In memoriam: Ted Thompson among Green Bay Packers who died in 2021

Richard Ryman
Green Bay Press-Gazette
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GREEN BAY – Former Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson and the oldest living former Packers player were among people connected with the team who died in 2021. 

FRED CONE, 95, died Dec. 31 in Clemson, South Carolina. The oldest living former Packers player, Cone was a fullback and kicker for Green Bay from 1951-57 and was one of the more popular players during his time with the team.  

Cone kicked the Packers' first-ever extra point and field goal at Green Bay City Stadium, now known as Lambeau Field. He kicked the extra point in the dedication game played Sept. 29, 1957, a 21-17 victory over the Chicago Bears. Cone kicked the Packers' first field goal at the stadium from 39 yards out in the final home game of that season.

The Packers drafted Cone in the third round of the 1951 NFL draft. He was a straight-on placekicker who scored 455 points in his seven seasons with the Packers. He ranked second to Don Hutson on the all-time scoring list when he retired after the 1957 season. He led the league in field goals in 1955 with 16.

Fred Cone, left, and his son, Andy, peruse their Green Bay Packers memorabilia, including a youth helmet sent to Andy by Packers quarterback Bart Starr, during an interview following Starr's death in 2019.

Cone lived in Green Bay during the offseason, and expressed his love for the city and it's fans.

"The people were so nice to all the players. They were great sports fans," Cone was quoted in a story by Packers historian Cliff Christl. "When we'd come back on the train from Milwaukee there'd be so many cars at the station, you could hardly find your car. They would hardly let you get off the train, whether we won or lost.

"Later, we started flying and we'd come back to Austin Straubel Field and you could look out the plane and see all the cars lined all the way from downtown to the airport. That was the amazing thing about Green Bay. You felt embarrassed usually because you lost. But the fans were fantastic."

Cone did not play high school football, but got a scholarship to Clemson after serving in the U.S. Army in World War II. He came out of retirement for one year to be the first kicker for the expansion Dallas Cowboys.

In 1961, he was hired by Clemson as a recruiter. He worked for the university for 30 years and is in the Clemson Athletics Hall of Fame.

Here is a list of other Packers or prominent people connected with the Packers who died since we last published the list for 2020:

SUSAN LOMBARDI, 73, died Dec. 30, 2020, in Atlantic Beach, Fla. Lombardi was the daughter of legendary coach Vince Lombardi and well liked by Packers fans. 

Susan Lombardi turned 12 in the same month in 1959 that the Lombardi family moved to Green Bay. She attended St. Joseph Academy in Green Bay, an all-girls school that was eventually merged with others to create Notre Dame Academy high school.

She lived most of her life in Florida, although she did return to Green Bay briefly around 1980.

"What everyone always comments on is her great smile and her laugh," said daughter Maggie Lombardi. "You couldn't forget her laugh."

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RONNIE BURGESS, 57, died Jan. 4 in Horry County, South Carolina. Burgess played defensive back for the Packers. He was a 10th-round draft choice out of Wake Forest University in 1985 and played seven games with the Packers. After football, he was a longtime school administrator, including, most recently, as an assistant principal of Carolina Forest High School. Before that, he was principal of Myrtle Beach High School, St. James High School, and the Academy for the Arts, Science and Technology.

TED THOMPSON68, died Jan. 20 in Atlanta, Texas. 

Thompson, a member of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, died three days after his 68th birthday. The cause of death was not disclosed, but he had said he had an autonomic disorder which affected the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary actions,  such as heartbeats.

Thompson was the Packers general manager from 2005-17. During his tenure the team won it's fourth Super Bowl and 13th NFL championship, and made four appearances in NFC championship games. His first-ever draft choice was future hall of fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Former Green Bay Packers general managers Ted Thompson, left, and Ron Wolf talk during the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame Inc. banquet in 2019 at Lambeau Field. Thompson was inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame that year.

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Thompson’s stamp on Packers teams goes deeper than quarterback. His final first-round draft pick was Kenny Clark, now the highest-paid nose tackle in NFL history. The last player he signed was an out-of-work free agent named Robert Tonyan, who last season tied Paul Coffman’s franchise record with 11 touchdown catches. Thompson drafted All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari in the fourth round. He drafted All-Pro receiver Davante Adams in the second round.

For his part, Thompson downplayed his himself during his Packers Hall of Fame induction in 2019. 

"You look at all the great players who've come through here, they are idols," Thompson said in a video that played during the banquet. "I'm not one of those people. I'm just a scout."

MERLYN "BUD" LEA, 92, died Jan. 20 in Milwaukee. Lea was a Packers beat reporter and columnist for the Milwaukee Sentinel from 1954-1995, and continued writing about the team for Packers Plus after his retirement as a newspaper reporter. In all, he covered the Packers for 55 years.

Lea was a Green Bay native and graduate of the University of Wisconsin.

