Special to the Sun
Tuesday, March 7, 2017 | 2 a.m.
Rita Tilton has been hospitalized since February and understandably not in a good spirits. She wants to get home to her rescue dog, Tinker Bell, and return to the Cox Pavilion to watch her beloved Lady Rebels.
Tilton and her sister, Joan Power, are probably the UNLV program’s two biggest fans. They are so liked that players deliver their season tickets to their front door and the sisters are usually the main attractions at postgame socials.
You can’t miss them coming.
Rita, 84, and Joan, 90, are both tall and lanky, and their smiles are contagious, especially when around the team. These aren’t two seniors who sit quietly in the stands — they are loud and proud supporters of the scarlet and gray, their exuberance belying their ages. In fact, they are quick-witted and unafraid to speak their minds. It’s pretty refreshing.
Tilton finally started to perk up over the weekend, and family is convinced it’s partially because of two visitors from the Lady Rebels, Alyssa Anderson and Brooke Johnson.
I’ve become friendly with the sisters over the years because we attend the same church. Rarely does a Sunday go by without them talking about UNLV, whether it’s rehashing the games or talking about the affinity for one of the players they’ve befriended.
The affection is clearly mutual.
“You’ve got it Rita, the deep-down strength it takes to make it through tough times, rough times,” Johnson wrote in a get-well card. “... Please take care of yourself and remember that others are thinking of you, hoping that every day brings you a little more strength, hope and comfort.”
A poster featuring Johnson that was distributed last week during the final UNLV home game hangs in Tilton’s hospital room. The card is also prominently displayed.
It speaks volumes about the quality of person in the UNLV women’s program when two players go out of their way to visit a supporter. When Tilton talks about the team, especially Johnson, you get the sense she’s talking about family.
And, as the players showed, it’s a pretty caring family to be part of.
I hope Tilton recovers because she is my friend, too. Come tonight, I know she’ll start feeling a little better. UNLV (21-9) plays Utah State in the Mountain West quarterfinals at the Thomas & Mack Center and is primed to make a deep tournament run. Family is coordinating for the webcast of the game to be played in her room.
Tilton will head to a long-term rehab center later in the week, surely packing her gifts from the players. She’s greedy and has one more request: Become Mountain West champs.