Menomonee Falls — Joan Hampton has always put her country first. Her time in the Navy is proof of that. In close second is the Green Bay Packers.
Hampton, a Menomonee Falls resident and the first woman from Wisconsin to enlist in the Navy during World War II, has been a Packers fan for 82 years. Except for a few games she missed during the four years she spent in the Navy, Hampton has never missed listening to a game on the radio or watching the Packers play on TV.
Because of her longtime devotion to the Packers, Hampton is one of 10 finalists named in the search for the 16th member of the Packers Fan Hall of Fame. The Fan Hall of Fame was founded to honor one fan each year. The winner's name will be displayed in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. The fan with the most votes wins. People can vote for Hampton at http://nfl.packers.com/fan_zone/fan-hall-of-fame-2013/voting/.
Love at first listen
Hampton was born in Liverpool, England, in 1922. Her family emigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old. After settling on Milwaukee's east side, Hampton became fast friends with Marilyn Brigden, the niece of Ward Cuff, a Packers player. Hampton remembers her friend constantly talking about football and the Packers, two things Hampton came to America knowing nothing about.
It didn't take long for her to fall in love with the sport, and the team she would spend the rest of her life rooting for.
"I would sit on the floor by the radio and just love every moment," she said.
Sometimes Hampton would sit on her mother's davenport, listening to the games.
"My mother just moved the lamps," she says, so they wouldn't be knocked over as she cheered on her team.
"I remember listening with my girlfriend who introduced me. Every game was special," she said. "All I know is that I was pretty tired at the end of each game, but win or lose and whoever played, it was sort of my little world on a Sunday afternoon listening to (the Packers) and nobody better call me up on the phone."
Before her family moved to Menomonee Falls, Hampton would routinely walk the block and a half to Juneau Park to watch the Packers practice.
"It's a great team. I think the men on the team, they've always been A-number one," Hampton said, recalling some of the greats from Don Hutson who started with Green Bay in 1935 to Reggie White. "I don't ever remember reading anything (bad) about any of them and I think that really gives credit to Green Bay and the state of Wisconsin."
Paving the way for women in the Navy
Hampton's love for the Packers is surpassed only by the love of her country. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Hampton waited diligently for the Navy to announce it would accept women. In June of 1942, that announcement finally came. Hampton's parents drove her to Chicago — there was not a recruitment office in Milwaukee — so she could enlist.
She was accepted and sent to Washington, D.C., where she worked at the Navy's Bureau of Ordnance for four years.
"Unfortunately, we kept track of the ships that went down and were sunk. It was hard and it was very secretive. We couldn't tell anybody what we were doing," she said. "It was a very exciting time."
It was also a new dawn in the Navy and Hampton was at the forefront of women making a name for themselves in the military.
After four years in Washington, D.C., Hampton returned to Menomonee Falls where she married, worked and raised five children, never missing a Packers game.
Despite her devotion, it wasn't until much later in life that Hampton was able to attend a live game at Lambeau Field. On Jan. 4, 2002, at 80 years old, Hampton stepped foot into Lambeau Field for the first time.
The Packers lost to the Falcons in a playoff game, though the loss didn't matter to Hampton, who said she got goosebumps remembering that day. It was the only game Hampton ever attended in person.
If she is voted into the Fan Hall of Fame, she will receive four club seats to a Packers home game; a $500 Packers Pro Shop gift certificate; a road trip for two to a Packers away game, including game tickets, air fare and hotel accommodations; and a one-year subscription to "Packers Plus."
Gordy Hampton-Davis, Hampton's son-in-law, said it's been a blessing for her to have made it this far.
"She's been a die-hard for the Packers for 82 years. We feel it would be such a blessing to see her make it," he said. "Her country comes first, her Packers come second."
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