By Sterling McGinn
Burton Gustafson, a Newberry High School (NHS) graduate, and a former member of the Green Bay Packers coaching staff, died on October 22, 2022 at the age of 96.
Gustafson, a native of Marquette, was born on November 30, 1925. He grew up in Newberry and graduated with the NHS Class of 1943. He became a U.S. Navy Seabee serving in the Pacific theater during World War II.
Following his military service, Gustafson attended Northern Michigan University (NMU) and was the first 12-time letterman at NMU, participating in football, basketball and track.
Gustafson obtained his Master’s degree in Physical Education and met his future wife, Alice Lundin, while attending NMU. The couple had five children.
Continuing with his passion for athletics, Gustafson became a high school football, basketball and track coach working at Cedarville, Escanaba, and Battle Creek before returning to NMU.
In 1956, Gustafson became an end coach under Lloyd Eaton, who left NMU after one season. Gustafson remained at NMU for seven seasons.
In 1963, he was hired as a defensive backfield coach for the University of Wyoming Cowboys and in 1966, the team played in the Sun Bowl.
During the following football season, his team was ranked 5th in the nation participating in the Sugar Bowl. Both teams were inducted into the university’s hall of fame.
Gustafson joined the Green Bay Packers coaching staff in 1971 where he worked for 18 and a half years.
He worked as a special team’s assistant coach linebacker assistant coach, pro scout, director of pro scouting and an administrative assistant.
During his career with the packers, he served under four head coaches: Dan Devine, Bart Starr, Forest Gregg, and Lindy Infante.
He was always willing to be the guest speaker at commencement and other functions in Newberry and other areas.
According to an article in the April 20, 1972, edition of the Newberry News, Gustafson was invited to be the speaker at the Annual All-Sports banquet in Newberry.
The article noted, “As one of the top athletes ever to come out of Newberry, Burt Gustafson still lists being invited to his hometown as one of the top thrills of his life.
“Gustafson was the featured speaker at the annual All-Sports banquet held last Thursday night at the community building. About 300 persons attended the spaghetti dinner affair which honored athletes and cheerleaders at Newberry high school.”
In 1989, he retired and the Gustafsons built their retirement home on Chicaugon Lake.
He was inducted into the NMU Sports Hall of Fame in 1976 and the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 1979.
Gustafson became a member of the Newberry High School Athletic Hall of Fame in the inaugural year in the fall of 2013.
Visitation and Memorial Mass for Gustafson will take place in Caspian in July 2023, followed by burial in the Stambaugh Cemetery.