Bart Starr, former Green Bay Packer quarterback and Hall of Fame player, passed away at age 85 recently. Many stories have been written about him and I am going to tell you a story about Bart Starr that you have never heard before. I heard this story from two close friends, Jerry and Darlene Kronschnabel.
We met the Kronschnabel’s purely by chance in a Madison cocktail lounge while waiting for a table at a Friday night fish fry. Poole’s Supper Club on Atlas Avenue in Madison was a popular gathering place on Friday nights and Molly and I regularly stopped there for the Friday Fish Fry. One Friday we got our name on the waiting list, went into the crowded cocktail lounge and luckily secured the last available table in a corner of the lounge. As we sat there talking I spotted a couple of senior citizens come into the lounge and patiently stand by the bar. I went over to the couple and said they were welcome to join us at our table which they gladly accepted. After an enjoyable chat, we invited them to join us for dinner and that was the start of a great friendship. Darlene and Jerry were living on the far east side of Madison at the time but a short time later they moved to a country home near De Pere, Wisconsin.
This was a natural move for the couple as they both called the Green Bay area their hometown. They had lived in several places while raising their children. Jerry always loved farming and he managed a number of large dairy farms in Brown, Outagamie, Waukesha and Polk Counties. He then worked for Germania Dairy Equipment and was National Sales Manager for the company traveling throughout the United States, Canada and Japan.
Back in the 60s (the Lombardi era) they were running a dairy farm just outside of Green Bay. A friend of theirs stopped by and introduced them to Bart Starr. Bart grew up in a farm background back in Alabama and he expressed that he would like to visit a Wisconsin farm.
The Kronschnabel’s gave them a tour of their place and invited them to stay for dinner. While they were visiting, Starr said that once in a while Coach Lombardi would give the team a day or a half-day off from football. While his teammates really enjoyed the time off, Starr would be left with nothing to do. He said that going to the golf course or bowling alley was not his thing. Neither was hunting, fishing or hiking particularly his favorite way to spend his time off. What he would really love to during this time would be to slip into a pair of jeans and a work shirt and spend that time just doing farm work. He didn’t want any pay, he would just enjoy doing farm chores. The Kronschnabel’s had no problem with that type of arrangement. They told him to call whenever he wanted to help out.
So, for the next few years Jerry had an extra part time farm hand and Bart Starr really enjoyed doing the farm work on his day off. His only reward was enjoying Darlene’s farm style cooking.
Oh, there was an extra benefit for the Kronschnabel’s in the deal. Whenever they wanted to see a Packer game in Green Bay, all they had to do was ask Bart Starr and he would deliver the tickets. One game Jerry attended he will never forget. He was sitting in a sleeping bag with a fellow Packer fan for warmth during the famous “Ice Bowl” in the 1967 Championship Game against Dallas. Starr scored the winning touchdown when he crossed the goal line near the end of the game.
Bart Starr did not forget his Wisconsin farm friends during the off season as he corresponded regularly with them and they exchanged Christmas cards. Once it was time for football to start, Starr would be sure to pack a few pairs of work clothes with him for his time spent at Jerry and Darlene’s place. Jerry and Darlene were impressed with Starr from the minute they met him. They said he was a true southern gentleman who displayed respect to all of his friends and fans. They recalled many happy moments with him working on the farm and sharing meals at their table.