A perfect season of friendship lasts nearly 50 years

Among the many enduring friendships built during the Lombardi era, perhaps the most unusual was that of tight end Marv Fleming and my mother, Peggy Kostelnik.
Fleming, who stood 6-4, grew up poor in South Los Angeles. Boosted by her sixties bouffant, Mom barely reached 5-2 and led a charmed life as a Cincinnati co-ed.
Despite such disparate childhoods, the two formed a bond based on an appreciation for classic literature and good health, and a keen eye on a future beyond the football field.
Their friendship developed on the team bus. Back then the Packers split their season home games between Lambeau Field in Green Bay and County Stadium in Milwaukee. The wives rode the team bus back to Green Bay after Milwaukee games and, while most of the gang dozed, Marv and Mom chatted.
He came to our little house on South Fisk Street for Polish meals my grandmother whipped up when she visited.
In 1968 my dad had to get to the stadium early to rehab an injury, so Marvin drove me to nursery school and let me stand on the passenger seat of his car as we cruised through the Green Bay streets.
The next year, when my Dad was traded to the Baltimore Colts and our family moved to an apartment there, my Mom asked Marvin to house-sit. Another characteristic they shared was extreme tidiness. Later that season, when the Colts played the Packers in Green Bay, my mom asked my dad to check on the house. She was thrilled to hear Marvin had made Dad remove his shoes before entering.
Last year, Marvin was inducted into the Packer Hall of Fame. He invited my mom to sit at his table and mentioned her in his gracious speech. Extremely successful throughout a 13 year football career, Marvin played for two legendary teams, the Green Bay Packers and the Miami Dophins. He played in five Super Bowls, earned four rings and was a member of the only NFL team to complete a perfect season, the 1972 Dolphins.
He has thrived off the field as well and his lifelong commitment to good health has paid off. He and my mom still chat periodically, in person, on the phone and via email.
Marvin lives well, invests wisely and supports several charities, with his favorite being the Herbie Fund at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Molly has met Marvin a few times, including a summer afternoon two years ago. As I took their picture, Marvin urged me to fill the frame. He reviewed the digital picture and shook his head. “No, you have to fill the frame,” he said. “Focus in.”
I believe this phrase accurately describes Marvin, a poor kid from Compton who works hard to fill the frame of a very big life.
Here they are at the Packer Alumni brunch earlier this season.
He used to drive me to nursery school.
Molly and my sister Kathy pose with Marv as he urges me to fill the frame.
Friends for 47 years.

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