George Oudhuis (finally) joins the Packers FAN Hall of Fame
GREEN BAY - George Oudhuis didn't shake Mark Murphy's hand this year. That's OK for a couple reasons, including the fact that three previous times he was congratulated for being a Green Bay Packers FAN Hall of Fame finalist.
But not the winner.
Normally, the finalists and their families pack the media auditorium at Lambeau Field for the announcement, as they did last year, just before the state was shut down because of COVID-19. There were no handshakes this year for anyone, but a Zoom call from Murphy early Wednesday afternoon was better because the Packers president and CEO told Oudhuis he's the 23rd member of the FAN Hall of Fame.
"My knees are shaking. I could probably just fall down right now. This is one of the best days of my life," Oudhuis said during a later Zoom interview while standing in his Rolling Prairie, Indiana, basement, which could be mistaken for a wing of Packers Hall of Fame museum at Lambeau Field.
"I’ve never lived in Green Bay, but Green Bay’s lived in me my whole life."
His Packers fandom began in his youth. His family would come home after church, eat lunch and sit down for football. They were in Chicago Bears country, but it was a Bears opponent that caught Oudhuis' attention.
"When you see people like Bart Starr, Paul Horning, Jerry Kramer and Fuzzy Thurston — I could keep naming them all — I became enamored with that," he said. "As a little kid, you grab your white T-shirt you're not supposed to write on. You put Bart Starr's number on there and you go out and try to emulate what they're doing. That just kind of took off."
And kept taking off. Friends and family nominated Oudhuis for the hall every year for more than a decade. Friend Jim Brandt, in nominating him this year, talked about how Oudhuis works to convert his fellow community members and fans of other teams to support the Packers.
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"The first time I stepped foot into his home ... I was both horrified and in awe. His basement is like a blinding green and cheese-gold shrine dedicated to the Green Bay Packers organization," Brandt wrote. "But, as he showed me around, I realized it wasn’t just a typical collection, it was like seeing the story of his life told through Packers memorabilia."
Brandt noted Oudhuis' years of volunteer work at Packers youth football camps and at fundraising events for Make-a-Wish and Special Olympics. And his never-ending effort to find new Packers converts.
More than 71,800 votes from around the world were cast during January for the 10 finalists. Finally, Oudhuis came out ahead.
"You lose three times, you think 'well, I've lost three times, it'll be OK if I lose,'" he said. "It's sure OK to win, I'll tell you that."
His Hall of Fame plaque will hang on his basement wall, next to his Green Bay key to the city, which he received when he helped unveil Donald Driver Way in 2013.
In addition to having his name added to the list of FAN Hall of Fame members in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame museum, Oudhuis will receive four club seats to a 2021 Packers home game, a $500 Packers Pro Shop gift certificate, a road trip for two to a 2021 Packers road game, including game tickets, air fare and hotel accommodations, and a one-year subscription to Packers Plus.
This year's other finalists included:
- Bob Parker of Green Bay
- Ken Trinkner of De Pere
- Fred Ihlenfeldt Sr. of Kewaunee
- Gene C. Lasch of Shawano
- Patrick Suplicki of Stevens Point
- Jane Rietmann of Merrimac
- Jeanne Beardsley of Ellsworth
- Leo DeGroot of West Bend
- Jeff Padon of Severn, Maryland
Packers FAN Hall of Fame members include:
- 2020 - Kari Bernier, Dyersburg, Tennessee
- 2019 - Amy Nelson, Fence
- 2018 - Marguerite "Mugs" Bachhuber, Green Bay
- 2017 - Frank Lamping, Union Grove
- 2016 - Patricia Nevala, Menomonie
- 2015 - Steve Schumer, Gillette, N.J.
- 2014 - Vivian Scherf-Laabs, Cedarburg
- 2013 - Edward Fritsch, Sheboygan
- 2012 - Rick Steele, Greensburg, Pa.
- 2011 - Tom Little, Mount Sterling, Ill.
- 2010 - Jim Becker, Racine
- 2009 - Allan Hale, Green Bay
- 2008 - Richard "Ike" Eisenhauer, Wauwatosa
- 2007 - Rich Barbera, River Vale, N.J.
- 2006 - Kathy Lazzaro, Milwaukee
- 2005 - Dorothy Hanke, Milwaukee
- 2004 - Sister Isaac Jogues Rousseau, Milwaukee
- 2003 - Wanda Boggs, Brookfield
- 2002 - Paul Mazzoleni, Green Bay
- 2001 - Ed Jablonski, Wausau
- 2000 - Louis Gardipee, Black River Falls
- 1999 - Mel Knoke, Appleton
Contact Richard Ryman at (920) 431-8342 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @RichRymanPG, on Instagram at @rrymanPG or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RichardRymanPG/