Packers' former drum majorette, head cheerleader Mary Jane Van Duyse dies at 89

Sturgeon Bay, Wis., native led Lumberjack Band in '50s, Golden Girls squad in '60s


The former Mary Jane Van Duyse, best remembered as the drum majorette for the Packers' Lumberjack Band in the 1950s and head of the Golden Girls cheerleading squad when they performed at Packers home games during the Lombardi era, died Saturday at age 89.

Mary Jane Sorgel, her name since her marriage to Bill Sorgel in 1972, was a native of Sturgeon Bay, Wis., and a graduate of Sevastopol High School. Her husband died in 2006.

Van Duyse first performed at a Packers game at old City Stadium on Nov. 13, 1949, during Curly Lambeau's final season as coach. She was 16 years old at the time.

The Golden Girls were organized by her in 1961 and were mostly students in her baton twirling and dance classes. Van Duyse had been given the nickname, the Packers' "Golden Girl," by a Chicago sportswriter. Van Duyse had taken up baton twirling as a young girl and won the National Baton Twirling Association championship in 1954.

While her official connection with the Packers ended after her marriage, she remained an avid fan until her death. "That girl! That girl! She kept it going," said Alison Walker of Sturgeon Bay and one of seven surviving nieces and nephews. "She attended every Green & Gold Gala probably until 2019."

Van Duyse also was engaged to Lambeau at the time of his death. Although the two hadn't set a wedding date because of her religious beliefs and Lambeau's previous divorces, she was proud of wearing her engagement ring.

Van Duyse said she was introduced to Lambeau by her brother, Fritz, at the Nautical Inn in Sturgeon Bay in the early 1960s and got to know him better when he asked her to read the questions on the "Ask Curly Lambeau" television show.

"It's a long story," she said in a 2011 interview. "He did give me a ring. … I didn't know he was going to do that at that point. I told him, 'Curly, we're like friends.' He said, 'Just take the ring and use it as a cocktail ring.' He was serious about it."

She also admitted she was smitten with him. "Oh, he was very handsome," she said in a 2015 interview. "Dimples – he had dimples to die for."

Lambeau died June 1, 1965, of a heart attack he suffered on the front lawn of her parents' home at 522 Michigan Street in Sturgeon Bay. Lambeau was there to pick Van Duyse up for a date.

Sorgel's funeral will be held at 11:45 a.m. Friday at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Sturgeon Bay.

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