Honoring a Green Bay Packers Fan: My Father and My Mentor, Norm Fox

mom-and-dad-on-wedding-day

Norm and Sis Fox on their wedding day on July 8, 1950

***Note: This story was originally published two years ago.

I was born in 1957. That year is special in the hearts of sports fans in Wisconsin. In 1957, Lambeau Field (then City Stadium) was built to become the new home of the Green Bay Packers, while the Milwaukee Braves also won the World Series that special year.

I grew up in a great sports era, as the Packers won five NFL titles in seven years (including the first two Super Bowls) under Vince Lombardi from 1961 to 1967. I saw the Packers in person on a number of occasions.

Plus I was able to see great baseball players like Henry Aaron, Eddie Matthews and Warren Spahn of the Braves play many times while they were still in Milwaukee.

My dad, Norman Fox, was always there with me.

My passion for sports came from his talks with me. Dad gave me history lessons about the various sports teams, whether it was about the Packers, the Braves or the Wisconsin Badgers. I was also educated about a number of professional sports teams that no longer existed or had moved from Wisconsin.

Dad loved to tell me stories about the Packers back in the Curly Lambeau days when he was growing up.

Dad would quiz me about my knowledge at the dinner table just about every night at our home in Milwaukee. I’m happy to say that I passed with flying colors. Why? I had a great instructor.

My father and mentor passed away on Monday at age 88. I now have a big void in my life. But the lessons he taught me will always remain with me.

Because of dad, I loved all sports, but especially football.

We were both spoiled by the Packers at an early age. Dad was born in 1926, and the Packers won six NFL titles under Lambeau by his 18th birthday, with the last one coming in 1944. Dad was serving his country in the Pacific then with the Navy in World War II.

While I was enamored with players like Bart Starr, Paul Hornung, Jimmy Taylor, Jerry Kramer, Max McGee, Ray Nitschke, Willie Davis, Herb Adderley and so many others in the 1960s, dad made sure I also learned about the Packers of his era.

I was told stories about the great Don Hutson, as well as learning about players like Clarke Hinkle, Cecil Isbell, Johnny (Blood) McNally, Cal Hubbard, Arnie Herber, Mike Michalske and Tony Canadeo.

Dad went to a number of games to see the Packers, both in Milwaukee and Green Bay in those days. In Milwaukee, he would see the Packers play at State Fair Park many times, including the 1939 NFL Championship Game that was played there, as the Packers beat the New York Giants 27-0.

cecil-isbell-in-the-1939-nfl-title-game-at-state-fair-park

Cecil Isbell runs with the ball in the 1939 NFL title game at State Fair Park

Dad also parked cars at old Marquette Stadium in Milwaukee when the Packers played there for one season in 1952. After that, he saw the Packers play many times at old County Stadium, where I was often with him.

Dad also traveled to Green Bay to see the Packers play at both old City Stadium and also the new City Stadium, which later was named Lambeau Field in 1965 in honor of the first head coach and one of the founders of the franchise.

Going to training camp is something I really enjoy. I learned that from my dad, although I never came away with a football like he did, nor did I ever see the Chicago Bears train.

The Bears trained at St. John’s Military Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin in 1935. Dad and some buddies watched them practice one day. During practice, an errant punt went over the fence and dad scampered to get it.

Dad retrieved the ball and then never stopped running. He was sprinting away from the Bears just like he was a running back for the Packers like Johnny (Blood).

He told me he never ran so fast, as players and coaches for the Bears were yelling at him to come back with the football. But he never did, and he came home with the football that day.

Dad was an amazing athlete. One time, a few years after his football caper with the Bears, he and a couple of friends rode their bikes around Lake Michigan. It took them several days to accomplish this feat, but they did it.

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Norm Fox with his prized football

Throughout the years, dad and I stayed true to the Packers, even in the lean years. Dad and my mom moved to the Tampa, Florida area in 1983 when they retired, but his loyalty to the Packers continued.

I ended up moving to the Sunshine State myself a while after my parents did. I soon met my future wife, Pam. We ended up living in proximity of my parent’s house. Dad and I ended up going to a number of games between the Packers and the Buccaneers at old Tampa Stadium during that time.

We always had a great time. Before, during and after the game. One time we went to a tailgate party which had Ray Nitschke in attendance. Dad really enjoyed seeing No. 66. After a while, it was time to get to the stadium for the game, and I was looking for dad.

I found him near the brat table. He had a brat in each hand, as they had run out of hot dog buns. No matter, those brats were going down!

The Packers became a force again in the NFL starting in 1992, and that continues to this day. Dad really enjoyed the resurgence of the team, as the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI in that era.

He enjoyed watching the Packers when they were quarterbacked by Brett Favre, but he really liked the way the Packers played behind quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It didn’t hurt that he sort of looked like No. 12 when he was a young man.

grandpa-navy

Norm Fox during World War II

Dad was a happy camper when the Packers won Super Bowl XLV behind the play of Rodgers.

After my mom passed away in 2007, I became the primary caregiver for my dad, as he had been dealing with a number of medical issues for many years, including beating colon cancer twice.

I have taken my dad to our summer home on Lake Michigan for the past seven years for three months or so each summer. The place is just an hour or so south of Green Bay, so I was able to get to check out training camp on many occasions.

Over the last seven summers, my bond with my dad became even stronger. I always made sure that he would tell the stories he had told me about the early Packers to my friends when they would come out and visit.

The stories never got old as I would grill some brats and then play some sheepshead with dad and some buddies.

Those memories will always stay with me, as will the reminiscing of spending quality time with my dad as a youngster.

 You see, Norm Fox was not only my father and mentor, but also my friend.

2 thoughts on “Honoring a Green Bay Packers Fan: My Father and My Mentor, Norm Fox

  1. Bob, I do remember reading this a couple years ago and now that I read it again I feel even closer to that era.. Your dad was very special, a member of the greatest generation. My dad was also born in 1926 Bob he died at 79 . He was also in WW 2 and was wounded and came back a disabled American vet and still worked 50 years of his life . The parity of our fathers are very close. I can see now that your father set the tone for you to be the great American sports writer, father and husband that you are . We were very lucky Bob , our dads were tired, but they always found time to show us the right way. Now you can look back as I, and remember all the good, and to know if it wasn’t for our dad’s, I just wonder where would we be today. We were lucky Bob you’re one of the best Sports writers in America, as I once won the best haircutter in America competition in 1976 . We have a lot in common and we do love our football so may your dad rest in peace, and I bow to him as a Great American..,

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    • Thank you so much, Joe! We do have a lot of common traits and interests, thanks to our respective father’s. Here’s to your Dad as well! The apple didn’t fall far from the tree, as your many talents have illustrated. Also, it was Dad who also first got me interested in the JFK assassination, when he brought home Rush to Judgment by Mark Lane. That interest continues to this day, as you know.

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