Irish Legends: Stanley Weber

It was November 22, 1941. A 7-0-1 Notre Dame team, led by coach Frank Leahy took the field for the final home game of the '41 season. Nearly 55,000 showed their support as the Irish attempted to finish the season unbeaten, against their rivals from the West: The USC Trojans.

As the seconds ticked away in a 20-18 Irish victory, a young 17 year old from Tiffin, Ohio was experiencing his first game in Notre Dame Stadium. His name was Stanley Weber. Sixty-six years, thirteen coaching changes, and over 350 football games later, Stanley is still there, cheering on his beloved Fighting Irish.

Stanley grew up the small town of Tiffin, Ohio. In case you were wondering, it is located in northwest Ohio and is exactly 191 miles from Stanley's regular game day parking spot in the library lot. Stanley was the youngest of six children. At the age of 5, Stanley remembers sitting on his father's lap, listening to Notre Dame football games. His brother, Stanley's elder by 10 years, would also listen to the games, sketching the game as he listened intently to the radio. This was how Stanley first learned of the Fighting Irish, and where his love for the University and its football team originated.

It was the Depression and Stanley's family was struggling to make ends meet. His father, a German immigrant, worked every day in the foundry until he was finally laid off at the age of 87. Ineligible for social security, the family needed income so Stanley dropped out of school to find a job. His entire wage went toward providing for the family, while his parents did everything they could to get through the rough times. They raised their own chickens, pigs, and ducks, and grew all of their own vegetables. Unfortunately, the country was at war and Stanley was drafted into the military. Without any other means of income, the family had to turn their home over to the state in exchange for state pension.

For the next few years, Stanley Weber was member of a submarine force in the United States Navy. He was stationed in the Pacific, before eventually receiving his discharge. "After my discharge, my life began."

After the war, Notre Dame was dominant in college football. From 1946 through the 1949 season, Notre Dame did not lose a game. When Stanley received his discharge, he made a point to attend at least two games per year. He witnessed some of the greatest teams to ever play at Notre Dame, which included the likes of Lujack, Hart, Connor, and Sitko. In 1950, Stanley decided it was time to make a worthy investment: he became a Notre Dame season ticket holder. He has seen every Notre Dame Heisman trophy winner play, that has donned the gold and blue. He has attended 33 road games and 3 bowl games, including the 1989 Fiesta Bowl which clinched Notre Dame's last national championship. Perhaps most astounding, is that in 57 years, he has only missed one home game, and it didn't happen without a fight.

It was November 8, 1975. Notre Dame was playing Georgia Tech, and a young man by the name of Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger was about to make his first appearance on the Notre Dame sidelines. Stanley, who had attended every Notre Dame game for the past 25 seasons, found himself in a hospital room. The Thursday before the game, he had suffered an aneurism, and was told by the doctor that he needed to stay for observation through the weekend. Stanley, fired back that there was a game on Saturday and he needed to be there. The doctor replied, "Not this weekend." Stanley and his wife had gone to nearly all of the Notre Dame games together. She knew how much Notre Dame football meant to him, but she also loved her husband. Fearing that Stanley would try and sneak out of the hospital and make his way to the game, she took all of his clothes from the hospital room and brought them home with her. Stanley's son Tom said, "It was the closest my parents ever came to divorcing." After a great deal of negotiation and lobbying, Stanley was granted permission to listen to the game on the radio, from his hospital bed. Of course, we all know how the game ended. The Irish won 24-3 and if Stanley wants to see what he missed, he can simply go to Blockbuster and pick up the Rudy DVD.

Stanley's affinity for Notre Dame delves much deeper than solely football. In 1963, Stanley and Ann Weber, accompanied their only son, Tom, to the University of Notre Dame. Tom was just a freshman at the time, but he worked hard and graduated with top honors in 1966. After Notre Dame, Tom found his way to Johns Hopkins and earned a PhD in Theoretical Chemistry. Stanley and Ann could not have been prouder. As if Notre Dame was not special enough in their hearts, it became even more so, seeing their son enter as a boy with potential and leave as a Notre Dame man.

