Road to 1991 Perfection: Hobert Helped Fulfill a Dying Fan's Wish at Cal

A staunch UW supporter was determined to attend the big game in Berkeley even as his life was slipping away. He made it happen.
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A lot of football fans wanted to witness the 1991 Washington-California football game, a battle of unbeatens that promised a 74,500 sellout in Berkeley and welcomed a national TV audience.

None were more determined to be there than Gary Levine.

He was chairman and chief executive officer for K & L Distributors, the leading distributor of alcoholic beverages in Washington state which also did business in Alaska.

Levine was a huge Husky football fan and donor, someone who attended every game. He traveled to road outings in his own private airplane. 

He also was dying from a long struggle with cancer.

As people squeezed into Cal's Memorial Stadium, Levine was wheeled inside in a hospice bed. He was positioned low in the stands, near the 50-yard line.

Husky quarterback Billy Joe Hobert greeted him before the game, shook his hand and gave him a hug. They knew each other. Hobert considered Levine a mentor.

"I loved Gary," Hobert said. "I worked for him in the summer. I actually worked on transmissions for his company. He was a good man to me."

This is another in series of vignettes about the UW 1991 national championship football team, filling in the conversation before the pandemic-delayed season begins next month. Twenty-nine years ago this week, Levine fulfilled a dying wish to see the nation's third- and seventh-ranked teams play.

Levine was such a staunch UW athletics supporter, he's still the only person to receive a letterman's jacket who hasn't been an athlete at the school.

Attending the big game at California, which was won by Washington 24-17, was one of the last things he did. 

Levine died nine days later at his Mercer Island home. He was 54.

"That was the last time I saw him," Hobert said of the game. "I will never forget that, for sure."

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