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5-decade Richmond athletics fan is the royal icing cakes for hospitality room

RICHMOND, Ind. (WISH) — The traditions that surround high school hoops are what make the sport so special here in Indiana.

Arguably the sweetest one in the state stems from the city of Richmond. Wayne County is known for its Red Devils high school pride, the Tiernon Center … and Joanne Lawrence’s chocolate cake.

Lawrence, 88, is Richmond royalty, reigning for over 50 years as one of the Red Devils’ most loyal fans.

“My husband (Jerry) graduated from Richmond,” Lawrence said. “In fact, he played on the ‘53 basketball team that went to state, and then when I started dating Jerry we went to every game.”

But, Lawrence’s perfect attendance is just one part of her fandom. The other: her dedication to serving and stocking the team’s hospitality room.

Lawrence’s devotion has nourished the entire Red Devils community. For nearly four decades, she has generously served coaches, players, officials and many more with a full spread in the Richmond hospitality room, with a made-from-scratch sheet cake at the center of it all.

“I am always the first one in the hospitality room,” said Rae Wooply, principal of Richmond High School. “And I get a paper plate. And I have to admit I get at least two slices. Put a cover on it, put it in the fridge so nobody else can get it. But it’s wonderful.”

Jeremy Hill, the Richmond High School assistant athletics director, said, “It’s really a two-part thing. The cake is amazing. But, Joanne is equally amazing. She’s like the mayor of the Tiernon Center here. People come in from all over and they always ask about it.”

Hill isn’t exaggerating this cake’s notoriety. “Rick Pitino came down one day and came in,” Lawrence said. “He came in and (said), you know, ‘Oh, that’s pretty good.’”

Lawrence makes sure to let everyone know that prepping the hospitality room isn’t just for the visitors’ benefit. “You know, they say, ‘That feel-good feeling?’” Lawrence said. “It does make me feel good. It’s been since my husband, Jerry, died. It’s given me something to look forward to doing.”

She claims she has no plans of retiring from her cake-baking efforts anytime soon, which is a relief to the members of the Richmond Athletic Department who know Lawrence’s hospitality is irreplaceable.

Hill said, “I mean she’s definitely the queen of hospitality for Indiana high school basketball. It’s hard to say what the secret ingredient is. It’s probably her.”

Lawrence is humble in her efforts, saying, “I get tickled because I don’t think I’m anybody special. It’s just I’ve got something that people like. It’s homemade, and, even though you bake a cake out of a box, your homemade cake does taste different. And somebody said something about money; I doubt if I’ve got $5 in the cake. But, it spreads a lot more than that. That’s a lot more than money.”

Lawrence has cooked up a sweet tradition that will forever be mixed into Indiana high school hoops, reminding us all that there are invaluable lessons to be learned on the Hoosier hardwood.

“She is just the epitome of Richmond High School and what we want to be, a representative of who we are, and what we do here. And again, she’s our shining light,” says Wooply.