

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Reporter - Sports

Dirk writes stories and columns about Husker football in addition to covering general assignments and enterprise for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @dirkchatelain. Phone: 402-444-1062.

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