Seahawks help WWII vet, 89, with his game-day wish

by: Casey McNerthney, KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:

Robert Epperson, 89, has been a Seahawks fan for decades, but never made it to a game. His granddaughter Casey Crust, right, wrote to the team and they gave Epperson – an Army veteran from World War II and the Korean War – tickets and a care package for the game.

The hospital visits were becoming more frequent, a result of the heart trouble that comes when you're almost 90. So Robert Epperson made a bucket list.

He wanted to go to Hawaii. Wanted to spend more time with family. There were the stories he hadn't told in decades – the ones from World War II that earned him three Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star Medal with Valor, and other awards. Epperson was sharing them now.

"And from his hospital bed, he said, 'I want to go to a Seahawks game this year,'" his granddaughter, Casey Crust recalled. "I thought, 'No way. He's 88. How's he going to get to go?'"

On Sundays, Epperson watches from his assisted living home in Tacoma, hoping to catch a TV crowd shot of his granddaughter who never misses a home game. He loves Russell Wilson, pulling for the 5-foot-11 quarterback who has defied odds.

The family has bled Seahawks blue since 1978, when Crust and her stepdad started going during the Kingdome days. His prostate cancer made it tough to see games in person. But as the clock ran down on the Seahawks 2006 NFC Championship, Crust and her stepfather shared tears of joy. He went to games as long as the doctors and his body would allow.

Crust and her cousin, who's in the Coast Guard, admired how the Seahawks honored veterans before games. So when their grandpa made his bucket list declaration, she wondered: What if?

Crust wrote an e-mail to a team vice president, wondering how her grandfather might be able to be a part of the Veterans Day celebration. She mentioned about how he'd opened up about his time in the Army, and how he and friends Epperson served with went back to see the places they'd been.

But Epperson is humble, and would never ask to be part of a Seahawks celebration.

"Wow," team vice president Mike Flood wrote back, "your grandfather has a tremendous record of military service. … If Robert is coming to the game, we would like to have him join our military guests pregame."

A few days after Sept. 11, the Seahawks ticket sales manager wrote back with his cell number. After they talked, a package came with tickets and field passes, a $20 food voucher, and a parking pass.

"It was so awesome because I never thought in a million years they would do that," Crust said. "I wasn't sure my email would even be seen to be honest, so didn't tell anyone I did it just in case."

Six years ago, Epperson and his wife bought matching Seahawks jackets. They'd wear them while watching the games on TV, cheering Matt Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander. But they never had a chance to see a game in person.

This summer, shortly after their 65th wedding anniversary, Epperson's wife died at age 82. Her jacket went to her daughter, and Epperson's jacket went to Crust.

When Crust and family members went to show her grandfather the tickets, she said he'd need the jacket back.

Epperson is going to a game for the first time.

"I was kneeling down in front of him and read the e-mail to him," Crust said. "He was just looking down. He was very humble and so sweet."

He asked for a printed copy of the e-mail, and shared it with the assisted living staff. Epperson called his three kids to share the story.

"He had this smile on his face like, 'Oh my gosh,'" Crust said.

She'll be there with him Sunday, with her aunt and cousin, Brian Dressler, who also is a season ticket holder. It's one of the last games Boatswains Mate Pfc. Dressler will see before deploying to Bahrain with the Coast Guard.

"He has his jacket back, and he's going to wear it this week," Crust said of her grandfather. "He can't wait - and I couldn't be more proud."

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