Stanley and Ann will have celebrated 64 years of marriage this year. Up until three years ago, Stanley and Ann would attend all of the games together, sitting in the same seats since 1950. Recently, however, Ann's battle with diabetes and mascular degeneration has prevented her from accompanying Stanley to the football games. Realizing that the day will come when he too can no longer make his way to Notre Dame Stadium, Stanley has passed his four season tickets onto his nephew, Joe. Joe and Stanley's niece, Ann, have attended many games with him over the years. Stanley passed the tickets along, with the stipulation that the tickets were theirs to share. "They are both so helpful to my wife and me. Whenever we need any help, they are both right there."

Joe, the recipient of many of Stanley's stories and tales, has been generous enough to share a few stories about his great uncle, who has taught not only about Notre Dame football, but about life.

"My uncle has been so helpful to so many people in his life. One story that he loves to tell on those three-hour Saturday morning trips from Tiffin to South Bend, is one that I never get tired of hearing. Like clockwork, I hear it every year. When he was just a kid, Stanley really wanted to go to the movies, although it only cost $.10 to see a show, he would always say, ‘who had $.10 back then?' He remembers an ad in the local paper advertising free admission for any kid that accompanies a paying adult. Well, his parents never went to the movies, they never had any extra money, so he went and stood in front of the theater to try and get a couple to take him in with them, but no one would. He told me from that point in his life, he was going to make sure that if someone less fortunate wanted something and he was able to help, he would. And he has. He and his wife Ann are two very giving people, always willing to help."

Occasionally, Stanley needs some help too, and Joe has been there. In 2004, Stanley had decided that he would have to give up his tickets, since his wife would no longer be able to go with him. Unable to bear the thought of Stanley giving up his tickets, Joe offered to be his designated driver, so that Stanley could continue attending the games. In some instances, Stanley has needed help while at the games as well. In 2005, after Notre Dame had seemingly beaten USC, Joe was there to help Stanley over the wall as they prepared to rush the field. Unfortunately, the announcer called everybody off the field, and we all know what happened next. Joe still dreams that someday he and Stanley will be able to charge the field together after a momentous Irish victory.

Joe also shared that Stanley is quite the Notre Dame memorabilia collector. Given the location of his seats, he has been able to collect everything from chin straps to wrist bands, gloves, and even an old referee whistle, which to Joe looks like a duck caller. In addition, Stanley has collected scrapbooks of every article from the South Bend Tribune and various other Notre Dame publications. Perhaps the most unique collection that Stanley has assembled is a typed archive of the play-by-play for every Notre Dame game since 1950. This is Stanley's version of "sketching" the game, much like his older brother used to do as they listened to the radio broadcasts together early in his childhood.

A "Notre Dame Man" is a term that is used to describe an individual who lives his life according to the values that are at the core of Our Lady's University. Sometimes that can mean religious devotion, other times it can mean scholarly achievement. And sometimes, it simply means an unwavering allegiance to the University and everything for which it stands. Stanley Weber has been through a lot in his lifetime. He has survived the Great Depression, he has been to war, he has sent his only son to Notre Dame, and he has dealt with personal and family disease. Throughout it all, he has always held a special place in his heart for Notre Dame. In his lifetime, Stanley has attended 263 Irish victories. Through the years, he has seen as many as 12 wins in one season, and as few as 2. The great writer, Mark Twain, once said, "The proper office of a friend is to side with you when you are wrong. Nearly anybody will side with you when you are right." Stanley Weber has always been there for Notre Dame. He has witnessed the wrongs and witnessed the rights, but he has never left her side. In the coming years, whether it be Stanley, Joe, or Ann, you can be sure that Stanley's seats will be filled. They will be filled with the cheering voices of loyal Notre Dame fans, but even more so, friends of the University. On behalf of all Notre Dame fans, this one goes out to Stanley Weber: "He's a man. Who's a man? Stanley. Rah, rah, rah. He's a Notre Dame man!"


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