Local News

N.C. State team mourns at Coach Kay Yow's burial

Posted January 31, 2009 11:33 a.m. EST
Updated January 31, 2009 9:59 p.m. EST

— North Carolina State University women's basketball Coach Kay Yow was laid to rest on a chilly Saturday morning in her hometown of Gibsonville, 70 miles west of the court where she earned fame as a coach and crusader against breast cancer.

Yow was buried in her hometown of Gibsonville, about 70 miles west of Raleigh. The Hall of Famer coached at nearby Elon for four years before taking over at N.C. State in 1975 and piling up more than 700 career wins.

About 300 mourners, including the Wolfpack team and coaching staff, attended the graveside service on the chilly and windy morning. Each player placed a rose on Yow's casket and then boarded a bus for Sunday's game at Virginia Tech.

Gibsonville Mayor Leonard Williams read a proclamation calling for flags to be lowered to half-mast for the day in Yow's memory.

"We all have known this was coming, and we've all known the life that Kay's lived," said Neil Whitaker, Yow's cousin and funeral director. "You move on, but there are things you have to keep in mind. You need to focus on what she wants us to focus on, and that's being the right kind of person and doing the right things and having a strong Christian faith.

The service capped an emotionally draining week for the Wolfpack. After her death last weekend, the team went to a mall Monday to choose clothes for Yow's funeral, a task interim coach Stephanie Glance said was easier to do together than individually.

The team returned to practice Tuesday, then attended a campus tribute ceremony at Reynolds Coliseum – home of "Kay Yow Court" – Wednesday night. The next day, the team played its first game since her death, falling to Boston College 62-51.

The day before her burial, more than 1,400 mourners crowded  into the sanctuary at Colonial Baptist Church in Cary for her funeral.

Yow was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1987 but led the U.S. Olympic women's team to a gold medal the next year. The disease recurred during the 2004-05 season, forcing to her to leave her team twice in past seasons to focus on treatment even as she raised research money and cancer awareness.

She took a four-game leave in December because she said she had very little energy and announced shortly after the New Year that she would not return this season. She soon entered WakeMed Cary and spent about a week there before she died at age 66.

But Yow got the last word in at her own funeral – in the form of a 20-minute, recorded statement in which she discussed her faith and said farewell.

"I don't want you to fret over the fact that I'm not here or question why I'm not here. God knows what he's doing," Yow said in the video. "It's been a wonderful journey."

Yow related a story of a florist who mixed up cards on two floral arrangements and mistakenly sent a "Congratulations on your new location" card to a funeral.

"Rejoice," she said. "I am now in a new location, a wonderful location."