Fighting cancer alongside Vince Lombardi
By Marv Kohlbeck
My mother and my mother-in-law had a lot in common. They labored as farm wives and raised eight and six children, respectively. They both died of cancer, my mother at age 85, and my wife’s mother did not reach the age of 50.
It is never easy to accept death of a family member. Even at the age of 64 in 1996, the death of my mother was difficult to handle. I am sure it was more devastating to my wife, Sherry, to see her mother die of cancer when Sherry was merely 12 years old.
When we are young, we do not think much about battling cancer as we have the false impression that it only affects the elderly. Not true. It strikes people of all ages.
My first real concern for fighting cancer was generated through a volunteer group known as the Wood County unit of the American Cancer Society. The year was 1964, and I was the newest employee of Peoples State Bank in Pittsville. The cancer group was seeking a county crusade chairman who would serve under the leadership of the state honorary chairman, Vince Lombardi.
What a sales pitch: Serve on the same team as Green Bay Packers coach Lombardi in a battle against cancer. Certainly, that would be an honor. When do we start? What do we do?
At that time each county was assigned a financial goal and allowed to do its own planning on how to reach it with the month of March set aside to raise the money.
Volunteers worked hard to get every portion of Wood County represented for solicitation. Our county group was overwhelmed when we were informed that we had been the first county in the state to real our goal, even before the deadline. The acknowledgement came in the form of a Western Union telegram, which I received. It read as follows, “Congratulations to all the volunteers in Wood County for being the first over goal in the Wisconsin 1965 cancer crusade.” It was sent by Lombardi himself.
Lombardi went on to become a legendary coach of the Packers, compiling a record of 90-30-4, winning five NFL Championships and two Super Bowls. Little did Lombardi realize that in 1970 he would go 0-1 in his battle with cancer. He will go down in history as a winner in his teaching and coaching football and in his crusade against cancer.
Everyone that reads this article will have relatives, neighbors, or friends that have suffered the loss of loved ones from cancer. Not a week goes by that we do not hear of another person being diagnosed with this deadly disease. Let us hope that this costly disease can be defeated when someone splits the uprights of knowledge in a winning cause and a stunning defeat that will go down as the greatest medical victory of our lifetime.