As Super Bowl Sunday approaches, a longtime resident in Catawba County is remembered.
Ron Kuchenbecker, who passed away on Sept. 24, 2009, was a lifelong Green Bay Packer fan that lived in Newton. His team will face the Pittsburgh Steelers this Sunday at Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas.
“We miss ‘Kuch’,” said former N-C athletic director Don Patrick. “He was a big fan for the Red Devils, but he was the epitome of a Green Bay Packer fan.”
Ron and his family moved from his native Wisconsin in 1965 to this area. They made one last return trip to Wisconsin in 1969 before returning to the area in 1972, where they stayed permanently.
Each year, Ron and his son, Terry, went to a Packers’ game. This lasted for 24 straight years. Ron and his family even had partial ownership in the team.
A trip to see the Bears in 2009, unbeknownst to Terry, was the final trip for the two to see the Packers play.
“Being our last trip to Wisconsin together, it was a memorable trip,” Terry said. “Touring Lambeau Field is great because it has so much history to it. There is so much tradition with Packers’ football.”
The trip also included Patrick, who was a longtime friend of Ron’s. Patrick wanted to go on a trip to see the Packers for many seasons and finally got the opportunity after retiring in 2009.
“He had told me all along that he was going to take me to a Packer game,” Patrick said, “When I retired, I told him he had been running his mouth and I asked him if he was going to take me or keep running his mouth. He took me to see the opening home game between Green Bay and Chicago.”
The Kuckenbeckers and Patrick made the long trip up to Green Bay and stayed with some of the Kuckenbecker’s cousins in Appleton, 30 miles south of Green Bay.
They left Thursday before the game and took some time to enjoy the history of the Packers. The trio toured Lambeau Field before attending the game on Sunday.
“That was a tremendous experience,” Patrick said. “Ron or ‘Kuch’, as even his family calls him, really was just the biggest Packer fan you ever saw in your life. He wore Green Bay colors every time he had a chance. I kidded some of the people in Green Bay during the trip that he was the biggest Packer fan in the state of North Carolina.”
Not only was Ron a big fan of Green Bay, but also one of Newton-Conover athletics. He had two sons and a daughter that played a variety of sports at the school. Ron’s first wife, Marilyn, even worked for the school system.
Following his children’s graduation from N-C, Ron continued to give time to the programs at the high school.
“He just loved supporting all the sports athletic functions,” Terry said. “He really enjoyed them.”
Ron and the company he worked for, Matthews Construction, built the new press box and field house at Newton-Conover. Ironically, the field house was named after Patrick after he retired in 2009.
Even after his children’s graduation, Ron dedicated a lot of his time watching many of the Red Devils’ sporting events, especially football and basketball.
“There is no way I could put a price tag on what he did at the high school,” Patrick said. “He took a lot of pride in the work he did with Matthews Construction in building the press box and field house.”
After Ron passed away, the Kuchenbecker family held a reunion as the 2010 football season began again in Green Bay.
Before the home opener against Buffalo on Sept. 19, 11 members of the Kuchenbecker family, including his children and second wife, Carolyn, spread his ashes on Lambeau Field.
“When we got the opportunity to go out on the field, we spread the ashes,” Terry said. “He always wanted his ashes on Lambeau Field because every time Green Bay played, he wanted to be run over by them on game day. That he was his saying for years.”
This Sunday, Ron’s beloved Green Bay Packers will compete on the gridiron. With a victory over the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers, the Packers will claim their fourth Lombardi Trophy and first championship since 1996.
Patrick believes Ron would have been proud of his team.
“The other day, I watched Green Bay play in NFC championship game,” Patrick said. “All I could think is that I hate that Ron Kuckenbecker is not here to enjoy this because no one would be more thrilled to see them back in the Super Bowl than him.”