Archive for Thursday, February 11, 1999

SUCH SWEET SORROW: CANDY LADY PARTING

February 11, 1999

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The "Candy Lady" at Kansas University basketball games is moving to Arizona at the end of this season.

An icon of Kansas University basketball fans is about to move on.

It's not coach Roy Williams or guard Ryan Robertson, but Klissa Rueschhoff.

To many fans, Rueschhoff is simply known as the "Candy Lady."

"I won't just miss the kids, I'll miss KU basketball," said Rueschhoff, who will be moving with her husband, Jim, to Arizona after this season.

The Candy Lady has been tossing out treats to fans at KU basketball games for 11 years at Allen Fieldhouse.

About 45 minutes before the start of each game, she throws handfuls of candy bars, chocolate kisses and rolls of Smarties to KU fans.

"It's really just for fun," she said. "The students are really the true fans."

Rueschhoff began the tradition after a group of students noticed her enthusiasm at the games.

"They said they were my fan club," she said. "I was kind of surprised anyone would be paying attention to me. But I thought, `If you're going to have a fun club, you might as well take care of them,' so I brought a bag of candy. It just grew from there."

Nowadays, the Candy Lady tosses about 20 pounds of treats at each game, with more amounts at big games, she said.

"The Candy Lady will never be replaced," said Che Roth, a 19-year-old KU freshman and member of the "Roys Boys" fan club.

The club on Wednesday night gave Rueschhoff a "Roys Boys" T-shirt before the start of the KU-University of Nebraska game.

"She's the ultimate KU fan," Roth said.

Another student, Jason Walker, 19, said, "She's epitomized what KU fans ought to be."

Rueschhoff and her husband sit on a front row across from the visitor's bench during basketball games.

Her husband speculated that she spends about $500 a year on candy for the games.

The KU athletic department a few years ago asked Rueschhoff to stop throwing the treats, out of concern that the candy would end up being tossed back on the basketball court.

But that effort ended after only one game.

"The fans wouldn't allow that," said KU Athletics Director Bob Frederick.

Frederick said the Candy Lady will be missed.

"She's a great person with a great heart," he said.

Rueschhoff and her husband are moving to be closer to their families, she said.

"We're not her family?" asked Megan Frost,19, a freshman.

"She's like an institution," said Samantha Finke, 18. "If she doesn't show up, we all freak out."

-- Michael Dekker's phone message number is 832-7187. His e-mail address is mdekker@ljworld.com.

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