A fan for life, Prosek gets birthday surprise from Packers
By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – On Aug. 11, 1919, the Green Bay Packers franchise was born.
At 101, it’s the oldest active organization in the National Football League.
On Aug. 20, 1919, nine days after the Packers were founded, Walter Prosek was born in northern Wisconsin.
At 101, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say Prosek is the oldest Packers fan in the world.
He’s been living at the Brookdale Senior Living facility in Apopka, Florida, for the last four years.
Even though he’s more than 1,300 miles from Green Bay, Prosek said he has kept his Packers fandom.
“In my write-up I have here, I exaggerated a little bit – I said 95 years,” Prosek said. “I’m the youngest of a family of seven children. Three of my family members were male, and they were 15 years older than me. When I got acquainted with the Packers, it was through my older brothers, and that’s how I can justify the 95 years. I think 80 years would be a little more accurate of my appreciation of the team.”
Prosek said he became a Packers fan in the mid-1930s and was big into sports while at Hurley High School.
On his 101st birthday, Prosek got a special present from the Packers’ organization.
Running back Aaron Jones and linebacker Za’Darius Smith conducted a Zoom call with him.
The three talked football for a few minutes, and the two Packers joined in singing “Happy Birthday” to their oldest fan.
“That was a pleasant surprise,” Prosek said. “I don’t ever remember talking to a Packers player in person. I visited their clubhouse back in the day, but I never talked to a player.”
Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson recently made a proclamation for Prosek.
“Walter always sees life with optimism,” Nelson said. “He says no matter how hard your life may be, there’s always hope and room for improvement as long as you’re willing to work to accomplish your dreams and live in the moment.”
Prosek, who is the oldest resident at Brookdale Senior Living, graduated from Hurley in 1937 before venturing out, making work stops in New York City and New Jersey.
He worked for the company that became Chevron from 1947 until his retirement in 1984.
Before graduating from the University of Michigan with a bachelor of science degree in engineering, Prosek attended Gogebic Junior College and got his diploma in 1940.
Later renamed Gogebic Community College, Prosek helped set up the Walter F. Prosek Scholarship.
It’s awarded to two Hurley graduates every year who are freshmen in college and log a 3.0 grade-point average or higher.
“I’m gratified about being able to do that,” Prosek said.
The scholarship – which has been awarded to more than 50 students over the years – is Prosek’s passion, along with the Packers.
Fond memories of older Packers
Prosek said he recalls the Packers’ first great offensive combination of quarterback Arnie Herber and end Don Hutson in the 1930s, both players who are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Prosek also remembers a young quarterback named Bart Starr.
“As I recall, he once ran for a touchdown through the conditions of a snowstorm at the time,” Prosek said. “I don’t know how accurate that is, but that’s in my memory.”
In his time watching the Packers, Prosek has witnessed the evolution of the franchise and the game of football.
Watching a game in the 1930s was different than today’s game.
“When I started watching, the running game was the primary offensive game, and now the passing game has taken over,” Prosek said.
With a number of his relatives living in the area, Prosek still has ties to Green Bay.
When he was younger and able to travel, Prosek visited Lambeau Field and saw the Packers’ facilities.
Unfortunately, he’s never been able to attend a Packers game.
At the assisted living facility, everyone knows Prosek is a big Packers fan – he has plenty of Packers-related items in his room.
“I don’t have it up because I’m in assisted living, but I have two bags of Packers supporting banners, and I have a football,” Prosek said. “The rumor gets around you’re a Packers fan and they’ll give you stuff. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it other than look at the bags once in a while.”
Prosek tries to watch every Packers game he can if they are televised in Florida.
“They don’t promote Green Bay down here as much as some of the other teams, but that’s understandable,” Prosek said. “Sometimes when they play in different time zones, I’m already in bed by the time they get on the screen.”
Prosek said he’ll cheer on his team during games, but he’s a little tamer this season.
“I’m quiet because currently, we’re practically under quarantine here, so there’s nobody to shout to,” Prosek said. “I have some favorite expressions if things aren’t going well, but they are private.”
Prosek said he’s impressed with the 2020 Packers team.
“The combination of (quarterback) Aaron Rodgers and his receivers has materialized so they’re successful,” he said.
As for a prediction on the end result this season, Prosek offered his two cents about a deep playoff run.
“I’m afraid they’d have to play a super game if it happened to be the Kansas City Chiefs against them,” he said. “The Chiefs have a good team and good players. It would be a tough thing for Green Bay to defeat the Chiefs.”
The last time the Packers and Chiefs met in the playoffs was 53 years ago in Super Bowl I.
“I’ve always had an appreciation for the Packers play, and if they’re winning, that’s even better,” said Prosek. “This year, we’re encouraged – they look pretty good on the field.”