Home Front: Wife Surprises the Biggest Bears Fan 

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Paul Fudala loves his Chicago Bears so dearly that when he was living in New Jersey — where other teams dominated Sunday broadcasts — he would avoid news reports of the final score until he could watch the taped games his sister sent him from Chicago.

Luckily for Fudala, his wife, Heather, has supported his Bear habit. So much so she spent several months plotting ways to transform an attic room in their Henrico County home into Bears central as a surprise. Last month while Paul was out of town, Heather blew past support and moved into enabling as she began transforming the room.

Heather's building a bar and concession stand complete with a microwave and refrigerator. An avid quilter, she's stitching the Chicago skyline into the curtains. Two authentic stadium seats that Paul bought when Soldier Field was being renovated will sit on a riser she's building across from where she plans to mount a flat-screen television for better Bear watching.

To truly stage the scene, Heather even invested in a backdrop. She commissioned local muralist and painter Colleen Hall to paint a detailed 7 1/2- by-4-foot canvas wall-hanging of the team midplay on the field.

Heather says she picked Hall because she was impressed with the degree of detail in her paintings. (Others have been impressed too. Hall has painted murals for Liz and Stan Thalhimer, and for the pediatric floor at the VCU Medical Center.) But it was Hall's own football fandom that sealed the deal.

Growing up in Long Island, Hall's family members were committed Jets fans. Even though Hall's father worked all week as a schoolteacher, he worked weekends for the Jets' sideline crew.

"When I was 3, I was programmed to say, 'Number 12, Joe Namath's my favorite,'" Hall says. Jets fandom has doomed Hall to years of disappointment, but she says it has built character. Her father, who retired to the Richmond area, has consulted on helmet detail, shoulder-pad height and play configuration for maximum accuracy.

It's a lucky partnership for the two women. Heather has found the perfect gift for her husband, and Hall has a chance to work on a theme she's particularly attached to.

"When you do custom work, you have to wait for someone to come along and ask," Hall says. HS

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