The jersey boys: a circle of Lombardi inspired friendship

A late and unexpected Christmas gift celebrated two key factors in my father’s life — football and friendship.

The gift, given to my son Vinnie this week by his godfather, John Olson, mirrored an equally sentimental gift “Ole” gave me nearly 30 years ago.

Back then I found one last package addressed to me and hiding among the torn wrapping paper and open boxes of my family’s Christmas celebration. It held my Dad, Ron Kostelnik’s Packer jersey, purchased at a charity auction by Mr. Olson, one of my Dad’s best friends.

Last week John gave my son a similar jersey he had purchased at the same auction in 1986. The jersey belonged to Jim Weatherwax, former Packer player and lifelong Kostelnik family friend.

Injuries cut short Weatherwax’s career — he played only 34 games in the NFL, all with Green Bay. But his stint covered the Packer glory years and he made the first tackle in Super Bowl history as a member of the Packer’s 1966 kick-off squad.

Coach Vince Lombardi assigned the rookie Weatherwax to room with my dad in 1966 and launched a curious though solid friendship between the son of a California citrus farmer and the son of Pennsylvania coal miner.

In 1967 when my dad accidentally caught himself on fire trying to repair our family’s car, Jim Weatherwax met the ambulance at the hospital.

Perhaps concerned about his friend’s ability to handle power tools safely, Mr.Weatherwax later spent the summer helping my dad build a screened in porch on the back of our house at the edge of Colburn Park in Green Bay.

I swung by our old house a few weeks ago and noted that the screen porch stood strong. An annual Christmas letter with the promise of an upcoming visit confirmed that the friendship stood strong too.

The Lombardi Packers collected championship rings like boy scouts collect badges, and the remarkable friendships they developed during that run had lasting merit.

Jim Weatherwax and Dad
Roommates, teammates and friends, here are No. 73 Jim Weatherwax and No. 77 Ron Kostelnik.
JPO and Dad softball
Here’s my dad and his friend John Olson. The shenanigans these two got themselves into would fill several blogs. John gave me my Ron Kostelnik jersey in 1986, and he gave Vinnie a Jim Weatherwax jersey this year.
back porch
The screen porch still stands, as does the tree my mother threatened to chain herself to in a spirited protest of Brown County development . back in 1968, but that’s a story for another day.
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My dad didn’t live long enough to see his grandsons play football but John came to several of his godson Vinnie’s high school games.
Several members of the Super Bowl I team relax in Sarasota, Florida ahead of Super Bowl XXV. Left to right are Tommy Jo Crutcher, Red  Mack, Bob Skoronski, Willie Davis, Boyd Dowler, Herb Adderley, Jim Weatherwax and Ron Kostelnik (I can't explain the hunch except to say he was a bit of a goofball.)
Several members of the Super Bowl I team relaxed in Sarasota, Florida ahead of Super Bowl XXV in 1991. Left to right are Tommy Jo Crutcher, Red Mack, Bob Skoronski, Willie Davis, Boyd Dowler, Herb Adderley, Jim Weatherwax and Ron Kostelnik (I can’t explain my dad’s hunch except to say he was a bit of a goofball.)
The jerseys held up through the years as well as the friendship.
The jerseys held up through the years as well as the friendship.

 

4 thoughts on “The jersey boys: a circle of Lombardi inspired friendship

  1. Great story of teammates and friendship but it doesn’t surprise one bit —–it’s the way Jim is with people !

  2. Oh Molly I so enjoy all your stories. I grew up in the era your dad played. I was so fortunate to meet so many of the Packers during that time. Fuzzy lived in Neenah & his son was my brothers best friend. Keep the stories coming. I love the pictures.

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