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 Ethan Arky

Nominated by Jessica Arky, Ethan’s wife


How cliché is it to nominate your husband? I am sure that many women have nominated their equally deserving husbands as SK’s Living Legend. After thinking and rethinking, I finally decided that I really ought to nominate him.

Ethan Eric Arky is a great man; interested in doing what is right, served in Iraq and Afghanistan, embodies the definition of good work ethic, loving life partner, an avid outdoorsman and a diligent student of the Bible. We are both proud owners of a Stormy Kromer and he lives and exemplifies all the pledges of the certificate of legendary-ness.

He was gifted a Stormy Kromer and in turn gifted a Stormy Kromer to another man. Everywhere we go he acknowledges those with a SK on their dome.

As an Outdoor Recreation Planner by day and avid hunter/hiker/fisherman/camper by weekend – Ethan loves the outdoors.

Ethan lives by Thumper’s rule – he doesn’t say anything if he doesn’t have anything nice to say. He cares about people. He has stopped to help young women change their flat tires, is an incredible role model to our nieces and nephews, has a hard time saying “no” when asked for a favor and volunteered at the local youth center when more volunteers were needed to keep the doors open.

Ethan enlisted pre 9/11 and served in the United States Marine Corps. He isn’t prideful, doesn’t boast about his selfless sacrifice and quite honestly you probably would never know having just met him. He’s old fashioned in that he feels he made the choice to sign up and he is a better man for his time spent in the armed forces.

My Dad is a pretty tough guy to impress, but Ethan has won him over. Ethan takes my Dad’s calls and acts as technical support 1600 miles away so my Dad can figure out his GPS, computer and iPad. When we’re out hiking somewhere beautiful or see wildlife, Ethan will usually chime in with, “Dad would love this.” He loves my Dad, which is so important and endearing to me.

The most important reason he is worthy of the title of ‘Living Legend’ is because he is always true to himself. He’s found himself in an interesting spot professionally. Despite the challenges in his workplace, he proactively goes about his work finding solutions and ways to work around the obstacles to remain productive and he believes that living a hard life now will provide for an easier future.

Ethan is worthy of the title of ‘Living Legend,’ and embodies all the Old School Kromer-ness.

Charity: Freedom Service Dogs of America

Hometown: Battle Mountain, NV

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!

Now THIS is Legendary.

“In November of 2012, Michigan’s Governor Snyder proposed a 924 mile trail that starts at Belle Isle in downtown Detroit and traverses the entire state, across the Upper Peninsula to the Wisconsin border. I intend to be the first to thru-hike this trail. My name is Chris Hillier but other hikers call me Wolverine.”

So begins Chris Hillier’s blog.  The staff at SK Headquarters – and a whole lot of other folks in the Ironwood area – had the honor of meeting this fine fellow at the conclusion of his ambitious hike this week.

After 11 weeks traversing the fine state of Michigan, sleeping in tents and surviving what might be the buggiest summer on record in the Upper Peninsula, Chris arrived in Ironwood yesterday afternoon.  His arrival happened to coincide with Festival Ironwood, which gave our community all the more reason to celebrate with him.  Rumor has it that large amounts of food were consumed…

Today, he came to see Kromer caps being made and add his name to our legendary wall.

As it turns out, Chris had his own Stormy Kromer story to share with us.  He recalled being given a hunter green cap by his big brother – a sign in his family that he was now considered a man.  A real honor.  He treasured his cap for years, and through a series of unfortunate circumstances, he lost his cap during a hike somewhere in Pennsylvania.

We were happy to replace it for him.  Cheers, Chris!  You’re a legend in our book.

Ski Flyers to Soar Again at Copper Peak in 2014

By Pete Graves,
Published on 06/07/13

PARK CITY, UT–June 7, 2013-—It’s been twenty years since the last ski flying tournament at Upper Michigan’s famed Copper Peak took place—for many a season since there have been no cheering crowds, no daring flyers, no network television—but that’s about to change for this upcoming winter in a joint announcement made today by USA Ski Jumping (USASJ) and Copper Peak Ski Flying’s Bryan Sanders.

In a simultaneous announcement, Copper Peak’s Bryan Sanders and USASJ’s Athletic Director Alan Johnson said that dates have been set for an exhibition ski flying event at the mammoth ski flying hill in Ironwood, Michigan, with competitions to be held from February 28-March 2, 2014.

