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.

Bob visits the Kromer Kap Kulture Klub

Some of our loyal blog readers may remember a post from a few years ago when we introduced you to the Kromer Kap Kulture Klub.  Well, we’re happy to say that this year, our CEO, Bob Jacquart, joined them for a meal.

A brief refresher: The Klub is a group of men who gather each year at a no-power, no-plumbing log cabin north of Gleason, Wisconsin for deer season.  All Klub members, of course, wear a Kromer.  Members receive an official Certificate of Membership, plus honorary, non-voting stock in Kromer Kap Kulture Klub, LLC.

Bob had promised the Klub that one day he would bring pasties to the cabin for dinner. This November on a -6 degree night, he did just that, and took some great pictures that we would like to share. The first photo shows Bob (center) with two members of the Klub.

This next photo shows the full Kromer Kap Kulture Klub.  Notice the one young man on the left, the only one with a red cap?  That indicates he’s a Klub rookie – next year, he’ll be allowed to wear a black cap and the red one will be saved for the next rookie.

Bob brought pasties as promised, and brownies for dessert.  Since there is no oven in the cabin, Bob had to bring them preheated.

Also revealed that night was new plaque that would be set into the sidewalk come
springtime, commemorating the 30 year anniversary of the Kromer Kap Kulture Klub.  The plaque was a surprise to everyone except the man who made it that night.

We love to hear stories of fans who truly embrace the Kromer legend, and who even make it a part of their family and community traditions.

Do you have any Stormy Kromer traditions to share?

Meet Living Legend Finalist Elizabeth Tigue

Nominated by: Bethany Dunning, friend & colleague
Back in 2006, I met Liz, a high school biology teacher, at an after-work function.

Several short weeks later, I was out in the woods with Liz, chaperoning a wilderness survival trip with 40+ high schoolers, along with her husband Tim. Liz grew up in the outdoors, and is a true outdoorswoman. Liz and Tim have raised their kids to be fantastic, balanced human beings, teaching them to love the outdoors as they both do, taking them hunting and fishing, and having them spend time with their Aunt Lisa, a paleontologist and geology professor, hunting for rocks and fossils. Their daughter Megan loves raising her chickens and spending time in the woods with her bow, as well as being an amazing Irish dancer (a hobby that she shares with her mom!). Brian is all boy, and is right there with his sister in the woods. And every November, Liz and Tim embarked into the wilds of northern Michigan to pass on their love of the outdoors to a new set of suburban teens, during which time they experienced rain and snow, sun and clouds, windy and still conditions. Tim took one for the team several years back and went “swimming” in the cold November waters of the Manistee River to help out 2 high schoolers who had tipped their canoe.

About 3 years ago Tim was diagnosed with lymphoma, but continued to go on the trip. Even the year that he wasn’t strong enough to paddle, he drove a chase vehicle on the trip, and slept on the ground with the rest of us, on a trip that included 4 straight days of cold November rain. Less than a year later, Tim, Liz’s rock, lost his battle with cancer.

Liz continues to be an amazing mother to her 2 kids, and continues to take kids into the woods every November, just so that they have what may be their first experience in a world without electricity and cell service, guiding them through the ups and downs of paddling and camping, just to pass on her love.

Charity: Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

Hometown: Rochester, MI

Meet Living Legend Finalist Harvey “Bill” Morrison

Nominated by: Beth Morrison, daughter
My dad has been my hero my entire life but I didn’t fully come to appreciate him until I

was much older. As a young 19 year old he was off to WWII and stepped up early on for the tough and dangerous role of a glider paratrooper. He brought his fearlessness and strong work ethic back home to Detroit at the end of the war, his Purple Heart in hand.

Dad, now married to my mom and a new father, worked hard to save funds to work toward his dream of owning his own business. After being sidetracked with being called back to serve again during the Korean War, he and my mom finally made that dream a reality.

With his love for northern Michigan, he brought his growing family of 3 kids to Hillman and bought a small grocery store. Our family grew and so did the business. My dad still found time to attend his now 5 children’s sporting events, serve on the school board, volunteer at church and help the community. One time in an awful snowstorm I recall helping him deliver groceries on a snowmobile to older folks who were snowed in. He was always looking out for his neighbors. Dad hired so many Hillman teens at the store that decades later he still receives phone calls and visits from these now much older adults.

And still at 87 years old you will see Dad ringing the Salvation Army bell for hours in the cold and with his Stormy Kromer on – he has been ringing that bell for over 60 years! His love for family, his community, his friends and his faith have left strong marks on the lives of my siblings and so many others. He is one of a kind and a true living legend.

Charity: Salvation Army

Hometown: Hillman, MI

Meet Living Legend Finalist Adam Freeburg

Nominated by: Brooke Freeburg, wife
9 years ago, I met Adam just two weeks before he fell over 40 feet while rock climbing. He never once complained about his broken back, leg, or other various broken bones, which luckily have all healed. Through those 9 years I’ve gotten to see how much Adam loves life, and all things outdoors – from skiing the back country in the Tetons and Washington State to rock climbing (against my wishes). He is an Archeologist, PhD Student, Father, Mountain Biker, Hunter, Fisherman, Rock Climber, and Awesome Husband.

Adam is an amazing human being who gives so much of himself to everyone around him.

To know Adam is to love him. Adam deserves to be a Living Legend because of his love of life. Much like Stormy Kromer, Adam loves baseball and all things outdoors. If he COULD sleep in a tent 365 days a year he would, but that would mean that I would have to lock the doors at night myself. Unlike George he doesn’t have a temper, but he deserves to be a Living Legend for putting up with mine (among everything else). When we found out that we were going to have a son, he said he wanted to start him out right in life. A few days later a small red Stormy Kromer arrived in the mail.

Charity: Don Jones Foundation

Hometown: Fairbanks, AK

Meet Living Legend Finalist Bruce Carnahan

Nominated by: Calli Ann Carnahan, daughter
Growing up in Ashland, Wisconsin, my father has always been regarded as the epitome of a “Man’s Man,” learning to hunt, fish, and survive in the woods from the day he was born.

While my siblings and I were growing up (and even today for that matter), my dad never

seemed to run out of amazing stories that seem so foreign from the way life is today. He tells grand tales of getting dropped in the woods at the age of ten, alone, on the weekend for entertainment. He says he would bring with a few cans of beans, and a sleeping bag, and spend his summer weekends in the woods.

His lifelong experience shows. I have always been amazed by the amount of knowledge my dad has, as never once has he flaunted it. I swear he knows every edible thing in the wild, how to track any animal, and can sense the direction he is facing with his eyes closed. I have never met another person who can ward off the cold as he does, not even wearing gloves while ice fishing out on Lake Superior.

Now, by the time I came along I already had a 10-year-old brother, and a 7-year-old sister. My mom was a stay at home mom and worked part-time at the Hardware Hank in town. My dad worked construction and had owned his own company for a few years by the time I was born.

My mom and dad met when they were in their teens, and my mom got pregnant with my brother, Tony, when she was 19, and my dad 24. I swear they have never once had it easy.

Their journey was remarkable. From what they say, they lived in a tent on Madeline Island for a summer while my dad was working there, in a hunting shack in Bayfield with no bathroom and a wood burning stove, with my grandparents on their farm, in a trailer on the outskirts of town, and eventually in a small cabin on McCarrey Lake in Iron River, WI.

My siblings and I all had different childhoods, but we can all agree on remembering 2 things very distinctively; love, and Kromer.

As I’ve mentioned, my dad worked construction, and had been doing so since he was 21. Everyday once the weather turned chilly, my dad left the house in a flannel shirt, a pair of Carhartts, and the Kromer he’s had since the beginning of time. No need for more than one, h¬e says, as they last your whole life. A Kromer is the one and only hat my dad ever wears. He wears it hunting, fishing, skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, errand running, driveway plowing, and anything else that he’s doing outside in the cold. My Dad has influenced many in their purchase of Kromers, including my boyfriend Sam whom, didn’t follow his “you only need one rule.”

I swear, he just gets cuter and more loving every year. If he isn’t doing something outside, he is visiting us kids, playing with his grandkids, or has his arm around his wife of 33 years. He loves twitter and self describes himself as a “Builder, Hunter, Fisherman, Outdoorsman, Sports Enthusiast, Proud Gramps, Pops & Gruncle,” but I can assure you, he is much more than that.

Charity: Habitat for Humanity

Hometown: Iron River, WI

Meet Living Legend Finalist Helen Baird

Nominated by: Michael Christopher, grandson 


My grandmother, Helen Baird, just turned 97 years young in August of this year. To make a long, complicated story short, she was my mother’s aunt, until circumstance and courage changed things. My mom was born into a family that had too many children and too little money. Instead of allowing the kids to be adopted out to strangers and possibly split up, some of the aunts decided to legally adopt the children themselves. In a nutshell, that’s how my mom’s aunt became her mother and my grandmother.

My grandmother is an AMAZING woman with an unlimited number of stories to tell. She still has all of her faculties, walks without aid, mows her own lawn and only recently quit driving and gave up her driver’s license. She is a cancer survivor after having part of a lung removed decades ago. She is a former realtor, former bar owner and wife to a man that fought in WWII. She has witnessed and lived first hand many historical events that the rest of us have only read about. Helen Baird is OUR Living Legend and I believe you’d be doing yourself a great service by making this amazing, remarkable woman…yours.

6400 Miles

In early August, we had an amazing surprise visitor show up at our factory.  Bob Beaubien, the son and nominator of our 2013 Living Legend, Laura Mae Beaubien.

Bob was in the middle of a 6400 mile cross-country tour on his Harley, and we were honored that he chose to stop and see his.  We’re also glad he took so many photos, and kindly shared them with us.  Enjoy!

Of course, the photos have to start with Bob standing next to the wall of tribute we have for his mom (and Dad too).

He couldn’t resist having his picture taken with our 1954 Louisville Slugger that is personalized for George “Stormy” Kromer.

Next he posed with Kirsten, Customer Service Manager, and KJ, Division Manager.

