The Biggest Sports Fan I Ever Knew
My Dad, Gary Pingel, passed away a week ago today. It’s still hard to comprehend he’s truly gone & I imagine it’ll be that way for some time. When my Dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 he was given two years to live by the doctors, obviously he beat those odds handily. Even as short as a few weeks ago things had progressed to the point where Dad’s physician had told Mom it was doubtful he would make it to Christmas. Again, Dad didn’t agree with the assessment & we all got to spend one last Christmas together. It should be no surprise where I get my own stubborn streak from.
I always say my sports fandom in general came late to me, but it wasn’t through lack of exposure. If there was one constant in our house growing up is that most of the time when Dad was home there was some sporting event on TV. Growing up in the 80’s there weren’t the 100’s of channels to choose from we have today, more like 5 total counting PBS & then perhaps upwards of 10 or 12 later in the decade. That didn’t matter though. If there was any type of sports on Dad would find it & we’d be watching it. As I’m sitting here typing this I can still hear the sounds of the opening of ABC’s Wide World of Sports ( the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition) echoing throughout the house.
When I moved to Green Bay in 1995 (good timing, I know) my interest in the Packers increased. Part of that was because, well, it’s Green Bay & simply by being here you’re over-exposed to it but also because I was a restaurant manager & talking about the Packers was an easy common thread to talk to customers about. A side effect of this, which I don’t think I consciously recognized at the time, was all of a sudden conversations with Dad started becoming longer, more animated as instead of just talking about how things were going in general we’d be talking about the Packers. A year later there was an opening in the fantasy baseball league Dad was in with my Uncle Mike. Dad checked with the guy who ran it & all of a sudden I was in a fantasy baseball league so I started paying attention to baseball as well as football. I’ll always remember a phone call with Dad prior to that first fantasy baseball draft. It was a keeper league & I inherited a team from the person that left. Dad had called to see if I needed any help on who to choose as my keepers. I had done some studying & said I was keeping Biggio, Bagwell & Bichette. Dad paused and said ‘well, looks like you may actually know what you’re doing there’. High praise from Dad, especially for me as a month earlier I hadn’t even known who any of those players were & that my picks were actually good ones.
From there, you could say the flood gates opened as I started paying attention to the Badgers, Brewers, Bucks & Packers more and more. Our now shared interest of these teams brought Dad & I closer. That’s not to say we weren’t close, we were, but now at a higher level it seemed. Because of sports we always had something to talk about, to complain about or to be happy about. In some ways, if it wasn’t for Dad PocketDoppler.com wouldn’t even exist. If it wasn’t for the enjoyment it gave me to talk & share sports with my Dad I may very well would’ve never had the interest to start up a site about Wisconsin sports.
My last great sports memory with my Dad happened the week before Christmas when I was up in Phillips helping Mom after we got that one rather dire diagnose. At that time Dad was already on oxygen pretty much 24×7 & spent a fair amount of time sleeping/resting although when awake was still very lucid & talkative. Those of you that know me, know ‘my sport’ is volleyball, having played in college & still reasonably well these days on a mostly competitive level. I think because of my playing, Dad in turn like I had done years ago with baseball, took an interest in volleyball just so we could share that as well. It just so happened that week the Badgers volleyball team was playing in the NCAA Final Four, underdogs against Texas to get to the finals. We watched the match together & Dad as much as I made his running commentary on kills, blocks, aces, errors & digs. We both were elated when the Badgers went up 2-0 in the match, got worried when they dropped the third set & shared the excitement when they won the 4 th to win and advance to the finals. At the time, I never thought that would be the last sporting event we’d ever watch together, but as it turned out it was & in some ways it seems pretty fitting.
Dad was a lot of things to a lot of people. A loving & caring husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle and a great friend to many. Dad was also, without a doubt, the biggest fan of sports I’ll ever know. We all miss you Dad & always will but we all know you’ll be watching or listening to every game right along with us from here on out.
Gary Lee Pingel (1948-2014)
Gary L. Pingel, 65, Phillips, died on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2014, at his home with his family at his side. He was born Feb. 21, 1948, in Fond du Lac, Wis., the son of Wilbur and Verna (Mittlesteadt) Pingel. He spent his early life and schooling in Marshfield and Stevens Point. He attended and graduated from Stevens Point High School, Class of 1966. He then attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where he majored in Business Administration. While attending the university he was a member of Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity. He was married to Sheryl McWeeny on April 19, 1970, in Stevens Point, Wis. They celebrated over 43 year of marriage together.
He was employed as a grocery store manager in stores, in Stevens Point, Madison, Fort Atkinson, Antigo, Phillips, Prentice and Tomahawk, prior to his retirement.
In his free time he was an avid bowler, where he bowled three 700 series, enjoyed golfing, watching sports, reading and spending time with his family and friends, especially his four grandsons.
He is survived by his wife, Sheryl, Phillips; by three children, Walter (Anne) and Matthew, all of Green Bay; and Cindy (Gary) Burnett, Minocqua; four grandsons, Connor and Carter Pingel and Jackson and Drew Burnett; by three brothers, Richard (Char) Pingel, Plover, Wis.; Donald (Kathy) Pingel, River Falls, Wis.; and Michael (Jody) Pingel, Green Bay; by one sister-in-law, Janice (Larry) Schleusner, Edgerton, Wis.; by his godmother, Doris Eberhard, Green Bay; and many close family members and friends.
He was preceded in death by his parents.