NewsMontana and Regional News

Actions

Former UW athletes reunite in Billings

friends.jpg
Posted at 8:42 AM, Dec 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-31 10:56:57-05

BILLINGS — It was a reunion nearly 50 years in the making. Five former University of Wisconsin track and field stars were in Billings on Thursday to cheer up an old friend and relive their glory days.

“We have so many memories," said Don Bliss, who traveled from Wisconsin. "And the thing about it is, it’s continued through the years. We’ve stayed good friends."

Their friendship has withstood the test of time.

"Some of these guys I haven’t seen since the team retired,” said Bob Hawke, who now lives in Billings. "This is a real treat."

Bob Hawke
Bob Hawke

Through war, marriage, children, and everything in between.

"I was just reminiscing with Don about how I ran around his backyard with his daughters who are now mothers," said Bob Gordon, who traveled from Las Vegas. "I mean it’s like, I can’t believe I’m that old.”

Bob Gordon (right) with Bob Hawke (left)
Bob Gordon (right) with Bob Hawke (left)

These five men share a special bond.

The group of former athletes
The group of former athletes

"We have (been) nonstop talking,” Hawke said. "It's great, just great."

They reunited for the first time since they starred for the University of Wisconsin track team in the late 60s.

"When we stepped across the lines to work out, boy," said Brad Hanson, who traveled from Chicago. "It was amazing to see the work ethic of these runners and these athletes."

Brad Hanson
Brad Hanson

The reunion was all for Hawke, who hasn’t been feeling the best lately.

"I knew Bob was having a little problem with his legs," Bliss said. "I called up these guys and said, ‘Hey, I think it’s time for us to get our reunion back together and do it in Montana.’”

Collage of some of Hawke's headlines
Collage of some of Hawke's headlines

They're a talented bunch, sharing numerous records between the five athletes.

"This group of guys all won the Big 10 championship for the University of Wisconsin in indoor 1965, ’66, and 1967," said Bliss, who went on to play for the Green Bay Packers. "The outdoor they won in ’68 as well."

Don Bliss
Don Bliss

Branch Brady from Great Falls said Hawke is one of the greatest athletes to come out of Montana.

"Every year he’d break his own state record and set another one. He’s a national champion. He’s a Big 10 champion. He’s a fabulous athlete,” Brady said. "It was because of him I ended up at Wisconsin. His dad wrote a letter to the coach at Wisconsin and they recruited me."

Branch Brady
Branch Brady

They traveled from all over the country to be with each other.

"We have a history that’s irreplaceable,” Brady said. "Probably one of (my favorite memories with Bob) was when he was throwing the shot on the lawn at the state capital in Sacramento, California putting big holes in the lawn. We were high school seniors for a national meet. We were out and it was dark and he wanted to warm up a little bit for the shot the next day. He’s throwing it and I’m retrieving it, digging it out of the holes he’s putting in the lawn. That’s a good memory."

The reunion showed that friendship is one of the best medicines.

"This has been more fun than anybody should ever have,” said Brady.

Sharing stories
Sharing stories

The memories made during the reunion will never be forgotten.

"When I go on my deathbed, I can reflect on moments like this, and I’ll feel good about it all. They mean the world,” Gordon said.

"Don’t get on that deathbed too soon," Hawke responded lovingly.


TRENDING: