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OSHKOSH - Li Hu was the cook in the family, his wife Ping Li said, and the Chinese immigrant spent his Sundays at the grocery store, preparing meals for his family of four. He would go to Festival Foods, Piggly Wiggly or Pick N Save and wonder why Oshkosh became a ghost town on Sundays from September through December — sometimes into January and February.

“No one is on the street because everybody is watching the game,” Li said.

For Wisconsinites, it is a normal Sunday occurrence, but for Hu, who moved to Oshkosh from Shanghai in 1994, Green Bay Packers game days were a completely new experience.

Though Hu passed away in April 2016 after an eight-year battle with cancer, his wife is remembering his love for the green and gold with his nomination to the Packers Fan Hall of Fame this year. Hu is one of the finalists for the ultimate 2018 Packers fan.

Hu moved to Oshkosh to accept a job at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh as an assistant art professor. He taught at the school for the rest of his life, moving up the ranks from associate professor to full professor of art, endowed professorship and emeritus professor.

A natural artist, Li said her husband was also curious. After Hu discovered American football — something he and his family knew nothing about — he wanted to learn more. He began watching Green Bay Packers games with some of his football friends, learning more of the team’s history from Curly Lambeau to Vince Lombardi and understanding the Packers' unique ownership system.

“Every fan owns it. He always was very proud of that,” Li said.

What really drew Hu to Packers fandom was the game-day experience. He and his wife attended their first Packers game in 1997 — the season after the Green Bay Packers won the Super Bowl. They attended a bucket list event — a Packers-Bears rivalry game at Lambeau Field.

“The first game we went I didn’t even know to dress up in green and gold,” Ping said. “We went to the stadium, and we were the only ones who did not dress appropriately. That’s when we learned.”

In his years of teaching at UW-Oshkosh, Hu taught students to merge passion and art.

“He always told us passion is more important than talent. In that sense, he just meant if you have the passion to do something, the talent will come eventually because you’ll keep doing it because you’ll love doing it so much,” former UW-Oshkosh student and artist Jon Wos said.

Wos first met Hu in 2000 or 2001 in a drawing class.

Li combined his passion for art and passion for the Packers in his collection of fan paintings. He experienced the Packers' tailgating experience with brats, beer and music. One of his friends used to haul a complete living room set of green and gold furniture to tailgate in a parking lot.

Li then took these Packers fan snapshots and transformed them into paintings.

He was capturing the Packers spirit, Li said.

“It’s not a particular game. It’s not who you play this game. It’s through all the seasons, through all the years, where the Packers spirit and the Packers loyalty really shines. I think that motivated him to paint the fans,” Li said. “It’s celebrating life as well, not just a game.”

Li said her husband viewed Packers fans as the strongest representation of the state of Wisconsin — a state he quickly viewed as his second home.

Hu made Oshkosh his second home through his active work in the community. He celebrated Chinese New Year with others in the Chinese American community of northeastern Wisconsin. He invited students to his house once a semester to learn more about his artwork, build relationships and eat a buffet of delicious food.

“He was an amazing professor,” Wos said. “He pushed you to do more work without being overbearing about it. He was a very generous and happy guy all the time.”

Even after his death, Hu has an impact in the Oshkosh community. During his battle with cancer, he and his wife set up a scholarship fund for UW-Oshkosh art students called the Li Hu Art Student Scholarship.

“He always said all students who are interested in art deserve to get an education and an opportunity,” Li said. “With this Packers Fan Hall of Fame, it’s so great. We’re not just promoting Li but promoting the Packers spirit but also that I can bring more awareness to the scholarship and art program at UW-Oshkosh.”

Voting for the next inductee into the Packers Fan Hall of Fame continues through Thursday. The winner will be selected in February. Voting is online at the Packers website.

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