By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Step into the main office of Middletown’s Mount Olivet Cemetery wielding a camera, and it doesn’t take more than a ‘hello’ for secretary JoAnn Christopher to figure out why you’ve come.
“Here for Lombardi?” she asks.
With a Super Bowl matchup Sunday between the Pittsburgh Steelers and legendary coach Vince Lombardi‘s former team, the Green Bay Packers, Lombardi, who’s buried at Mount Olivet, is more of an attraction than usual.
Christopher said Lombardi’s resting place is a regular tourist attraction throughout the year. But with the coveted championship trophy bearing Lombardi’s name on the line this weekend, and his former team vying to take it back to Wisconsin, the visitor count has risen, she said.
“People come all the time,” she said. “All the time.”
The signs of recent trips to the modest headstone are evident. A miniature block of cheese and several Packers replica helmets line the top of the headstone, and a fresh set of flowers rests on the snow thanking Lombardi for his championship wins.
Christopher, who says she’s a “Yankees girl,” doesn’t quite get the draw.
“Fifty years later, I didn’t think people cared so much,” she said. Still, “I hope (the Packers) win for him. He seemed like a good guy.”
Lombardi lived on Lockwood Place in Fair Haven hometown of his wife, Marie when he was an assistant coach with the New York Giants in the mid-1950s, according to a biography by David Maraniss. The couple sold the house in 1959, when Lombardi became coach and general manager of the Packers in 1959. He died in 1970.
Now, this is a Jets and Giants dominated area. But we know there are a few fans of both teams who are primed for Super Bowl Sunday. Pete DeFazio, a former Red Bank cop whose father also is buried at Mount Olivet, is surely enjoying his retirement days with a head full of cheese. Danny Murphy, owner of Danny’s Steakhouse, likes to claim that his section of Bridge Avenue is Steeler’s Country.
So, fans, predictions are welcome. Will Vince be smiling from the grave Sunday night, or will he grudgingly spend the next year in the form of an “XLV”-inscribed trophy in Steel City?