Some of cancer’s most interesting opponents are a husband and wife who live near Madison.
John O’Neill and Mary Beth Johnson, known by her friends as “B,” have alter egos: St. Vince and Cleopacker, who are on a mission to raise money for local cancer programs, all while having the best Packers costumes possible.
It all started in 1997 at Super Bowl XXXI, where the Green Bay Packers beat the New England Patriots in New Orleans.
“John wanted to represent the spirit of Vince Lombardi come back to life to watch his Packers in the first Super Bowl since his days as coach,” explained B. “We made a costume with a long green robe and mitre to symbolize St. Vince. We didn’t know how he would be perceived down in Kiln, Mississippi the Friday night before the Super Bowl game, but he was an instant celebrity.”
Then on Bourbon Street in New Orleans, people kept stopping to take pictures of St. Vince and his entourage, and one of their friends encouraged them to charge for photos.
“We started taking donations in our beer mugs, and soon, we had over $300.”
They decided to donate the money to charity. They found one in Hattiesburg, Mississippi – not far from Packers quarterback Brett Favre’s home. “Brett had a fund to help young people, so we gave the money to them.”
St. Vince wasn’t meant to be an ongoing gig, but he was so popular among fans, that the couple decided to keep it going at Packers games and other events. B also started dressing up, first as “Cheese Louise,” then later as “Cleopacker.” And anywhere they went, they collected donations.
To make the gifts more personal, they decided to give to the Vince Lombardi Cancer Clinic in Two Rivers, where B is originally from. Her mother, Charlotte Johnson, passed away 25 years ago after battling cancer and received her care at this clinic.
“She was a welder on the submarines during World War II. She was very tiny, and was the only welder to fit in the bow of the subs. We think this contributed to the widespread lung cancer that she died from.”
B’s sister-in-law, Tina Johnson, also lost her battle with cancer. She was only 64 years old.
“So, we will continue to donate money in her memory, my mom’s memory and in Vince’s memory,” she explained.
St. Vince and Cleopacker most recently appeared at the Lombardi Walk to Tackle Cancer in Two Rivers, where they were more than happy to snap pictures with the crowd and help a cause that’s so dear to their hearts.
How you can help
You can support people like B’s mother, sister-in-law and patients like them in your community. Click here to get started.