Rheba Mabie Zimmerman: Living Legend 2014

RHEBA MABIE ZIMMERMAN NAMED STORMY KROMER LIVING LEGEND
AT THE TENDER AGE OF 36.
UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine chosen for Stormy Kromer donation.

Unless you’re 90, heck, even if you’re 90, you probably haven’t imagined half the adventures and challenges our newest Living Legend has seen in her young life. Which is precisely why her mom nominated her.

She’s a science and agriculture teacher.
She’s a tap-dance teacher.
She’s a U.S. Golf Association National Team Player and Wisconsin Golfer of the Year.
She’s coached the Wisconsin High School Champion curling team.
She’s a figure-skating instructor.
She’s helped show the #1 Old English Sheep Dog at Westminster for years.
She’s a student pursuing her dream of becoming a veterinarian.
She’s fighting Multiple Sclerosis—and winning.
She’s a clown.

No, seriously. An actual, professional, size-20-shoes clown.

And she’s done it all because she knows life is too short to miss out.

“I am thrilled to have this award, but I really do need to share it with my brother, Hammie,” said Rheba, who grew up in Boulder Junction, Wisconsin, less than an hour from Stormy Kromer. “I watched him grow up struggling against total physical and mental disability. I watched him fight just to breathe and to do things the rest of us so carelessly take for granted. He inspired me to do the most with what I’ve been given.”

What she was given was an opportunity most of us would see as a calamity.

In Rheba’s sophomore year of college, she developed a bout of double-vision that lasted several months. It forced her off the golf team, and as it grew worse and stole her ability to read or study, it forced her out of college. It took over a year to diagnose the problem, and when she learned she had MS, it was somewhat of a relief.

“My disease had a name, and that meant I could face it,” added Rheba, who’s lost and regained the use of her extremities and suffered numbness in every part of her body at one point or another. “I was very scared, though, because you only hear of the worst cases. But I did my research, and now I do everything I can to reduce other people’s fear.”

That’s another thing to add to this Living Legend’s list of accomplishments—work as a national patient advocate —speaking around the country and one-on-one to help every MS patient she can.

“It made me more outgoing,” she added. “I was always the quiet one, which is why it was such a surprise—even to me—that I ended up in clown school. It’s a long story, but the short version is that none of these things would have happened if I’d been healthy enough to stay in school. And I’ve learned that it’s okay to be outgoing and to do silly things. I’ve learned to have confidence like never before.”

Now, as Rheba studies to complete her dream of becoming a vet, she credits this confidence with getting her over her apprehension of heading back to school.

 “People are surprised that I’ve done so much in such little time, but that’s what life is all about—doing what’s worthwhile while you can.”

“I want to thank everybody for voting for me and for giving me this award. I want them to know that there are always doors open for them. There is always something positive waiting to happen.”

That’s spoken like someone who’s truly living a legendary life, and at Stormy Kromer, we’re proud to say we know her.

“I am so excited that Rheba is our 2014 Living Legend,” said Gina Thorsen, Kromer VP of Marketing and Sales. “She’s young and vibrant, and at the same time, she has a lifetime of gifts to offer.”

Rheba’s Living Legend prize money will be used to support the Veterinary Medicine

program at UW-Madison. In addition to a $500 Stormy Kromer gift certificate, 3% of sales at www.stormykromer.com between January 7th and January 31st will, according to Rheba, “do a lot of good for animals in the Midwest.”

The legend of Stormy Kromer began with a unique cap created in 1903.  In 2001, Jacquart Fabric Products proudly became the Caretaker of the Legend, not only continuing to produce the iconic cap, but expanding the brand and product line to feature a wide variety of men’s and women’s clothing, outerwear and accessories to complement the popular caps.  Today, the company continues to strive to provide classic yet contemporary products sewn with passion and practicality and still proudly made in the USA for more than a century.

Meet Living Legend Finalist Rheba Mabie

Nominated by: Patricia Mabie, Mother
Nothing means more to Rheba than to fulfill her lifelong dream to become a veterinarian!

While she may have faced roadblocks, she is determined not to allow anything else to deter her. Many would have started a career in veterinary medicine earlier in their lives but she is determined her life experiences have made her even more qualified to be a superb veterinarian.

Explaining the experiences that have made her who she is today is no easy task. Her work ethic and compassion began in early childhood as she realized she should be appreciative of everything she was able to accomplish. Her brother Hammie was totally mentally and physically handicapped and watching him struggle to breathe and being unable to do tasks most take for granted like moving or eating made her try to do the most with the gifts she had been given. Having Hammie in her life she felt was a blessing, and she worked hard at all she did, whether it was academics, athletics or personal relationships. This drive continues during her years now at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine.

Rheba excelled in all aspects from academics to athletics. She was her high school’s valedictorian and one of the top 4 students in the country chosen by USA Today. Rheba was a 4 year high school All State Girls’ Tennis Player and All State Girls’ Golf Player. She was not only an American Junior Golf Association Rolex All-American during high school but also an All-American Academic Golf Scholar at UW-Madison.

Rheba was doing well at UW-Madison and was making great strides towards veterinary school when she was forced to take a medical leave. Her health issues that began in college were finally diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. She eventually completed her degree through an extended degree program while helping her mother care for her ailing grandmother and aged godmother. She thought no doors were open for her as she was about as far from veterinary school as she could be. A school district was in desperate need of a teacher and she accepted a position teaching high school math.

After being diagnosed with MS in 1999, Rheba traveled down another life-changing path. She went to a Minnesota clown school led by veterans from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circuses in the summer of 2000. She donned a lavender wig, purple dress and size 20 shoes to become “Tutu Cute” the Clown. Within four years, Rheba won so many competitions that she was inducted into the Midwest Clown Association Hall of Fame.

Rheba began to play competitive golf again in 2005. In 2006 she progressed to the round of 16 at the 2006 USGA Ladies Mid-Am. In 2009 Rheba won the Wisconsin State Stroke play and was named 2009 Player of the Year. She has been chosen to represent the state of Wisconsin at the USGA National Team Championships in ‘07, ’09, ’11, and ’13.

Rheba became a science and agriculture teacher but in her heart still wanted to be a veterinarian. She has helped show the top Old English Sheep dog at the Westminster Dog Show in NYC for many years. Her love of animals has never waned. In ’12 she applied for the School of Veterinary Medicine at the UW and was accepted.

Rheba has persevered through the adversity and has endured. Rheba is a national MS patient advocate who uses her abilities as a golfer, clown, teacher and soon to be veterinarian to prove that life certainly can go on if you are unfortunate enough to be diagnosed with MS. Rheba is the ultimate Stormy Kromer Living Legend 2014.

Charity: University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine

Hometown: Madison, WI