The Grave of Vince Lombardi
by Randy Snow
Originally posted on Yahoo! Voices, Wednesday, June 13, 2012
When it comes to legendary coaches in the National Football League, there is none bigger than Green Bay Packers head coach, Vince Lombardi. He will always be known as the man who led the Packers to five NFL titles and victories in the first two Super Bowls.
Vincent Thomas Lombardi was born on June 11, 1913 in Sheepshead Bay, New York near Brooklyn. He was raised in a Catholic family and, for a while, considered becoming a priest.
Lombardi attended Fordham University in the Bronx and played football there. He was a guard on the famed "Seven Blocks of Granite" offensive line from 1934-1936. He graduated from Fordham with a bachelor's degree in 1937 and then went on to attend law school there at night.
Lombardi became a teacher at St. Cecilia High School in Englewood, New Jersey. He taught Physics, Latin, Chemistry and Algebra. He was also the assistant football coach from 1939-1942. He was the head football coach there from 1942-1947 and also coached basketball and baseball.
In 1947, Lombardi became the freshman football coach at his alma mater, Fordham University and in 1948 he was an assistant varsity coach. He was also an assistant coach at West Point from 1949-1953 under their legendary head coach, Red Blaik.
His first taste of coaching in the NFL was as an assistant coach with the New York Giants from 1954 1958. The Giants won the NFL championship in 1956. Lombardi became the Packers head coach and general manager in 1959, leading Green Bay to NFL titles in 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966 and 1967. He retired as Green Bay head coach after Super Bowl II, but remained with the team as the general manager.
His retirement from coaching only lasted one year, however. He signed on with the Washington Redskins as head coach and executive vice president in 1969. He was also a part owner of the team. Lombardi led the Redskins to a 7-5-2 record in his only season with the team before his death in the fall of 1970.
On a recent trip to New Jersey, two of my sons and I decided to pay a visit to the grave of the legendary NFL figure. According to www.findagrave.com, Lombardi is buried in the Mount Olive Cemetery in Middletown, New Jersey. The web site does not give the street address of the cemetery, but it does include GPS coordinates, so I figured that was the next best thing. While driving through Middletown, we stopped for gas so I thought I would ask for directions to the cemetery. (New Jersey is the only state that I am aware of that still has attendants who pump the gas for you.) I asked the attendant where the Mount Olive Cemetery was and he had no idea. He did say there were two cemeteries close by, but he did not know their names.
We decided to put the GPS coordinates into our Garmin and it showed the locations as being in the middle of a nearby lake or river! We were back to square one.
We continued down the road and stopped at the first cemetery, which was not the one we were looking for, but the nice lady in the cemetery office told us how to get to Mount Olive. As it turned out, it was on Chapel Hill Road just off Route 35, about a block or so behind the gas station that we had originally stopped at!
When we arrived at Mount Olive we drove around a bit and saw that all the sections were clearly marked. Lombardi is buried in Section 30. The Find a Grave web site also provided the lot and grave number for Lombardi, but this was useless to us as there were no other markings in Section 30 that we could see. Like Moe Howard to the other Stooges, I told the boys to "Spread Out" and we walked thought Section 30 looking for the grave. I was the one who eventually found it, right on the end of one of the rows. There was a small ceramic football bank setting on top of the grave. I thought it was somehow attached, but, as it turned out, it was not.
Ironically, we were at his grave site just days before what would have been his 99th birthday.
After taking a few pictures to remember out visit, we were off. Our original reason for being in New Jersey was to attend the bi-annual meeting of the Pro Football Researchers Association, which I am a member of. The meeting was being held at the NFL Films Studios in Mt. Laurel, NJ. Middletown was only about an hour away down the New Jersey Turnpike. We could not pass up the opportunity to make the short trip over to the final resting place of one of the truly legendary figures in the history of the NFL.
Lombardi died of colon cancer on September 3, 1970 at the age of 57 in Washington, D.C. He was inducted into the Fordham University Hall of Fame in 1970, the Pro Football Hall of Fame the following year in 1971 and the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1975. Today, the Super Bowl Trophy is named after him.
The Lombardi Award was established in 1970 to honor the nation's best college football lineman.
You can also visit the Vince Lombardi Steakhouse, which is located inside the Radisson Hotel in downtown Appleton, Wisconsin. It features over 400 pieces of the coach's personal memorabilia and photos. It opened in 2000.
There was even a Broadway play recently called Lombardi starring Dan Lauria as Vince Lombardi. Lauria is best remembered as the father on the TV show, The Wonder Years from 1988-1993. The play ended its run in May 2011.