SHAWANO (NBC26) — Gene Lasch, 86, motored to Green Bay for the first time in 1960 to celebrate the Packers' Division Title win with a friend. 60 years later, he’s still spreading his love for the team all over the country.
“Three teams I watch play," he said. "The Packers, the Packers, the Packers.”
Lasch, a Shawano native and Korean War Veteran, did not follow the team much as a child.
“I thought I should go and see a Packer game because otherwise they might excommunicate me from the state," he said, laughing.
As an adult, he drove himself to see the Green Bay Packers play at Lambeau Field, parked two miles away from the stadium and walked all the way back. He bought a ticket for 18 dollars off a stranger, he recalled.
“I bought the ticket from him and, here’s where it really gets ‘Only in Wisconsin, only in Green Bay,'" said Lasch. "He says, ‘I tell you what, we got a motor home over here and we got beer, brats, hamburgers. Come on over and join us.’ Wow.”
From there, his love for the Packers only grew, which now leads to him being named a finalist for the Packers FAN Hall of Fame this year. Every year since 1998, the team inducts one devout and longtime fan into the Hall of Fame. All January, fans can read the finalists' profiles and vote online. The winner will be selected by Packers fans, previous FAN Hall of Fame honorees and the Packers' committee.
When Lasch was 70, he took his grandchildren to ride bikes with the Packers to training camp practice, and ended up getting on a bike himself. A security guard gave him a bit of a hard time, he said.
“He wasn’t going let me in because I wasn’t a kid," said Lasch. "Well, I said, ‘you have to look deep. I’m a kid right here,'" he said, pointing to his heart.
Lasch has all kinds of signed items, including a T-shirt with Lynn Dickey's signature on it and another with Ray Nitschke’s autograph.
“I never wash it, so his DNA is still on the shirt," he said. "Whenever the Packers are struggling, I put on the shirt to give them a little help.”
Lasch cheers for the Packers loud and proud all the way from Hawai’I, where he spends his winters. He walks down the beaches, waving a green and gold towel and blowing his conch shell.
Just being a top ten finalist for the fan hall of fame is a huge honor, he said. But of course, it would be amazing to win.
“I started thinking, ‘Wow, I got a lot of different stuff,' and more unusual than, you know, ‘I went to every game,’ which is great," he said. "But I got spreading the word all over the world.”
This year's 10 finalists are:
- Jane Rietmann – Merrimac, Wis.
- Fred Ihlenfeldt Sr. – Kewaunee, Wis.
- Jeff Padon – Severn, Md.
- Ken Trinkner – De Pere, Wis.
- Leo DeGroot – West Bend, Wis.
- Patrick (Pat) Suplicki – Stevens Point, Wis.
- Bob Parker – Green Bay, Wis.
- Gene C. Lasch – Shawano, Wis.
- George Oudhuis – Rolling Prairie, Ind.
- Jeanne Beardsley – Ellsworth, Wis.
The voting deadline is midnight, January 31st, 2021. All voters will be entered into a random drawing to win Packers merchandise. The honoree's selection will be announced in late winter 2021. He or she will receive four club seats to a 2021 Packers home game, a $500 Packers Pro Shop gift certificate, a road trip for two to a 2021 Packers away game, including game tickets, air fare and hotel accommodations and a one-year subscription to Packer Plus.
You can vote for your favorite fan here.