Packer Bob memorialized
Family aspires for Hall of Fame nod
By Scott Bellile
“Packer Bob” Retzlaff’s life is over, but not his remarkable tradition of driving a horse-drawn carriage to his favorite team’s season-opener at Lambeau Field.
This year, four of Bob Retzlaff’s younger family members took the reins of a new horse but used the same old green and gold wagon: nephews Kolt Retzlaff of Hobart and Jeremy Griesbach of Pewaukee, and granddaughters Elizabeth Caldwell of Oshkosh and Kasey Jahsman of Menasha.
On Sept. 5, Kolt Retzlaff, Griesbach and Caldwell passed through the area. They were guided by Bud, a 16-year-old Quarter Horse that they bought one month earlier to succeed the previous horse, Rich, on the journey.
They all stopped for lunch at Phil’s Still in Northport, then headed to New London to visit Bob Retzlaff’s sister Debra Olesen.
Griesbach said the intent of this year’s 170-mile, eight-day carriage ride from Tomah to Green Bay was to maintain awareness of Bob Retzlaff’s love for Wisconsin’s NFL football team, and in turn, hopefully elevate him to the Packers Fan Hall of Fame next February.
Bob Retzlaff of Valley Junction, a 1968 graduate of New London Senior High School, was a posthumous finalist for the Packers Fan Hall of Fame earlier this year. He lost to 87-year-old Marguerite Bachhuber of Green Bay.
If Bob Retzlaff does not win this time, Griesbach said the family plans to keep riding until their mission is a success.
If he is nominated, the public will be able to vote for him online in January.
“Bob was the biggest Packer fan in the world,” Kolt Retzlaff said.
If traveling nearly 200 miles by horse 16 times to Lambeau Field does not prove that, other examples of Bob Retzlaff’s fandom include:
• Attending all home Packers games and the shareholders’ meetings.
• Taking an annual vacation to an away Packers game.
• Putting up a Packers-themed Christmas tree every year.
• Watching the games with his special Touchdown Cheese, Three-Point Sausage and Defense Cheese on hand for the right moments.
• Having taped Packers games sent to him overseas throughout his 22 years in the military.
Bob Retzlaff died of cancer on Oct. 7, 2017 at the age of 68.
Caldwell said her grandfather’s death has been tough, but coming together to accomplish what would have been his 17th annual ride to Lambeau has brought the family closer together.
One major change was painted onto the roof of the green and gold buggy: “In memory of Packer Bob God Bless”.
“He was always the center of the family,” Griesbach said.
“Center of attention for sure,” Kolt Retzlaff added with a laugh.
Bob Retzlaff’s last ride in the buggy was September 2017, when he was feeling under the weather but still completed half of the journey from Tomah to Green Bay.
Kolt Retzlaff and Griesbach finished their uncle’s ride. They met him in Green Bay for the Packers’ 2017 season opener against the Seattle Seahawks.
This year the ride took the family through Tomah, Wisconsin Rapids, Plover, Scandinavia, New London, Seymour and Green Bay. They finished one day early, Saturday, Sept. 8, to avoid game-day traffic.
On Sunday, Sept. 9, the family witnessed a season-opener that would have made Bob Retzlaff proud: The Packers pulled out of a 20-0 deficit in the second half and defeated the Chicago Bears 24-23.