It takes a special kind of person to be a die-hard Chicago Bears fans, yet still have a very soft spot in your heart for the Packers, Vikings and Lions.
I could never do it because I absolutely despise the Bears’ biggest rivals, and I have a hard time understanding how a Bears fan could cheer for the Packers, Vikings or Lions.
That, though, is the beauty of Lugene Dunmire. She doesn’t care what other fans think, and she has no problem defending her decision to cheer for the other teams in the “Black and Blue Division.”
“Lou, you can’t be a Bears fan and still like the Packers,” I have yelled to her many times.
“Sure I can, Gov,” she always responds, using the nickname she gave me when Matt Vincent and I jokingly ran for governor and lieutenant governor as part of our Rat Chat column back in 2000. “I like the Packers. I like the Lions and Vikings, too.”
It also takes a special kind of person to find out she has pancreatic cancer, maybe the worst kind of cancer, and take the news with strength, dignity and a sense of humor.
Once again, that is the beauty of Lugene. She handled her diagnosis with her head held high, even though the cancer has already spread to her liver.
She received the news with the grace of an ESPY Award winner.
Before he died of cancer, renowned ESPN SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott gave a great speech at the 2014 ESPYs about the disease he knew was going to claim his life.
“When you die, that does not mean that you lose to cancer,” Scott said. “You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and in the manner in which you live.”
Lugene epitomizes those words. Cancer might someday take her life, but it will never beat her. Really, it doesn’t even stand a chance.
Vincent is now Butte-Silver Bow’s chief executive, but Lugene still calls him “LT” for lieutenant governor. The day after her diagnosis, he called Lugene’s son, Davey, to see how she was holding up and to send his well wishes.
“Tell LT,” Lugene said to Davey, “that his stupid (bleepin’) bike lanes and diagonal parking gave me cancer.”
A couple days later a surgeon told Lugene he was going to take a biopsy of her liver to see what they find.
“You’re gonna find Michelob Ultra,” she said.
Then, when Lugene found out that a gofundme.com page her family set up for her raised more than $5,000, she told everybody to stop giving her money.
“That,” she said, “should be plenty for me to go to Hawaii.”
Lugene has supplied the world with a billion laughs, yet her humor isn’t even her best quality. Not even close.
My favorite thing about Lugene is the passion she brings to every conversation. Whether it’s talking about her “Love Bug,” NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield or diagonal parking in Uptown Butte, Lugene is always speaking from the heart.
About 13 years ago my girlfriend and I broke up, and Lugene was adamant that the break was only going to be a temporary one.
“She’s gonna come back, Gov,” Lugene told me over and over. “You guys were meant to be together. Drops of Jupiter is your song. Drops of Jupiter. I promise you, Gov, she is going to come back.”
Lugene told me that so many times that I started to believe her, and because of that I hung onto the hope until the day that she did come back. We’ve been married for 11 and half years, and we have three kids together.
None of that might have happened if it wasn’t for those heart-to-heart talks with Lugene at Maloney’s Bar.
One night, Lugene might have actually saved my life. At the very least, she saved me from what was surely going to be a severe beating when I was drowning my sorrows following the Bears January 2002 playoff loss to the Eagles.
As I climbed onto a bar stool at Maloney’s, I found myself next to a really big guy who wasn’t impressed with my Bears hat.
“The Bears suck,” he said.
“No,” I answered as I grabbed what was at least my 13th beer that night. “The Bears went 13-3. They don’t suck.”
“Admit it, they suck,” the guy said.
“Listen,” I said, “they don’t suck, so why don’t you just leave me alone?”
“I’ll leave you alone as soon as you admit to me that the Bears suck,” he said.
I can’t print what I said next, and that prompted the guy to grab me by the shirt and pull be off the bar stool.
“I’m taking you outside to teach you a lesson,” he said.
That’s when Lugene came diving in between us yelling, “Don’t hurt the Gov! Don’t hurt the Gov!”
Because of that Lugene intervention, the Gov got home in one piece that night.
The other nights I talked with Lugene at Maloney’s, I usually made it home with a belly full of laughs.
Talking to Lugene is always a blast because you always know you were talking to a person who has never been cheated out of a day in her life. She has fun every single day.
She epitomizes the words of another famous speaker who didn’t sit back and let cancer beat him.
Less than two months before he died of cancer in 1993, legendary basketball coach Jim Valvano took the same ESPY stage as Scott.
In closing, Valvano said this:
“Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.”
Those words also signify the beauty of Lugene, only she would have added a joke.
Lugene is just now beginning what we hope is a very long battle with this nasty disease, and it is going to be expensive.
She’ll miss time from work, and you just know bills are going to pile up.
The gofundme.com page that was started for Lugene is still taking donations, and I urge everybody to donate. Even if you can only give one dollar, every little bit helps.
When she goes to Hawaii, Lugene deserves to fly first class. And those Hawaiian resorts aren’t exactly giving away those Michelob Ultras.