In addition to the factory tour, he had to get some pics to our big hat statue.  (Nice bike!)

Then, when he heard a few of us were working a booth at Loon Day, about 22 miles out of his way, he decided to check out what the event was all about, and get some more photos taken, this time with Gina.

Of course he had to celebrate his arrival into Michigan as well!

And if you’re wondering about the t-shirt he is wearing, check out this family photo with Laura in the middle and her kids surrounding her.  I’d say Laura’s family is pretty darn proud of her.  As they should be.

Nominations for the 2014 Living Legend will be opening in early October.  Start thinking about who you think is worthy of this honor!

A father, a daughter, a Kromer: it’s a little bit more than a Father’s Day gift.

When other kids had to go to Disney World, a young Amanda Dinkel got to go to the U.P.

She grew up in Gladwin, Michigan, smack in the middle of the lower peninsula, with two older brothers and parents who loved the outdoors. Her father, Larry, who spent his days as an engineer, spent his life as a hunter and fisherman, and he often brought his kids out onto Superior or Huron for hours on end.

“We loved the outdoors, too, but he’d drag us on that boat, and we thought it was torture,” said Amanda, a middle-school reading teacher in Caro, Michigan, just an hour or so from her hometown. “We’d tell him ‘No, don’t take us. We’re gonna die!’”

Long days on a boat can be tough for any kid, but after her college graduation, Amanda set a goal for herself: to learn something her dad really loves and to have him teach her.

“I’m a girly-girl, but I wanted to connect with my dad. Fishing and hunting was a way to do that.”

It was on one of those trips—a venture to Larry’s favorite bear-hunting hideaway near the Keweenaw—when Amanda and her dad really found something to bond them.

“We stopped in Brevort for some smoked fish, and they had a whole selection of Kromer caps,” added Amanda. “I squealed! I’d been following Stormy Kromer on Facebook for a couple years, but this was the first I’d seen them. I was so excited. I got myself a Petal Pusher, hopped back in the car, and my dad said ‘Well, what did you get?’

“Naturally, being from Michigan, being an outdoorsman, he knew everything about Stormy Kromer—the caps, the gear, the history. There isn’t always a lot to talk about on that eight-hour stretch of road, but we now had Stormy Kromer in common. He just kept saying they were so cool.”

It wasn’t too long after that when Amanda ordered her father an Original in charcoal wool.

“My father is pretty simple in his wants and needs, so he isn’t always easy to shop for. But now there’s no question what to get him,” added Amanda. “I want to thank the people at Stormy Kromer for giving me an opportunity to bond with my dad. Kromer is our connection, and it’s authentic, through and through.”

Authentic. Just like Amanda and her dad.

Do you have a great Kromer Dad story to share??

Handmade by Him: Jim Berton, the man behind the pictures.

Up next in our series of employee features is Jim Berton – our resident photography/graphics/technology expert who loves learning new skills and putting them to use at Stormy Kromer.

SK: What do you do at Stormy Kromer?
JB: I wear a lot of hats. Really.

SK: Nice pun.
JB: Thank you. Truly, I learned to do what needs to be done. They needed a product photographer, so I’m the product photographer. I also digitize the embroidery for the logos on the custom hats and other products. I went to school for digitizing, so I’m trained in that, and I’ve got a pretty good background in graphics. I guess I’d say my day is split between embroidery, graphics and photography.

SK: How did you get the job?
JB: I was a plant manager for Modern Case Company in Bessemer, making cases for musical instruments. We had one of the first computerized cutting machines in the area, and when Bob (Jacquart, owner of Stormy Kromer) toured the plant to check out that machine, that’s when we met. When he bought his new cutting machine, he hired me to run it. He hired my wife, too.

SK: Your wife works here?
JB: She does, and we started on the same day. May 5th, eleven years ago.

SK: What have you learned in all that time?
JB: I learn something every day. I have to, or I can’t go to bed at night. Really, I’ll stay up until I learn something new. And I never tell anyone I don’t know how to do something—if they give me one day, I’ll know how to do it tomorrow.

SK: What do you think of the new lines of apparel?
JB: Things here just keep getting better and better and better. And the new gear is just a knockout. I shoot the pictures, and I say to myself, “Man, is this really made here?” I can’t wait to see what they come out with next.

SK: So you like it?
JB: We went from the “old man hat” to the “everyman hat,” and the things we’ve done since Gina (Thorsen, VP of Marketing & Sales) started, well, the sky’s the limit. As a matter of fact, my wife and I always planned to move back to Ohio someday, but because of the positive direction this company is going in, we’re going to stay up here ‘til we die.

SK: How many pieces of Kromer gear do you own?
JB: None, sorry. I’m the weird guy who wears shorts 12 months a year—even when snowblowing—so this warm clothing is just too much for me. I buy it all the time for family and friends, though.

SK: What does “Made in America” mean to you?
JB: It says it all. When I see people working here and putting out a product they’re proud to make, it just says it all.

SK: Anything else you want to say to Kromer fans?
JB: There are only two kinds of people in the world: The ones who get to work here and the ones who wished they work here!