Badger alum prove pride by playing in Indy

Just like the Badgers, Fred Hecker has had to practice to get where he is now.

His practice just looks a little different and has stretched a little longer.

“It takes years to master it,” Hecker said.

Hecker picked up an accordion in first grade. Now in his ’80s, Hecker still plays polka like no other. Not to mention, he’s gotten pretty good at “On Wisconsin” and “Varsity.”

“It’s kind of a dying art,” Hecker said.

Decked out in red pants with white W’s stitched into them, Hecker and his wife Alice bring their Wisconsin pride to Indianapolis. They’ve done that ever since they moved out of Madison in 1956.

Before they did that, both graduated from UW. Fred Hecker has fond memories of bar hopping with the accordion and playing on the train to the 1953 Rose Bowl, a trip that took two or three days.

“I had to ride the student train,” Hecker said. “And I played the accordion from one end of the train to the other end, stopping in the club car where the partying took place.”

Alice remembers the music too. She says most of their dates back in college involved Fred Hecker’s accordion playing and dances.

“These farmers would be out there swirling me around. I was totally dizzy on the dance floor,” Alice Hecker explained.

The couple retired about 20 years ago, but that didn’t stop Fred Hecker from playing. Now involved with the UW alumni association in Indianapolis, Hecker brings the instrument to tailgates and other events, always dressed in his Badger red.

“And I have a saying. It’s hard to be humble when you’re from Wisconsin,” Fred Hecker said.