USASJ’s Alan Johnson noted that resurrecting the largest ski jump in North America was cause for my optimism and excitement saying…”to bring the thrill of ski flying to athletes and spectators back to the States will play a vital role in show casing the efforts that both USASJ and Copper Peak aspire to in creating greater visibility for the sport. This will also allow us to look at more creative, non-traditional ways to format and showcase “big hill” jumping.” Johnson also praised Copper Peak officials for their brilliant efforts saying…”the changes and development of the sport since Copper Peak closed are significant. The sport is much safer and controlled than 20 years ago, enabling skiers to jump much further and control their flight. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that the old hill record will fall this winter. The question should be how many times, this is just a win/win concept for all involved.”

Copper Peak’s Bryan Sanders, who was a US Olympian in ski jumping at the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France said that Copper Peak’s Board of Directors are thrilled about rolling out the welcome mat for this series of events. “It’s been a long time coming, we’ve had massive debt to retire since the last event in 1994, and the venue has seen huge improvements that are bringing this historic ski jump back to FIS standards. We’ve now got a positive revenue stream and have improved the chairlifts, the elevator, the drainage on the hill, and have recountoured the landing hill with over 2,000 tons of dirt. This summer we are installing our new snowmaking facilities and the take off has been lowered. It’s now a 175 meter hill size (HS) and I think it will be a very safe and really exciting hill, that’s coming back to life.”

In a collaborative partnership between USASJ and Copper Peak officials expect to host about a dozen ski jumpers in an exhibition event, which is expected to largely consist of athletes from the United States and Canada. Invitations will also be extended to foreign nations as well.

Copper Peak has become a year-round tourist mecca offering a host of activities including the newly designed mountain bike trail system and the “Copper Peak Adventure Ride” that includes a trip to the top of one of the world’s most majestic views—high atop the stunning ski jumping tower.

At long last, it looks like this majestic structure will see ski flying return this winter, and the Nordic world is awaiting a triumphant return engagement.

A short story of how a Stormy Kromer saved a life.

Hats off to Phil Beatty. No, wait—hats on. Definitely on.
A short story of how a Stormy Kromer saved a life.

Well, this is a first. Even for us. We’ve had people get married in their Kromer caps. We’ve had people get buried in their Kromer caps. But we’ve never had a cap save someone’s life.

Until Phil Beatty went for a drive in Findlay, Ohio, on January 24th.

Phil is a Federal meat inspector, so he covers a lot of ground in and around Hancock County. And on this snowy morning, he was on his route when a snowplow snagged a small but heavy road reflector and flung it through the windshield of his van.

It was just one those things: unfortunately timed and uncannily accurate. Phil was struck from chin to forehead by the 10-pound projectile. It split his skull, caved his sinus cavity, and poked right through into his frontal lobe above the eyebrow. It also sent him into a two-week coma.

It didn’t, however, do all the damage it could have done.

The thick brim on Phil’s olive-colored Original
(the one he wears for “dress,” as opposed to the Rancher he wears for work at home)
was just enough to stop the reflector
from causing a mortal wound.

According to Phil’s friend, Dave Rupple, “If that puncture had gone any deeper, it would’ve killed him. The bill on his Kromer saved him, I’m sure of it.”

After a drugged and difficult month in the hospital, then an intensive, six-hour-per-day therapy schedule at Ohio State University, Phil is now doing well in outpatient therapy. He’s walking, talking and thinking about retiring.

That sounds like a pretty good plan to us, Phil, and we humbly tip our caps in your honor. We’re proud you wear a Kromer, and we’re happy to hear you’re doing well.

Treated Like a Person, By a Person

We get a lot of great emails, facebook posts and blog comments from our customers.  Every once in awhile, we get one so well-written and witty that it is too good not to share.  This email came from a lovely gentleman named Rich and we asked him if it would be okay if we shared it with all of you.  He was happy to oblige.

Dear Stormy Kromer,

I recently had an experience with your customer service that left me speechless.

I had a small issue with a Kromer I had recently purchased via the internet. I brewed a fresh cup of Folgers and sat down for what I was sure to come. Settled in, I called the customer service number, expecting to jump through the usual hoops…the voice prompts, the “please press 4 for customer service”…you know…the usual.

Angela, SK Customer Service

The Actual Angela

But something very odd happened, a person answered.  A person with a pulse and vocal inflection and even a name!  (Angela!)  She asked me about my issue and then said, “Let me see about this with our shipping department.”

“Here we go,” I thought, “This is where I get handed off to Muzak-Land, never again to hear a live person…my problem forever unsolved.”

And then I heard something truly startling.  I heard footsteps.  Footsteps that led me to believe that someone, probably sweet Angela, was walking somewhere.  WITH THE PHONE IN HER HAND!  Why, she was walking to the shipping department!  To solve my problem!!!!  Angela, an actual person just walked over to where the shipping takes place and just, BOOM!, fixed my problem.

