By ROD LEE
As one of the busiest settings around, Plummer Place at the Northbridge Senior Center never disappoints in the variety of events it hosts on behalf of elders.
This was true again on February 9th when Amy Cowen, who is program and volunteer coordinator for the facility, rolled out an appearance by former Green Bay Packers fullback and linebacker Phil Vandersea and Northbridge High Football Coach Ken LaChapelle.
Ms. Cowen offered special thanks to the Friends of Northbridge Elders (F.I.N.E.) for sponsoring the function.
An enterprising woman, she spares no effort in arranging for such activities. In this case, Ms. Cowen even went to the trouble of having a collectible sports card printed by Simply Designs in Northbridge. The back of the card included all of Mr. Vandersea’s important stats—height, 6’3”, weight, 240, birth date, 2/25/43, birthplace, Whitinsville—along with the notation that he was part of the first AFL-NFL championship game.
He wore the No. 37 for the Packers.
“I was looking for something to attract the guys,” Ms. Cowen said. This thinking worked. The turnout, which filled the dining room at Plummer Place, was predominantly male, for a combination of lunch, remarks by Mr. Vandersea and Mr. LaChapelle, and a raffle.
Ms. Cowen could not have chosen two better speakers as symbols of the town’s celebrated athletic history. During his forty-seven seasons as coach of the Rams, Mr. LaChapelle has racked up 388 wins, earning him induction into the Massachusetts High School Football Hall of Fame. In his 100th victory, Coach LaChapelle’s son Trevor intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown against Uxbridge.
As for Mr. Vandersea, he played under the legendary Vince Lombardi after graduation from Northbridge High and UMass Amherst.
His coach at Northbridge was John Doldoorian.
By way of introducing Mr. Vandersea, Coach LaChapelle said “I was fortunate to work out with Phil and his brother when I was in high school and he was going to the NFL. Phil has something Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes will never have. He played in the very first Super Bowl.”
Coach LaChapelle built a trophy case at the school just for Mr. Vandersea’s artifacts.
Even more than anyone might have been expected, Mr. Vandersea peppered his talk with “Vince Lombardi stories.”
He obviously has great affection for a man who is often remembered as garrulous and tough but who was actually “shy, one-to-one.”
Mr. Vandersea drew laughs when he mentioned that members of the Packers were forbidden to drink in any of the hotel bars, with fines attached to the offense.
When he caught Max McGee, a star wide receiver and punter, doing just that, he told Mr. McGee “that will cost you $250.”
“Make it $500, I’m going to have another one,” Mr. McGee said.