A Wisconsin Czech with a Green Bay Packer Casket?
Smetana - Die-hard Packer fanfan
WENDY SMETANA shows a bit of the memorabilia she has in her den at
home, a room totally dedicated to the Green Bay Packers (photo by Lee
Bus driver Wendy Smetana even has green and gold casket waiting for her
By Lee Lawrenz
For The News-Chronicle
Her car's license plate has a Green Bay Packers' "G," followed by LYLFAN.
According to a street sign on her garage, her address is Packer Backer Blvd.
She has a den decorated with only Packer memorabilia and keeps a Packer
Christmas tree up all year long in her living room.
But perhaps the most telltale sign that Wendy Smetana, 60, a City of Green
Bay bus driver, is a devout Packer fan is that she has a green and gold
casket all paid for and waiting for her when she dies.
"I call myself a die-hard Packer fan and I have the casket to prove it,"
Smetana smiled. "It's a green and gold casket, although not officially a
Packer casket. I bought it the year we won Super Bowl XXXI. I heard they had
a limited edition of a green and gold casket at a Janesville company. I
called them and said, "If I can cancel the one at the mausoleum, you have a
The casket is still in Janesville at this time. Wendy proudly shows a
photograph of it.
Wendy moved back to her native hometown Green Bay from Algoma a few years
after getting her job with the Green Bay Transit Authority. Her mother died
in 1988, and her father had health problems, so she moved in with him. What
struck her as sad is her dad stayed mostly in the den, where he kept
everything the way her mom had left it, "keeping it as kind of a shrine to
her. It seemed to keep him depressed."
After her dad moved to a nursing home, Wendy repainted the den, put in
Packer borders and stenciling, and brought together all the Packer
memorabilia she had collected over the years. She brought him pictures of
the changes and he got enthused, even bringing four nurses and the nursing
home administrator with him once when he made a visit home.
Wendy started collecting Packer memorabilia since she got her first season
ticket when City Stadium (renamed Lambeau Field) opened in 1957. She had
strong ties to the Packers since her uncle, Norbert "Mac" McHugh, served as
head of the field and crew on game days for every coach from Curly Lambeau
through Ray Rhoades. Some of his duties were putting all the markers out,
making sure all the gate counters were reset at zero and he also made a lot
of repairs in the pressbox, Smetana said.
Smetana's collection includes everything from an old Packer cape when the
colors were still blue and gold to a Gilbert Brown jersey, a Johnny Holland
pair of shoes, an autographed Mark Lee pair of shorts and autographed
pictures of a lot of Packer coaches and players.
At a Packer auction, she even picked up the pants Lindy Infante wore as a
coach in the Pro Bowl, when he was an assistant with the Browns, before he
became head coach of the Packers. He autographed them for her.
She also has a Waterford crystal helmet from the Super Bowl XXXI year, many,
many game programs, and almost all the Packer yearbooks, which started
coming out in 1964.
As a fan sitting in Section 122, row 55, seat 21 at Lambeau Field, Wendy
says, "I like my seat up there because I can see the plays materialize. I
get a little excited when I see holding and it isn't called. I yell, I get
into it. You don't want to be around me."
Her favorite game of all was the Ice Bowl. "I was there, so were 500,000
other people," she laughed. "I wasn't cold. I'm up and down too much for
Smetana also has strong personal memories of two games at Lambeau after the
Sept. 11 terrorist acts. At a Monday nighter against the Redskins, Wendy was
one of three bus drivers who brought firemen and paramedics from around the
state (from Green Bay Notre Dame High School) to Lambeau Field. She was able
to go down on the field with the group and help hold the large American
flag. A similar occurrence was at the NFC championship game later that
season against the 49ers, when she was one of four bus drivers invited to
Wendy plans to keep attending games as long as she can and plans to be a
Packer fan until the end.
"I have it planned that when I die, if it's not in the winter, that my
family and friends go to a park after the funeral and have a tailgate
party," Smetana said. "Everything will be catered in, but there will be no
alcohol. I'm not a drinker."