Merrilyn Patch and Arwen Mellor are local residents who have been the Franklin Pierce “lunch ladies” as they are known by students for decades. Recognizable as the welcoming faces of the rural Rindge, N.H. university’s cafeteria and as enthusiastic supporters of student athletes competing on campus and at away games, Patch and Mellor will be traveling to Seattle to cheer on “their boys” as they refer to the Ravens soccer team.
The Franklin Pierce University Men’s soccer team is having a thriller of a season. The Ravens are 16-0 at home, 23-0-1 overall, and are headed to the DII men’s soccer championship in Seattle, Washington, which starts on Thursday, December 1.
Patch and Mellor know all of the students at the university–and the students often refer to them as their “moms away from home.” As the men’s soccer team features several international players whose families rarely make the trip stateside to see their sons play, the “lunch ladies” make a special effort to show up to cheer them on at games, rarely missing a home game and sometimes traveling to support them at away matches.
“They are far from home and don’t have family close by,” says Patch, “so I take care of them while they are here.”
Both Patch and Mellor study the names of the foreign players, learn about their home countries, host Christmas parties for the team, and even cook personal meals and treats when the school’s cafeteria is closed and some of the students stay on campus. They have also been known to take groups of student athletes to local eating establishments for breakfast or dinner, and to bring snacks with them for students on the road.
This week, the lunch ladies are headed to Seattle on their own dime in hopes of seeing their boys bring home a national title.