Taking stock of the past 33 years, Carol Hoeving flashes back to joining the Green and White, right out of the blue.
“One of my friends, Lois, was working part-time at the Rider Store,” Carol begins. “She phoned me one day and asked, ‘What are you doing?’ I said, ‘Same old … laundry.’ She said, ‘Why don’t you come and help out with some inventory?’ ”
It was supposedly a gig that accentuated the “t” in “temporary.”
“But here I am,” says the Saskatchewan Roughriders’ Ticket Control Officer, whose retirement takes effect late Thursday afternoon.
“Nov. 30, 2023 … and I started on Jan. 9, 1991.”
Carol’s performance as a taker of inventory was so instantly impressive that she was offered a full-time position in the Store. Not long after that, a vacancy opened in the ticket office and, well, she has been there ever since.
Over that time, she has genially greeted and assisted customers in stadiums old and new, experiencing an equal number of Grey Cup championships (two) and three-win seasons.
She remembers the days when each season-ticket holder’s account information was written on a recipe card — a pronounced contrast to the state-of-the-art computer system that is now in place.
Along the way, Carol has been a part of all four Saskatchewan-based Grey Cup Festivals, not to mention one Roughriders telethon (1997) and a scaled-down, mid-season ticket blitz (1993).
“I’ve always enjoyed my job,” she says. “I’ve enjoyed the atmosphere and helping customers and it’s just exciting to be a part of.
“It just felt good. I’ve always wanted to come to work every day.”
Even on the days when the working conditions were far from optimal.
“There was water dripping all over at the old stadium,” she recalls. “There was a big umbrella that I had to put over my head to catch the water as I was working at my desk. It was like that for probably six weeks.
“The City of Regina couldn’t find the leak. Gail Mund happened to have an umbrella under her desk, so I asked, ‘Can I have it?’
“I just rigged it up to the pipes and hung it upside down so it could catch the water. Then they rigged up a hose, so the water could come through the hose and into a big, five-gallon pail that was right beside my desk.”
Those surroundings “pail” in comparison to the environs at Mosaic Stadium 2.0, into which the Roughriders moved in 2017.
“This is unbelievable,” Carol marvels while sitting in Mosaic Stadium’s alumni lounge, overlooking the field. “It’s just like a dream.”
Sadly, there have also been nightmares — more than most people would, or could, endure.
Carol and Dwayne Hoeving’s daughter, Melissa, was 21 when she was killed by a drunk driver on May 31, 1998.
“My mother had died the previous February, so it was one thing on top of another,” Carol says. “It has been 25 years but, every day, it still feels like yesterday.
“Melissa was killed the same week that my son, Shawn, was graduating from high school. So I had a funeral on a Wednesday and graduation was on the Friday.
“The drunk driver got 3½ years. I wanted to meet with him one-on-one, so I waited until he was out of jail and in a halfway house here in Regina.
“I knew in my heart that I had to forgive him so I could move on as a person and not be angry, because I still have a son to live for.
“It was very, very hard, but blessings come down the road. The young man, Ted Gross, approached me and we worked on a documentary together for almost a year.
“It was Ted’s story, honouring Melissa. That documentary was shown through the school system, right across Canada.
“The producers have approached us and want to do a movie on this to carry it further. They just feel that there’s a really big story in this.
“It’s not just about drinking and driving, but also with the forgiveness that went with it.”
Why was she so forgiving?
“I just knew in my heart that I didn’t want to be angry, because it’s not fair to my son,” Carol says. “I always said that I chose to be a mother to two children.
“My husband was in a deep depression for many, many years. There was a lot of anger. That was very, very difficult. There was a lot of stress.
“And then you put the Riders on top of it. Sometimes, when people were complaining about the Riders, I’d think, ‘Oh, I wish that’s all I had to complain about …’ If you walked a mile in my shoes, that would be the last thing in your bucket that you would complain about.”
Carol is never one to complain. She is perpetually pleasant and invariably helpful.
“That comes from my mom,” says Marjorie Gamracy’s proud daughter, who grew up in Yorkton.
“She gave us all a personal gift of strength. She was left as a widow after my father died when I was three.”
After being injured by a horse while working on a farm near Yorkton, John Gamracy required surgery to repair a broken leg.
“He never came out of the anesthetic,” Carol says. “He was 32 and a blood clot formed in his brain.
“My mom was only 24 years old and she had four little kids. You either survive or you succumb to it. She chose to survive with the four of us. She taught us that.
“She always said, ‘You look after yourself all the time. Don’t expect anybody to look after you or to be bailing you out.’
“I always say that it’s not fair to anybody else for me to be angry. I’ve gone through rough times in my life, but that doesn’t give me the right to be angry.”
Reflecting on it all, across a wide spectrum of emotions and experiences, Carol extends the warmest thanks to her friends, her family members, and the people involved with the football team.
Alan Ford, the Roughriders’ General Manager and Chief Operating Officer from 1988 to 1999, implored Carol to take all the time off she needed after Melissa’s accident.
Jim Hopson and his successor as the team’s President-CEO, Craig Reynolds, have been pillars of support.
Reynolds, in fact, has allowed Carol to use his parking spot for the final week of her tenure with the team — which held a farewell get-together in her honour on Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s amazing to think of the number of fans you have helped and the number of fans you have become friends with,” Reynolds said at the reception, which was held in the Roughriders’ locker room.
“The amount of respect you have in our organization is just incredible. You’ve meant a lot to a lot of people — and meant a lot to our fans.”
That was evident during the Roughriders’ final home game of 2023. During a stoppage in play, Carol was shown on the SaskTel MaxTron and a warm ovation ensued.
“Everybody knew Auntie Carol,” Reynolds said with a smile.
At the end of the business day on Thursday, “Auntie Carol” will continue to embrace her familial roles as wife, mother and grandmother.
“My next journey is learning to live with my husband, day in and day out, because that’s another new thing,” Dwayne’s wife of 52 years says with a chuckle.
“I’ve got a knee replacement booked for Jan. 15 in Calgary so that’s another journey in my life that I have to do.
“I’m finishing off 33 years with the Roughriders. The 33rd anniversary would have been Jan. 9.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to be 73. Maybe it’s time to just do what you want, Carol, so I’ll just kind of go with that and see.
“So there’s the knee replacement. Then, if this movie takes off, I’ll be involved in that, and maybe I’ll be able to go for a walk around Wascana Lake at 10 in the morning on a Tuesday instead of rushing on weekends or after supper.
“I don’t know what it’s like, because I’ve been an adult since I was three years old, so I just want to be able to share some of that time. I just want to see what it’s like to have ‘me’ time.”
The agenda in retirement will also include treasured time spent with Shawn, his wife Kristin, and their eight-year-old daughter, Malia.
Carol’s granddaughter’s middle name, you should know, is Melissa.