My mom was just 23-years old when she walked up to the local drugstore in Cincinnati, Ohio and asked her friend the soda jerk for a copy of Life Magazine.
“Why do you want to read Life Magazine?” he teased.
“I think I’m in it,” she said.
They opened the January 1962 issue and there she was, featured, along with several other Green Bay Packer wives, in a photo celebrating Vince Lombardi’s largess.
To commemorate the Packers’ 1961 Western Division Championship, Lombardi gave mink stoles to each players’ wife, significant other or, in Paul Hornung’s case, mom. In the famous Life Magazine photo, some of the well-coiffed ladies gather around a grinning Lombardi to show off their stoles.
The Packers went on to crush the New York Giants in the NFL Championship game 37-0 causing their delighted coach to say, “Today this was the greatest team in the history of the National Football League.”
From the beginning of his career with the Green Bay Packers, Coach Lombardi established an atmosphere that celebrated family.
He and Marie invited players and their families to their home for annual Thanksgiving parties and he included a handwritten note with each mink.
“Please accept this gift as an expression of our sincere gratitude for all you have done for the Green Bay Packers.”
The gifts kept rolling in as the Packers continued to rack up championships. Under Lombardi, the team won titles in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967.
That meant, in addition to the mink stole, a color TV set, a silver tea service, a cocktail ring and a lavaliere for the ladies.
We popped by to visit my mom’s mink stole on Sunday. A few years ago she donated it to the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame, which means we occasionally hear funny comments from people who see it there.
It reminded me of a not-so-famous Lombardi quote that speaks to the lessons he taught his players and their families with both his drive toward excellence and his generosity in celebrating its achievement.
“After all the cheers have died down and the stadium is empty, after the headlines have been written, and after you are back in the quiet of your room and the championship ring has been placed on the dresser and after all the pomp and fanfare have faded, the enduring thing that is left is the dedication to doing with our lives the very best we can to make the world a better place in which to live.”