GREEN BAY (WITI) — Over a period of almost 60 years, Bart Starr became more than a Green Bay Packers legend. He became an icon. So when Bart and his wife, Cherry had to say goodbye to Wisconsin last month, it was difficult — but the Starr’s left carrying a lifetime of memories and love in their hearts.
The “Ice Bowl” in 1967 — Legendary Packers Coach Vince Lombardi told Bart Starr to win the game, so “we can get out of here” — or something to that effect!
Starr, the only quarterback in NFL history to lead a team to five championships punched in the winning touchdown to beat Dallas.
The MVP of the first two Super Bowls — a former 17th round draft choice in 1956 became a Hall of Famer — on and off the field.
Bart and wife Cherry served as honorary chairpersons of the Vince Lombardi Classic for 44 years.
They helped to raise more than $16 million to help fight cancer — but all good things have to come to an end.
The Starrs announced their retirement at the Lombardi Award of Excellence dinner in March.
“It has been a very painful decision. I told Bart last night, I said ‘I kinda know how you felt when you had to retire from football.’ It’s very difficult to give up something you’ve loved so much — that has been such a part of your life,” Cherry Starr said.
Among those calling in to share from their hearts during the Starrs’ farewell dinner was Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
“I’m one of the countless number of people who have been touched by you both — through your acts of service, through your charity work, and just your friendship – seeing the high character and integrity that you both have, and the faith that you have,” Rodgers said.
FOX6′s Tom Pipines asked Starr what 44 years of service have meant to him. He responded in typical fashion.
“I think the most appropriate way to say something about that is in a way of saying ‘thank you.’ We are so grateful to so many for what they have done for so long, and it is difficult to do. I’d be here for an hour trying to say it appropriately to you,” Bart Starr said.
Bart and Cherry Starr had no idea a commitment they made when they were in their 30s would last for more than half their lives.
“I did not, Tom. When the representatives came to Green Bay, and asked us if we would get involved and be co-chair of this event, we thought we should talk about it, and they left, and I said ‘well Bart, we can do this for about three or four years’ — never dreaming 44 years later we’d still be here, but it has been the most beautiful journey of our lives,” Cherry Starr said.
For the Starrs, who helped to co-found “Rawhide Boys Ranch” in New London to help at-risk and troubled boys throughout the state in 1965 — using their position to help people doesn’t involve making a decision. It’s a matter of the heart.
“There is a verse in the Bible that says ‘to whom much is given, much is required.’ The Packers organization, the fans, the people of Wisconsin have been so incredibly nice to us — so loving, so generous, and it has given us an opportunity to say thank you and give back to the community,” Cherry Starr said.
Hard to believe that Bart Starr is 80 and Cherry’s approaching that milestone — but you’d never know it to look at her.
Part of what keeps her eternally young is that sweet, southern sense of humor.
“If someone had told me 60 years ago when Bart and I were just 20 years old and getting married that someday I’d be sleeping with an 80-year-old man, I probably would’ve reconsidered!” Cherry Starr said.
“I found out she was going to go to Auburn, and I had planned to go to the University of Kentucky, and I chose the greatest audible of my life and chose to go to the University of Alabama because Tuscaloosa is a lot closer to Auburn than Lexington,” Bart Starr said.
Bart and Cherry Starr have led beautiful lives, but they’ve known tragedy.
The lost a son, Brett, to a drug overdose in 1988. He was just 24.
However, their faith and the love of family and friends has sustained them — and so has a strong will to not only survive, the thrive.
“I think that attitude, next to God, is the strongest word in our vocabulary. When you stop and think about it, how many times in your lifetime your attitude has been the difference between doing something and failing to,” Bart Starr said.
Typically, Cherry had the last words about what their adopted state of Wisconsin and its people have meant.
“We love this state. We love the people, and we are so grateful to them for all their love and support,” Cherry Starr said.