Bart Starr, the legendary Green Bay Packers quarterback, was married for more than six decades to his wife Cherry Starr, who was high school sweetheart.
Throughout his years as a football star, and later through charitable efforts that made them beloved to the community, Cherry Starr remained at Bart’s side. Those who knew them said they were respectful and kind to all, and the couple became known for that humility of spirit off the field.
The Packers great died on May 26, 2019, the Packers confirmed in a statement posted online. The cause of death? His health had been failing since 2014 when he suffered a stroke. He was 85-years-old. Cherry has survived him, along with their son, Bart Starr Jr.
In a family statement released by the Packers, Starr’s family wrote that “we are saddened to note the passing of our husband, father, grandfather, and friend, Bart Starr. He battled with courage and determination to transcend the serious stroke he suffered in September 2014, but his most recent illness was too much to overcome.”
“While he may always be best known for his success at the Packers quarterback for 16 years, his true legacy will always be the respectful manner in which he treated every person he met, his humble demeanor, and his generous spirit. Our family wishes to thank the thousands of friends and fans who have enriched his life – and therefore our lives – for so many decades and especially during the past five years.”
The family concluded: “Each letter, text, phone call, and personal visit inspired him and filled him with joy. His love for all of humanity is well known, and his affection toward the residents of Alabama and of Wisconsin filled him with gratitude. He had hoped to make one last trip to Green Bay to watch the Packers this fall, but he shall forever be there in spirit.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Brett & Cherry Starr Were Married When He Was Poor & Both Were Young
When Brett and Cherry Starr began their romance, they were both 20-years-old. It was 1954. He wasn’t a famous quarterback then; he was so poor he asked her to marry him four times, borrowed a friend’s car to elope, and Cherry changed into her wedding dress in a “muddy service station in rural Mississippi,” a profile on the couple’s marriage in AL.com reported.
They were high school sweethearts who attended Montgomery’s Sidney Lanier High School. She was born Cherry Louise Morton. They celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary in May 2019.
“We have wonderful memories, but people think it’s so glamorous being married to a football player,” Cherry said to AL.com. “It’s a hard life, and a very different life. There are a lot of temptations in the game because people are attracted to athletes because they’re athletes … and there’s a lot of stress because most of the players are fighting to maintain their positions.”
Confirmed the Lombardi Foundation: “Bart Starr married his high school sweetheart, Cherry, in May of 1954, when they were both 20 years old. Their love has spanned more than six decades, and the couple has dedicated countless hours to supporting a variety of charitable causes along with furthering the mission of the VLCF.”
After their first date, Cherry is reported to have asked her mother if she liked the sound of the name “Cherry Starr.”
2. Starr & His Wife Cherry Had Two Sons Together & Cherry Had Thyroid Cancer
According to the Packers, Starr and his wife had two children. His youngest son died before Bart Starr, however.
The family has had its share of tragedy, though. Starr “is survived by his wife, Cherry; and his oldest son, Bart Jr. He was preceded in death by his youngest son, Bret,” the Packers wrote.
Bret Starr passed away in 1988 at the age of 24 of a drug overdose, Bloomberg reported. At the time, the Los Angeles Times wrote that Bret Starr developed a drug problem in his teens and “died a lonely cocaine-related death at his home in Florida.”
A friend told the Times: “Bart, Cherry, Bart Jr., Bret–that was as All-American a group as you could find for a portrait. All of them trim, athletic, caring, handsome.” At that time, Bart Starr Jr. was working as a lawyer.
In January 2019, Bart Starr Jr. told WBAY-TV of his dad’s birthday: “Given all he’s been through, the fact that we’re here talking about him having that milestone makes us full of gratitude. And we had an early celebration at his favorite Mexican restaurant on Saturday, and then we’re going to have a little follow up one with some cake and a few things later today, so we’re going to celebrate long and hard.”
In 2017, Cherry Starr joined her husband as they donated some of Starr’s memorabilia, including his last Super Bowl ring, to the Packers Hall of Fame.
“It’s been a wonderful weekend. I’m emotional saying this, but it will be our last trip back,” Cherry Starr said, according to Fox 6.
In recent years, Cherry Starr has had thyroid cancer.
3. Bart & Cherry Starr Are Beloved for Their Work Serving At-Risk Youth & Families
Bart Starr was more than a football great. He and his wife, Cherry, are well-known for giving back to the community.
“Bart and Cherry were generous benefactors to many organizations and causes, most notably Rawhide Boys Ranch, which was established in 1965 near New London, Wis., to serve at-risk youth and families,” the Packers wrote.
Bloomberg reported that the ranch was a “faith-based charity for at-risk teenagers” that was located in new London, Wisconsin. It opened in 1965.
In addition, Cherry was highly regarded for how she became her husband’s caregiver after his stroke.
4. Bart Starr Jr. Says His Parents Wrote Each Other Notes & Repeatedly Expressed Their Feelings for Each Other
In the AL.com profile, Bart Starr Jr. explained that he thought the secret to his parents’ enduring love was the fact they were never hesitant to tell each other how they felt.
“One of the great things they do is they make it a habit of expressing to each other how they feel toward each other,” Bart Starr Jr. said to AL.com. “They don’t let that go unspoken. Whether it was verbally, or a series of notes … we shouldn’t miss an opportunity to tell those who mean something to us, that they mean something to us.
“Never miss that chance.”
5. The Packers Sent Condolences to Starr’s Wife & Family
In a statement, the Packers offered prayers for Bart Starr’s wife and his family. To many people, they were known for their kindness to all.
“The Packers Family was saddened today to learn of the passing of Bart Starr,” said Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy in the team’s statement.
“A champion on and off the field, Bart epitomized class and was beloved by generations of Packers fans. A clutch player who led his team to five NFL titles, Bart could still fill Lambeau Field with electricity decades later during his many visits. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Cherry and the entire Starr family.”