UT alum battling cancer gets surprise from Pruitt and The Pride of the Southland Band

Orange & White Nation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – In four decades, there are few games where two seats in Section JJ, Row 9 have sat empty. They belong to Janet Piecara, a University of Tennessee alum with a love for the Vols that started when she was a child.

This history and the love for UT is important to Piecara and the reason that when she was diagnosed with stage IV Pancreatic cancer in April she told doctors one of her goals was to get well quickly to be able to attend Tennessee football games at Neyland Stadium.

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So far, she’s keeping that goal and then some.

Alongside her husband, Marvin Harden, the two have continued to drive from Atlanta, Georgia for every game they can.

Piecara underwent 12 rounds of aggressive chemo therapy treatments. On the last day of her treatment at the end of September, she received a gift from UT.

In it, a handwritten letter from Vols Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt. It read:

“The Tennessee Vol Family are thinking of you! Keep battling! Much love, Jeremy Pruitt.”

Transcription of the letter sent to Janet Piecara

Then, in the same gift, a signed drum head from The Pride of the Southland Band. Some of the current 350 students sent Piecara their prayers and well wishes.

All of this — a surprise for Piecara and her family. She says she is “still speechless” for the thoughtfulness of the gift.

“I couldn’t believe Coach Pruitt took the time to think of me,” she said.

Photo Courtesy Janet Piecara

It was the pick-me-up she needed. She hasn’t missed a home game since her diagnosis, and although she isn’t able to march with the alumni band at homecoming, she’ll be cheering from her seats in the stands.

Family ties to Tennessee

Piecara’s daughter, Marsha, attended UT, too. She continued her mother’s legacy and was a Majorette for the Pride of the Southland Band.

Born and raised in Memphis, Piecara’s family had early ties to the University of Tennessee. Her aunt, attending in the early 1900’s.

When it came for Piecara to go to college, it was an easy choice. She attended the University of Tennessee and marched in The Pride of the Southland Band under Dr. WJ Julian.

Shortly after Piecara graduated, she got the season tickets she still has to this day — 40 years later. It’s become a tradition to spend Saturdays in Neyland Stadium, so much so, that the stadium’s event staff have become more like family.

Janet’s grandson with Tennessee Event Staffer, Billy. Courtesy: Janet Piecara

Piecara says she watched Billy, a 37-year-veteran Tennessee event staff member, grow up and now, her knows her grandson and extended family, too.

It’s those special connections, and gestures like the unexpected surprise from UT that Piecara says is why she wants to get better — to support the people who support her, family and all.


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