Thanks 4 the memories: Broken hearts abound in Titletown

Updated: March 4, 2008, 7:17 PM ET
Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Wearing a brand new No. 4 Packers jersey, Dave Ellis sat at Curly's Pub at Lambeau Field and watched the sports shows on TV detail the great career -- and sudden retirement -- of Brett Favre.

Ellis had purchased the $75 Favre jersey just minutes earlier to honor the Packers' retiring quarterback, who called it quits Tuesday after 16 seasons with Green Bay.

[+] EnlargeFavre fans
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesDespite the crushing news of his retirement, one fan reminded all others, "we just can't give up."

"You got to pay the man his respect," said Ellis, a somber look across his face. "Nobody will ever replace him. The athlete that he is. I think he is the best of all time."

Ellis, 35, of Appleton, described himself as depressed.

"It is hard to swallow with him gone. I have watched him play football nearly half my life," Ellis said. "Nah, you can't cry because he has had an incredible career. We all knew the end was going to be here."

News of Favre's retirement spread fast in this city of about 100,000 people -- known as Titletown because of the Packers championship-rich history.

By early afternoon, a tribute to Favre was already painted in green and gold on a fence across the street from Lambeau Field: "Brett -- Green Bay fans Thank You 4 all the memories. Go Pack Go."

It was the handiwork of Christopher Handler, who promotes himself as the Packer fence painter.

"I feel sad that we are not going to see him anymore. I am sure he will do a lot for the community," Handler said.

Mohammed Heddaoui, general manager of Brett Favre's Steakhouse -- just a long punt from Lambeau Field on Brett Favre Pass -- expected the place to be full for dinner Tuesday night because of the news about Favre. Business at a souvenir shop was up 80 percent from a normal Tuesday, mostly more people buying autographed items, he said.

Heddaoui runs Favre's business but he got no early word of Favre's retirement. "I heard it on the news like everyone else," he said.

Heidi Berner, 21, of De Pere, purchased 10 Favre jerseys from the Packers Pro Shop hours after Favre's retirement was announced.

It was her first Favre jersey and some of her keepsakes will be kept for her children, maybe even her grandchildren, she said.

"He was just so amazing to watch," she said. "He was the only quarterback I know. I just want to have them to remember the Favre era."

Herman Reckelberg, 80, of Green Bay, who serves on the Packers Hall of Fame board, sat by himself in the atrium at Lambeau Field waiting for a meeting. It was quiet and he found it easy to talk about Favre.

"He was a great quarterback. The Packers have to go on. We just can't give up," Reckelberg said. "I am sure they will find someone who will try to take his place. He sure has given us many thrilling afternoons out here at the stadium and he is sure loved by the people."

Doug Kaiser, 63, of Green Bay, made his first trip to Curly's Pub for lunch Tuesday because he wanted to be with fans and watch news about Favre.

"I am glad he didn't stay around long enough for fans to say he stayed around too long," said Kaiser, recalling his first Packers game he saw in Milwaukee in 1954. "I don't think we will ever see his kind anymore. He was from the old school of how to win."

Everyone around Green Bay expected Favre back for one more season and probably were stunned by Tuesday's announcement, Kaiser said.

"I feel sorry for the fans who are 19, 20, 21 who don't know any other quarterback because he has been the only one," Kaiser said. "It is going to be hard for them to think, 'Oh, Aaron Rodgers. He's our man.' "

Noah Greig, 25, of Green Bay, said he was in mourning because of Favre's decision.

"I called in sick. I wasn't mentally ready for the day," said Greig, a bartender. "This is a day I will remember the rest of my life. We have been watching this guy since we were 8 years old. It is like he's part of our family."


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press