Born in 1915, Patriots fan Myrtle Milledge of Rumford, Maine lived to see six Super Bowl victories before passing away at 106 last month – along with all 26 starting quarterbacks in team history.
She already was in her mid-forties when the Boston Patriots sprung up as the eighth franchise of the American Football League, but once she became a fan there was no turning back. After her most recent birthday, Robert Kraft recognized her for being the Patriots' oldest fan, and by all accounts, there was no better representative of the team's values.
"She was always so cheerful," Myrtle's granddaughter, Lynn LeClair, said.
"Everybody in town knew her, they called her the ray of sunshine or an angel. She was always bringing flowers up to the nursing home, visiting with the elderly, but she incorporated this sports thing with the men up there and would go and cheer on the Patriots with them. Some of them had Alzheimer's and didn't know what the heck was going on. But she did."
Lynn heard stories about her grandfather Frederick Milledge's avid fandom, and how if he was home, whatever was on the television was getting changed to sports. It rubbed off on his wife and the rest of the family.
Big Sunday dinners were standard at the Milledge house, with everyone gathering around her "big hunk" of a floor model television to cheer on the Patriots together.
"My mom was a huge football fan as well," Lynn said. "So, they grew up watching sports and after he passed away it just kept going on and then they kind of became obsessed with it."
Lynn isn't entirely sure if Myrtle's love for the Patriots intensified as a way to keep her husband's memory alive, but football was one of the many things the family matriarch used to bring her family and friends together.
Myrtle stayed busy hosting family reunions, tending to her beautiful gardens, and making thoughtful crafts to brighten someone's day while volunteering in her community. She worked in a school cafateria for a time, before finding her calling as a senior companion at Androscoggin Home Health Care and Hospice.
Her volunteerism earned her numerous awards over the course of her life and caught the attention of fellow Rumford resident Roger White.
When he organized a Super Bowl parade in their small town in 2019, he asked Myrtle to serve as its grand marshal. He also reached out to the Patriots to let the organization know Myrtle would be turning 106 on Dec. 26, 2021 to try and get her on the team's radar.
Myrtle received a letter from Robert and Jonathan Kraft along with a custom No. 106 "Milledge" jersey to celebrate her birthday and thank her for her Patriots allegiances.
Getting the package from the Patriots ended up being one of the last memories Myrtle's family has of her.
"Handwritten on the letter by Bob Kraft was 'We are all Patriots,' which was very meaningful to her and to the family as she has been such a supporter of veterans," Lynn said. "She lost a son in 1968 in Vietnam -- he was only 21 -- and that was just devastating to the family. And since then she has been the one that's been out supporting veterans in any way she can."
Lynn recalled an occasion where busses of troops were arriving in Bangor and being transported to Southern Maine. Her grandmother stood on a bridge, alone, waving a flag to welcome them home.
"She was just amazing in that way," Lynn said. "So that 'We are all Patriots' was perfect for her."