Friends want to help send Ruston’s biggest Seahawks fan to playoff game

Sherri Forch says she can talk “for hours and hours” about three things: her pets, her town and her Seahawks.

Lately, it’s been mostly Seahawks for the long-time Ruston resident.

She’s been a fan since the team’s first season in 1976, and she’s got the commemorative shirt, printed with the signatures of Jim Zorn, Steve Largent and other notable team members to prove it. She also has another shirt — from the ill-fated Super Bowl XL in Detroit, where the Seahawks lost to the Steelers. But she refuses to put it on, for fear of jinxing the home team.

“I’ve been there since the beginning,” Forch said. “But I’ve never been to a game.”

Some of her friends and neighbors would like to change that in time for the NFC divisional playoff game Jan. 10 in Seattle. They’ve started a “Get Sherri to the Seahawk Game” fundraising effort on the GoFundMe website, gofundme.com/ji7q5w.

Coupled with declining health, the 71-year-old Forch also faces the potential loss of the 1906 home where she’s lived since 1964. She once owned the home outright, but she said a now-deceased former live-in boyfriend remortgaged it after she signed the deed over to him.

She lives on Social Security payments, and relies on medication and specialists at the University of Washington to help her cope with scleroderma — an autoimmune disorder her doctors diagnosed 20 years ago. Today, complications from the disease, which can ravage internal organs and harden the skin, have her dependent on oxygen tanks for breathing and a wheelchair for mobility if she needs to walk far.

So scoring a ticket to the playoff game isn’t something Forch could afford on her own. Tickets to the game were still available Friday, through second- and third-party websites, but they weren’t cheap. Prices for single tickets on epicseats.com, one of the secondary retailers, ranged from $224 to $2,785 on Friday.

Forch’s benefactors are hoping to raise at least $2,000 to secure a good seat for her and an assistant to help her navigate CenturyLink Field.

“One of the reasons we jumped on this Seahawk idea is we’ve been watching Sherri struggle with losing her house the last couple of years and the injustice of that,” said friend Karen Pickett. “This was a chance for us as community members, without a lot of excess funds ourselves, to be able to step in and do something to counteract all that’s been going on in her life.”

Forch said she doesn’t like to ask for sympathy. But her friends’ efforts have truly touched her.

“I am so moved,” she said. “I don’t have words.”

Forch graduated from Tacoma’s Lincoln High School in 1961, and moved to Ruston with her ex-husband, who went to work for Asarco, which operated a copper smelter there.

For nearly a century, the smelter was the lifeblood of the tiny town of Ruston, nestled between Tacoma and Point Defiance Park. But growing environmental issues stemming from the release of arsenic and other toxins into the air shut down the plant in 1985 and triggered environmental cleanup efforts that have lasted for decades.

And for decades, Forch says, her beloved community of fewer than 1,000 souls was known to outsiders as the home of an EPA Superfund site. But for her, Ruston has meant so much more.

She’s been active at City Council meetings and kept a sharp eye on the redevelopment of the former smelter site into homes and businesses. She led a drive to place flags along Pearl Street — the city’s front door — during the first Gulf War, helped launch a children’s Easter egg hunt and worked spaghetti dinners to pay for a town ambulance.

Forch jokes that all that civic activism has paid off. If the paramedics come to her house for a medical emergency, they know her and she knows them.

Pickett’s daughter and granddaughter help Forch keep up her home, and care for her dogs Shadow and Tucker, and her parrot Waldo Seahawk — all rescue animals.

“The beauty of living in a little town is that you know everybody,” Forch says.

Pickett says her friend Forch exemplifies the same kind of pay-it-forward attitude that many of the Seahawks players demonstrate with their off-the-field charity work and public appearances.

Pickett said the fundraising efforts on Forch’s behalf is “a way for the Seahawks spirit to live on, to give back to someone who has given so much to the community.”