“I read him as a kid, before I ever knew I was going to be a sportswriter, and found him so informative,” said Cliff Christl, a former Packers beat reporter and now Packers team historian. “And I loved his personality. Bud has a cranky sportswriter side to him, which I love, but he’s also one hell of a guy. He set the standard for how to report on a football team. That was the level I wanted to attain."

The Packers Hall of Fame established a media award in Lea's name.

Green Bay Packers general manager Ron Wolf, right, chats with Milwaukee Sentinel columnist Bud Lea before the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in Atlanta on Dec. 1, 1991. The Packers lost 35-31.

JOHN ROACH87, died Feb. 18 in Dallas. Roach was Bart Starr's backup quarterback from 1961-1963.

Roach attended Southern Methodist University and was drafted in the third round in 1956 by the Chicago Cardinals, where he played one year before serving in the U.S. Air Force for two years.

After his military service, he was the St. Louis Cardinals' starting quarterback for one year before playing three years with the Packers. During his time in Green Bay, the Vince Lombardi-led Packers won NFL championships in 1961 and 1962. He played the 1964 season with the Dallas Cowboys before he retired.

Roach started four games for the Packers — they won three — and played in 19 others. He threw for 653 yards, four touchdowns and eight interceptions. 

WILLIAM 'RED' MACK83, died April 8 in South Bend, Indiana. 

Mack was born in Oconto but grew up in Allison Park, Pa., near Pittsburgh. He attended the University of Notre Dame on a football scholarship before he was drafted in the 10th round of the 1961 draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played halfback and receiver for the Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles and expansion Atlanta Falcons before joining the Packers for the 1966-67 season.

He played eight games for the Packers, mostly on special teams. He made two tackles in Green Bay's 35-10 Super Bowl I victory over the Kansas City Chiefs.

PETE LAMMONS, 77, died April 29 at Sam Rayburn Reservoir near Brookeland, Texas. Lammons, a tight end, played 12 games for the Packers in 1972 after six years with the New York Jets. While playing for New York, Lammons caught 25 or more passes for at least 300 yards and two touchdowns each year. He played for the Jets' Super Bowl III champions.

After football, Lammons was a professional angler. He was participating in a Major League Fishing Toyota Series tournament when he drowned in a boating accident.

JERRY BURNS, 94, died May 12 in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Burns was an assistant coach for the Packers during the 1966 and 1967 seasons, when they won Super Bowls I and II. Burns then went to the Minnesota Vikings, where he was an assistant coach on four Super Bowl teams and head coach from 1986-1991. In 2005, he was inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor.

Burns was head coach at the University of Iowa before joining the Packers. He also coached baseball and basketball at the college level. He was a member of the University of Michigan's Rose Bowl winning team in 1950.

JIM CAPUZZI, 89, died April 9. Capuzzi was a defensive back and quarterback for the Packers during the 1955 and 1956 seasons. He played nine games for the Packers and made two interceptions. He played college football at the University of Cincinnati and Marquette University, and served in the U.S. Navy for four years before joining the Packers as a free agent.

STEVE BROUSSARD, 71, died June 1 in Biloxi, Mississippi. Broussard was a punter for the Packers in four games during 1975. In his first game on Sept. 21 against the Detroit Lions, and Starr's first as Packers head coach, Broussard had three punts blocked, an NFL record. 

Broussard was a Golden Gloves boxer and after football he became a disc jockey. He is a member of the Biloxi Sports Hall of Fame.

JUNIOR COFFEY, 79, died Aug. 30 in Federal Way, Washington. Coffey, a running back, was drafted out of the University of Washington in the seventh round of the 1985 NFL draft by the Packers. He carried the ball only three times that championship year but was a key member of the Packers special teams. He was picked by the new Atlanta Falcons in the 1968 expansion draft and played for the Falcons and New York Giants before he retired in 1971.

He is a member of the the Panhandle Sports Hall of Fame and the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame. 

After football, he was a horse trainer in the Seattle area.

TUNCH ILKIN, 63, died Sept. 4 in Pittsburgh. An offensive lineman, Ilkin played 13 years for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played one game for the Packers in 1993 before he retired.

 After football, he was vice president of the NFL Players Association for five years before become a broadcaster. He was named to the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team in 2007.

ROGER ZATKOFF90, died Nov. 4 in Birmingham, Mich. Zatkoff was a linebacker and defensive end for the Packers from 1953-56. He also played two years for the Detroit Lions before he retired and became a successful businessman.

Zatkoff was drafted out of the University of Michigan in the fifth round of the 1953 draft. He played on the Rose Bowl winning team in 1951 and was named All Big 10 in 1952. He was a three-time Pro Bowl selection while playing for the Packers and was on Detroit's 1957 NFL championship team.

ED HOLLER81, died Nov. 21 in Columbia, South Carolina. Holler, a linebacker, was drafted out of the University of South Carolina in the 14th round of the 1963 NFL draft. He played one season with Green Bay and one season with Pittsburgh before a long career as an attorney.

Contact Richard Ryman at (920) 431-8342 or rryman@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RichRymanPG, on Instagram at @rrymanPG or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RichardRymanPG/.

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