Raised Green Bay Packer tough
Mary Darling Grundman: hitting the trail on the daily
Mary Darling Grundman can be found on a trail around Big Sky doing a solid hike with her rescue dog Wrigley six out of seven days a week. That’s not bad considering she’s 79 years old and getting around on two artificial hips. Though anyone who has ever known her, or where she came from, would likely argue that’s no big surprise: there’s a level of toughness in her blood.
When she was 10 years old Grundman could be found traveling around her hometown of Green Bay, Wisconsin with her father – his sidekick for selling tickets to what was then a burgeoning sport: American football.
At the time, players wore many hats and little to no safety equipment. They were responsible for peddling tickets to the games and also played both offensive and defensive positions. Her father played center and linebacker for the Green Bay Packers from 1926 until 1932 when the team was playing at the East High School Stadium. He played in the 1932 NFL Playoff game.
It was a rough sport back in the day of all guts, no glory “and no padding” and players got “all beat up,” but Mary said the town embraced the sport early on – everyone went to the games. It was back in the days of idyllic Americana and not-so-idyllic leather helmets with no face masks.
“Once a fan, you’re always a fan. It’s such a unique football team. Some people think they’re like other teams, but they’re sadly mistaken. They don’t realize the difference and how important it is to be a Packer’s fan,” she said. “It’s owned by the town of Green Bay – by the people. It used to be – and I’m sure it’s the same – that if it ever dissolves or anything then it goes to one of the VFWs.”
She and her husband Dennis built a life and family in Green Bay. He started heading to Montana for fishing trips with his buddies and went on nine or 10 different trips only to return home and rave about the Treasure State each time.
Dennis never thought to bring Mary because she had never been into fishing. Still, she loved nature and horses, so she found a family friendly ranch outside of Big Timber and arranged a vacation for the whole family. They would return year after year and embraced river rafting together.
Then they went to another ranch outside of White Sulphur Springs to raft the Smith River. The owner of the ranch told her they needed to try Big Sky. Mary’s response in 1990 was, “What? That sounds a little too crowded for me.”
The family came skiing the following winter, returned the following summer and rented a condo in Hidden Village for a month. They started meeting people, making friends and Mary developed one of the most treasured friendships of her life with Big Sky local Sody Jones who passed away last year.
“We had many, many years of hiking, riding horses, canoeing. Oh my gosh, we had so much fun,” she said. Mary maintains her love of horses and rides throughout the summer.
Still, she and Dennis lived lives split between Wisconsin and Big Sky due to family obligations for a while after they decided they wanted to make Big Sky home. A condo was purchased from Dr. Jeff Daniels over the telephone and they became part-time residents in 1996 and permanent residents in 2007.
The couple is living their lives they want to live exactly where they want to live them.
Horses, dogs, skiing and the people are what Mary lists as her favorite things about Big Sky.
She raves about the Big Sky Hiker’s Club which meets every Thursday to hike in the summer. She was there for the group’s inception when there were just 10 people involved.
“I can’t speak higher of any other group. They are so organized, such great people, fantastic hikers and very honest,” she said. “We’ve been hiking and skiing. Frankly, if you love the outdoors this is where you want to live, but don’t tell anybody,” she said with a grin.
It was a beautiful day and much hotter than expected as Mary removed layers and softly yelled for Wrigley to stay close. She explained that she puts effort into staying active and a good day in her book is when she can set out with hiking sticks, water and her dog.