GREEN BAY (AP) - An 80-year-old former Green Bay Packers cheerleader wants football fans to have a chance to own a piece of team history.
Mary Jane Sorgel has put up for auction 24 handwritten letters to her from late Packers coach Curly Lambeau, who had hoped to marry her before he died of a heart attack while taking a break from mowing her father's lawn in 1965.
The Sturgeon Bay woman told Press-Gazette Media for a story published Sunday that she used to have more letters from Lambeau, but misplaced or lost them over the years. She didn't want the same to happen with these 24.
Each is worth an estimated $1,000, although some could go for more or less. One of particular interest is a letter in which Lambeau mentions a conversation he had with Vince Lombardi about the upcoming 1965 season.
"I didn't know what to do with these," she said. "I decided that rather than destroy them - that would be bad because of the fans who liked Curly - I just decided to sell them. I think it's the right thing. The younger fans especially, who did not have a chance to meet him or know him, these letters are about his life and the nice guy he was. He was a lot of fun to be around, and he loved the Green Bay Packers."
Sorgel - then named Mary Jane van Duys - met Lambeau in 1960, seven years after he completed an NFL coaching career that spanned 33 years with the Packers, Chicago Cardinals and Washington Redskins, including six NFL championships with Green Bay and a Packers team record of 209 victories that still stands.
Lambeau fell hard for Sorgel, who was 34 years younger, and eventually asked her to marry him. But Lambeau had been divorced three times, and Sorgel was deeply religious. Her faith did not allow her to marry a divorced man.
"I said, 'I can't, I just can't,'" Sorgel said. "I really liked him a lot. He was a lot of fun, but I didn't know what to do or what everybody was going to think about it."
Sorgel recently gave the letters to Heritage Auctions, a Texas auction house, which will feature them in a sports auction that closes Oct. 25.
"I read every single word of every letter," Heritage consignment director Chris Nerat said. "I felt a connection to Lambeau and Mary Jane. It was just kind of neat, because you could feel the emotions that they were feeling at the time, and you can kind of get a gauge of his personality. He was just a fun-loving guy who liked to joke around like anybody else. He wasn't too big for his britches. He was just a normal guy who loved football and loved Mary Jane."
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