Green Bay Packers legend Bart Starr dies at 85

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Green Bay Packers and American sports legend Bart Starr has passed away at the age of 85.

Starr died Sunday at his home in Birmingham, Ala.

"We are saddened to note the passing of our husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Bart Starr. He battled with courage and determination to transcend the serious stroke he suffered in September 2014. But his most recent illness was too much to overcome," reads a statement from the Starr family.

Born in Montgomery, Ala., Bryan Bartlett Starr arrived in Green Bay in 1956. He was a 17th round draft choice out of the University of Alabama.

Starr became the starting quarterback in 1959. That's the same year Vince Lombardi would take over as Packers head coach. It would become one of the most iconic winning legacies in the history of sports.

Starr led the Packers to an astonishing five NFL titles. The most famous of those games was the 1967 Ice Bowl at Lambeau Field. Bart Starr's quarterback sneak won the game for the Packers and cemented him in the history of the NFL, Green Bay, and all of sports.

It was Dec. 31, 1967 and the temperature was -16 degrees at the Frozen Tundra. The Packers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 that day. Starr and Lombardi became heroes.

Retired WBAY engineer Rex Marx filmed Starr's game-winning touchdown in the final seconds. CLICK HERE for Rex Marx's behind the scenes story of the Ice Bowl.

Bart Starr was MVP of Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II.

No. 15 played with the Packers until his retirement in 1971. He would go on to coach the Packers for nine years. He was let go as coach, but remained gracious and humble. "Class act" would forever be used to describe Bart Starr.

"I will be the No. 1 Packers fan and if anyone wants to lay claim to that, I'll challenge them," Starr said. "Because no one--no one has more of his heart and soul in this organization as a fan than I do."

Starr was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

In 2000, the Packers needed to generate support for renovations at Lambeau Field. They called on Bart Starr. Starr called Green Bay his adopted home.

In 2014, Starr suffered two strokes and a heart attack. His recovery included stem cell treatment and working with a trainer. Action 2 News spoke with Bart Starr's son on the legend's 85th birthday. Bart Starr, Jr. told us in some ways, the last four-and-a-half years had been his dad's finest hours, because in his darkest days he maintained his character and dignity. CLICK HERE to read that story.

In Oct. 2017, Bart and Cherry Starr visited Green Bay to donate some of No. 15's championship memorabilia to the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. "I am emotional saying this, but it will be our last trip back," Cherry Starr said during a news conference at Lambeau Field. Bart also appeared in front of a cheering crowd at a Packers game during that visit. It would be his swan song at Lambeau Field.

Bart Starr's legacy extends well beyond football. Bart and Cherry Starr helped found Rawhide Boys Ranch in New London. Bart Starr auctioned his 1967 Super Bowl MVP Corvette to help cover the costs of starting the non-profit that helps at-risk young people.

“The Packers Family was saddened today to learn of the passing of Bart Starr,” said Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy. “A champion on and off the field, Bart epitomized class and was beloved by generations of Packers fans. A clutch player who led his team to five NFL titles, Bart could still fill Lambeau Field with electricity decades later during his many visits. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Cherry and the entire Starr family.”

https://pckrs.com/ugwvqCLICK HERE to read Packers team historian Cliff Christl's remembrance of Bart Starr.

FULL STATEMENT FROM BART STARR'S FAMILY

"We are saddened to note the passing of our husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Bart Starr. He battled with courage and determination to transcend the serious stroke he suffered in September 2014, but his most recent illness was too much to overcome.

While he may always be best known for his success as the Packers quarterback for 16 years, his true legacy will always be the respectful manner in which he treated every person he met, his humble demeanor, and his generous spirit.

Our family wishes to thank the thousands of friends and fans who have enriched his life--and therefore our lives--for so many decades and especially during the past five years. Each letter, text, phone call, personal visit inspired him and filled him with joy.

His love for all of humanity is well known, and his affection toward the residents of Alabama and of Wisconsin filled him with gratitude. He had hoped to make one last trip to Green Bay to watch the Packers this fall, but he shall forever be there in spirit."

STATEMENT FROM NFL COMMISSIONER ROGER GOODELL

“Bart Starr was one of the most genuine, sincere people I knew. He personified the values of our league as a football player, a family man, and a tireless philanthropist who cared deeply about helping at-risk kids. Above all, he was a wonderful human being who will be remembered for his kindness and compassion. On behalf of the entire NFL family and football fans all over the world, we send our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Cherry, his family, and the Green Bay community. He will be sorely missed.”

STATEMENT FROM RAWHIDE AS THEY MOURN THE LOSS OF CO-FOUNDER BART STARR

Starr and his wife, Cherry, helped get the Rawhide Boys Ranch up and running in New London in 1965. Rawhide is a place that helps at-risk youth and their families lead a healthy and responsible life.. For court-ordered boys, Rawhide is an alternative to juvenile corrections.

“The Rawhide family is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Bart Starr. Bart and Cherry have been incredibly instrumental in supporting and promoting Rawhide for over 50 years. Without Bart and Cherry, Rawhide would never have had the extensive impact on at-risk youth throughout Wisconsin,” said Alan B. Loux, President and CEO of Rawhide.

Starr helped fund Rawhide by donating a Corvette, that he received as MVP from Super Bowl II, as a down payment for the property.

"In addition to his generosity, Bart will be remembered for his selfless, humble spirit that he modeled for those around him. He would selflessly spend time with the Rawhide youth and the staff. Bart and Cherry have inspired hundreds of boys who have gone through Rawhide’s program since 1965,"said Aaron Geitner, Public Relations Director for Rawhide.

“My dad is so proud of what he was able to accomplish while playing with the Green Bay Packers. But he viewed that as a stepping stone to do something of even greater significance, and that was to make a difference in the lives of individuals who might otherwise not be able to turn their lives around. We will never know what would have happened without Rawhide, but we certainly know what has happened as a result of Rawhide,” said Bart Starr Jr.

“Bart and Cherry have been the heart and soul of Rawhide since its inception. Bart will be sorely missed but never forgotten,” said Loux.

Action 2 News also caught up with Starr's Lombardi-era teammates, Paul Hornung and Dave Robinson who said they remember Starr's leadership the most.

"He was our leader, and he did such a great job in handling Lombardi's offense," Former teammate Paul Hornung said. "Lombardi loved him and he knew he had a great one in Bart."

"It's more of like losing a teammate or a fellow athlete or something," Former teammate Dave Robinson said. "It's almost like you lose your siblings or parent or something because Bart Starr, I was that close to him."






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Bart Starr on his 85th Birthday. (Jan. 9, 2019) Photo: Bart Starr Team