GREEN BAY – It was an emotional and uplifting weekend for Bart and Cherry Starr as the couple returned to Green Bay for the 50th anniversary of the Packers’ Super Bowl II championship team.
It was the Starrs’ first Packers game since welcoming Brett Favre back to Lambeau Field on Thanksgiving two years ago, the first of Favre’s two-part jersey retirement ceremony.
Starr, 83, has battled a series of health issues in recent years, including a heart attack and multiple strokes and seizures, but he made enough progress over the past six months to allow him to participate in a ceremony commemorating the 1967 championship team between the first and second quarter of Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.
“I think it would be wonderful if we hypothetically had a film montage of how Dad was doing earlier this year, say February through May, because at that time there would have been zero chance we could have come up here,” said Bart Starr Jr., crediting his father’s physicians, assistants and physical therapists for the improvement.
“A couple months ago when we realized he was heading in that right direction, a very optimistic direction, we said 'OK we can do this. We'd love to get back.' I'm pleased to say he's probably at his best level of the year right now.”
The Starrs remained in town until Monday to donate several unique items to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, Inc., including Bart’s Super Bowl II World Championship 14-karat gold ring, his Packers Hall of Fame ring, three watches, and a Nike Super Bowl I and II MVP jacket presented to Starr during the Super Bowl 50 pregame ceremony.
Cherry said the family decided to make the donation after she was told about his Super Bowl II ring – with three diamonds depicting the Packers’ three consecutive championships from 1965-67 – being listed for auction on eBay for $100,000.
After finding the actual ring in the family’s safe, Cherry reached out to the Packers Hall of Fame about possibly housing some of Starr’s most cherished memorabilia. The items will now be on display inside the Packers Hall of Fame, located inside the Lambeau Field Atrium.
“I thought we need to insure that this jewelry will never, ever be in the wrong hands and will never be sold. No one will ever profit off of Bart’s jewelry,” said Cherry, turning to speak directly to her husband seated nearby. “The nice thing, honey, is thousands and thousands of people are going to enjoy seeing all your treasures and that could not make us happier.”
Bart and Cherry posed for photos afterward with the memorabilia. Bart then told the media and Packers Hall of Fame members gathered the couple is “really pleased to be here.”
Bart Jr. said the festivities over the past two years have been pivotal in his father’s improvement in health, encouraging the Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback to continue his physical therapy three days a week and performing that “extra squat, that extra toss of a ball.”
The weekend – which included a Packers Hall of Fame banquet on Saturday night – made for what Cherry called “absolutely one of the best weekends we've had in a long time.”
While Bart Jr. said afterward you never know what the future holds, Cherry told reporters this currently is the last trip the family is planning to Green Bay.
“It’s been a wonderful weekend,” Cherry said. “Everyone has been so gracious. It’s been an absolutely memorable, beautiful, beautiful weekend. All of you who are responsible. We love you all. We love our fans. We love this city and we’ll miss you so much.”