It was 50 years ago this Sunday that the Eagles won their last NFL championship.

On that frigid Monday afternoon, on the hard bleachers at Franklin Field, along with 60,000 others, sat 10-year-old Karen Van Brocklin, her mother, two sisters, and two grandmothers bundled up against the 28-degree weather.

They were there to watch her father, Norm Van Brocklin, play his last game as an Eagle, his last game in the NFL.

The quarterback, Van Brocklin threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Tommy McDonald in the second quarter and led the Eagles on a 39-yard game-winning drive in the fourth quarter as the Birds upset the favored Green Bay Packers, 17-13.

After the game, while Gloria Van Brocklin stayed in Philadelphia to celebrate with her husband, Karen and her sisters and grandmothers rode the train home to Valley Forge.

"It was one of the greatest times of my life," Van Brocklin, now Karen Van Brocklin Vanderyt, 60 and living in Atlanta, said this week. "Everybody on the train seemed so happy, and we had so much fun on that ride. We were singing songs and talking to everybody. It's a day I'll never forget."

The Eagles, who host the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday night, commemorated the 50th anniversary of that championship the week before their opener this season, Sept. 12 against those same Green Bay Packers. They invited members of that 1960 Eagles team back for a round of get-togethers and photo ops and wore their old kelly-green uniforms for the game.

Since Norm Van Brocklin died in 1983, Vanderyt did not attend. But as this season wore on, the idea of revisiting the site of one of her family's fondest memories took root. And finally, she decided. She would invite her three children and their spouses and her four grandchildren to join her in a long-awaited return to an Eagles game.

So, Sunday night, once again in subfreezing temperatures, Vanderyt and her family plan to be in the stands at Lincoln Financial Field, cheering wildly for the Birds, wearing No. 11 in honor of her father, and waving a large banner with a photo of the "ol' Dutchman."

"Instead of having presents under a tree, this is what we decided to do," Vanderyt said. "Anyway, life is not about what you accumulate. It's about making memories. It's about what you do, not what you have."

Never forgot Philly

Vanderyt said her three years in Valley Forge "were the happiest years of my childhood." Born in Eugene, Ore., she moved to Los Angeles when her father played quarterback for the Rams and then to Valley Forge when he joined the Eagles in 1958.

She said they lived near Valley Forge National Historical Park, on Stevens Drive, and she and her sisters, Lynne and Judy, played baseball and went sledding with the five Hickey boys who lived nearby. They attended Friends' Central, and her dad drove them to school every day via the turnpike.

She said her father, a history buff, loved visiting Gettysburg and Jamestown, Va., and her mother sought out the cultural events in Philadelphia.

All that came to an end, however, when the Eagles declined to hire Van Brocklin as their head coach after he retired following that championship game. So he accepted a job as head coach of the expansion Minnesota Vikings, and the family left almost immediately for Minneapolis.

"I remember leaving the house near the end of the Christmas holidays," Vanderyt said. "[The Eagles] wanted Dad to play another year, but he wanted to go out on top. His expectation was that he would become the coach, but that didn't work out. I was very sad about that."

After six years in Minnesota, the family relocated again, this time to Atlanta, when Van Brocklin became the head coach of the Falcons in 1968. "But I never forgot Philadelphia," Vanderyt said.

Married to Bill Vanderyt for 39 years until he died on Nov. 9, 2009, Vanderyt made it back to Philadelphia only once before this weekend. She and her husband were headed to Long Island in July 2008, but made a pit stop so Bill could see the places she had told him about.

They visited her old street in Valley Forge and talked a reluctant security guard into letting them sneak into Franklin Field so she could see the old place one more time.

"Looked almost the same," she said.

Hope people remember

Vanderyt, her daughter Janna, son Pete and his wife, Brittany, and her grandchildren Beckett and Brocklin are due to arrive in Philadelphia from Atlanta on Friday. Adam Tebbs, Janna's husband, is with the 101st Army in Afghanistan, so he couldn't make it.

Her son Kurt and his wife, Amy, and her grandchildren Olivia and Charlotte are expected from Tulsa, Okla., on Saturday.

The group plans to stay in Old City, Vanderyt said, so they can check out the Liberty Bell and the historic sites her father loved so much.

But the highlight of the trip, win or lose the game, will be watching the Eagles play again, she said. And it's "ironic," she added, that the opponent is the Vikings, the team her father joined after he left the Eagles, and that Michael Vick played for the Falcons, the other team he coached.

"We're here to pay homage to ol' No. 11," Vanderyt said. "I've been thinking about this for a long time, and we're all very excited. We just hope people remember."

Contact staff writer Gary Miles
at 215-854-4487 or gmiles@phillynews.com.