Dancin’ Granny

Joyce Johnston (Photo via News & Observer)
Joyce Johnston (Photo via News & Observer)

With Stanley Cup playoffs beginning this week and Mother’s Day right around the corner, we remember a hockey-fan grandmother who found a following of her own.

What can you say about a woman who loved square dancing so much she wanted to be buried in her do-si-do costume… but – on the other hand – would rise out of her stadium seat to twist and stretch to the tune “Low” by rapper Flo Rida?

You could say she had spunk! And she will be remembered for it by thousands of Carolina hockey fans for years to come.

Joyce Johnston, who died in February at age 85, was a big fan of the Carolina Hurricanes hockey team and a regular at their games. But, known as “Dancin’ Granny,” she developed her own fan base. For a dozen years from her seat in the Raleigh hockey arena she “delighted her adoring fans with a few slick dance moves.”

The News & Observer (Raleigh) reporter Anne Blythe wrote that at the first Canes game Johnston attended in 2000, she was sitting alone – her daughter and son-in-law off to the concession stands – when she saw herself on the big screen. “She just got up and started twisting,” her daughter Sandy Yates said. “We had no idea it would take off the way it did.”

Blythe said Johnston began posing with fans, signing autographs and becoming acquainted with the Canes’ players and staff. “She loved the kids,” Yates told Blythe. “She loved everybody.”

And they loved her back. Days after Johnston died, the Canes honored her with one last rendition of “Low” before the team retired the song. Dancin’ Granny appeared on the JumboTron and the crowd gave her a final standing ovation.

Written by Susan Soper, the author of ObitKit™, A Guide to Celebrating Your Life. A lifelong journalist, she has been a reporter with Newsday, writer for CNN, and Features Editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where she launched a series called "Living with Grief."