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Galesburg's Version of Vince Lombardi

By Jeff Holt

Published January 27, 2022 in The Burg

There are Green Bay Packer fans and then there are ones like Vince Marolla.

He's just another level. He grew up in Wisconsin between Milwaukee and Madison (in Horicon).

"I have always been a Packers fan and my family has always been Packers fans," said Marolla, who currently serves in Galesburg as the pastor for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Beyond all of that, Vince said that there is a 50 percent chance that he was named after the legendary Vince Lombardi.

"Depending on the day, my dad (Ed) would say that either I was named for Vince Lombardi or a guy he met in the Army named Vincent," he said. "The truth has recently come out in the family (is) that when my mom proposed the name Vincent to my grandma, my grandma hated it, so that is how I became Vince."

As a kid, Vince remembers watching Packers games on the television with his family. He said it was very intense.

"My parents both lived and died by the Packers - both my dad and my mom (Bette)," said Vince. "(They) would routinely yell at the TV. The phrase I remember most from my dad when things were not going well is that 'They are playing like sausages.'"

Continued Vince, "My mom's sister - who lived in Minneapolis - would call during the Viking-Packer games because she knew my mom would be watching and annoyed ... that was in the days before caller ID."

They did have family rituals around Sunday Packer games, especially for the tradition of the late-game supper.

"Whenever the Packers played in the late game, our family supper consisted of bean, bacon and cheese sandwiches -- just what they sound like -- an open-face piece of bread with crushed baked beans, Velveeta and bacon broiled in the oven," said Vince. "It was something we could eat in the living room."

To this day, Vince still remembers a certain story (in 1969 or 1970) when they were on vacation in Door County.

"We stopped by Lambeau Field on a rainy August day," said Vince. "Practice was over and I waited as Packer players came out of the locker room. I remember the rain and Bart Starr. Bart stayed out, in the rain, until everyone who wanted an autograph got one. He was truly a class act."

Then in the 1970s and the 1980s, Vince went on to St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota and Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.

"At the time, most college dorms had one TV in the basement," he said. "I would try to get down there first on game day so I could watch the Packers when they were on."

Then after graduating seminary and being ordained, he moved with his wife (Pam) and daughter (Christina) to the far western edge of North Dakota. He continued to follow the Packers. And in 1996, when the Packers won the Super Bowl, he wore a cheesehead while leading worship on Super Bowl Sunday. He still has a t-shirt for the back-to-back Super Bowl wins for the Packers that never were - in 1996 and 1997.

Then in 1998, Vince's wife took a call to serve in a church in Racine, Wisconsin.

"I was working first as a hospice chaplain, and later as a trainer for hospice," said Vince. "I remember being in more than one home where there was a hospice patient and there was a discussion about who was getting the (Packers) season tickets in the will."

Ironically, it wasn't until November 1, 2009 that Vince got to see his first Packers game in person. He had been traveling with hospice around the country and training - and was in Milwaukee at the time - when he got a call from Midwest Airlines.

"They were based in Milwaukee and flew everywhere I needed to go," said Vince. "The woman on the other end of the line told me I was one of their most frequent fliers and they had something to give me, if I wanted it. The something was two tickets on the 50-yard line about 25 rows up to a Packer game complete with an indoor tailgate party featuring Gale Gillingham. If you look up that game, it was also the return of Brett Favre in a Viking uniform. We don't talk about who won."

Vince continues to follow the Packers since he's lived in Galesburg with his wife. He said he gets a "strong reaction of booing" if he mentions the Packers during a sermon. He's also performed a mixed marriage - a Packers fan and a Bears fan.

"It is something I enjoy," he said.

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