On a Sunday afternoon in 1961, Gene Chu adjusted the rabbit ears on his family’s TV and became a lifelong Packer fan.
For most of his childhood, he was the only Packer fan he knew.
Chu, then a young boy living in Espanola, a small paper mill town located in Northern Ontario, picked a good time to begin following Green Bay football. With Vince Lombardi at the helm, the Packers beat the New York Giants 37-0 to win the NFL Championship in 1961. They won a total of five titles, including the first two Super Bowls, in the next seven years.
All over Wisconsin, people cheered the Pack and, way up in Ontario, Gene Chu did too.
“I had to play around with the UHF and we were able to get only one station. They broadcast home Packer games,” Chu said. “Some days, the reception was fairly snowy, but other days it came in quite clear.”
Chu became a super fan, and has maintained his singular loyalty for 57 years. Today, the Canadian license plate on his car reads “Packers8”, because Packers 1 through 7 were already taken.
“That’s okay though,” he said. “Because eight is a lucky number in China.”
Once, when Chu was driving down an Oklahoma highway, a car pulled along side him frantically waving.
“I couldn’t figure out why he wanted to get my attention at first,” Chu said. “Then I looked over and he took both hands off the wheel and started waving an Aaron Rodgers jersey at me. I realized he had seen my license plate, which I thought was cool. But, I also wanted him to put his hands back on the wheel.”
A proud Packer owner (naturally), Gene convinced his wife Rosemary to attend the Packer Shareholder meeting with him in 2014. They loved it and Rosemary noted that even the garbage cans are green and gold in Packer country.
Back in 1986, Gene also talked Rosemary into “taking a little detour” from their planned route home to Ontario, and the two swung four hours out of their way to watch training camp.
“That was the first time I saw the field in person,” Gene said. “I watched through the fence and I was so excited.”
In addition to owning a share in his beloved team, Gene owns 37 Packer sweatshirts, Packer head covers for his golf clubs, and a Packers chair. The acquisitions can be tricky to make from Canada, thanks to border taxes and shipping costs. In fact, those extra costs prompted a polite phone call from the Packer Pro Shop that left Rosemary very impressed.
“They phoned me and listed the fees and said, ‘Are you sure you want to do that?’ and I said, ‘Sadly, yes,'” she said. “But, I thought it was so nice of them to phone and check.”
The couple now lives in Toronto and has seen the Packers play in Buffalo, a two-hour drive on a good day, and in Detroit, four hours away. Still on their bucket list, though, is seeing the Packers play a game at Lambeau.
“I have to go back,” Gene said.
3 thoughts on “Espanola’s greatest Packer fan, eh”
Thanks, Laura for writing this lovely blog. My love for The Pack never waned from those glory days with Coach Lombardi (your dad being a big part of that), through the lean years, to the hopeful present. Such a pleasure meeting you and Vince, thanks to Mike & Stephanie. Who knows, maybe we’ll meet up again in Green Bay, when we come for another shareholders’ meeting – or even better, experience one of your tailgate parties on game day – now on my bucket list.
We look forward to tailgating with you! Go Pack Go!
Great blog post! So glad you got recognition as #1 fan Uncle Gene. Here’s too more off your bucket list!