I was gobsmacked.  I was not put on hold. I was not forwarded to another building or state or nation.  I was not passed up the ladder. I was not talked to by a robot.  I was treated like a, (you need to sit for this), like a real person!  By a real person!

And then it was over.  Angela and I exchanged a few kind pleasantries and it was done.  I didn’t know how to behave.  I hadn’t even touched my coffee and the problem was fixed to my great satisfaction.

Yet, I was ill at ease.  My entire world view seemed canted at an odd angle.  What could this mean?  Customer Service that actually Services Customers?  Why, it’s preposterous.  What business would be precocious enough to still do things that way?  What else will I have to rethink about my world?

And what of Angela?  I felt there was so much unsaid between us.  No verbal sparring, no sarcastic, “Well Sir…I’m sorry you feel that way.”  It was over before it began…we walked to the shipping department together, she fixed everything and we went our separate ways.

So here I am, a bubble off plumb perhaps, but truly happy with my customer service.

Thanks again, Rich for taking the time to write us!

Living Legend Wrap-Up

Well, the month of January is over, and so officially is this year’s Living Legend program.  Once again, you were extremely generous with your support of the program through your January shopping, and we will be sending our donation check off to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital next week.

Living Legend
The staff here at Stormy Kromer has really enjoyed getting to know Laura Mae Beaubien.  So did Leslie Pugmire Hole, reporter at the Redmond Spokesman, a central Oregon newspaper.  Her interview with Laura and family resulted in a few wonderful quotes that we’d like to share.

Leslie quotes Laura’s son Bob, who first considered nominating his father Harold.

“I started thinking about what had made my Dad strong and I realized it was my mother.  She was always in his corner, she went to bat for him all the time.  A 60-year marriage?  People just don’t do that anymore.”

Laura continues to be humbled, and even a bit embarrassed about all the attention she’s received as our Living Legend, but still hopes her story is inspiring, even though (as she told us when she won), she didn’t win a war or anything.

“Families need to know there are good, one-day-at-a-time people still out there”, Laura said.

Yes, we sure do.  And thanks Laura, for the legendary reminder.

So Many Hats

Congratulations to this year’s Living Legend, Laura Mae Beaubien!  In case you missed it, here is the nomination her son sent to us which earned her this honor.

By: Robert Beaubien, Son

living legend
Laura Mae Beaubien is my father’s hidden strength.  Married at 19 years old, and for over 60 years, the two of them built a bond that could only be broken by the vow, “till death do we part.”

My stay-at-home mother attended to the household and raising of six children – yes six kids!  I believe there’s nothing stronger than the love a Mother has for her children.  She had so many hats she had to wear.

If one of us scraped our knee, she was there as the “Nurse” to patch us up and mother away our tears, always followed with a kiss that made it better.  She would take all of us to the A&P to go shopping with a bandana covering her curlers, the “Beauty Queen” to us.  As a “Financial Planner,” Mom saved S&H Green and Gold Bell stamps to get something free.  She could get all of us ready for church in our best Sunday clothes faster than a “Pageant Coordinator.”

I learned that when I was called, and that call included my middle name, I was in for it, as mom the “Sheriff” taught me.  We had to make our beds, pick up our clothes, feed the dog and other chores, thanks to mom the “Warden.”  My Mother the “Teacher” taught us responsibility.  She taught us to say ‘yes please,’ ‘no thank you,’ and to show respect .  Her “Dale Evans” hat was earned as we moved from our beloved Michigan to an Oregon cattle ranch.  She learned how to ride a horse, brand, and vaccinate cattle.  As the “Chef,” she maximized menus that would feed us and the branding/buckaroo crew for days.

With all these hats, she found time for my Dad as a loving, caring soulmate for life.  Now that we have our own lives, Mom and Dad were free to do the things they put off in their youth in order to raise us as a family believing in our faith, having respect of others, and doing what is right.

This free time as “Vacationers” was cut short as my Dad was told he had cancer.  Wearing this “Caregiver” hat, my mother has strengths I’ll never be able to describe, as she was a devoted companion till the end, remaining strong for us kids.  Their last long trip together – with mom as the “Navigator” – wasn’t to Hawaii, Miami, or Southern California, it was home to Michigan, where they visited family and friends.  They made new friends like Bob Jacquart, as they visited one of Michigan’s landmarks, the Stormy Kromer factory.

With a birthday on Christmas eve, my Mom will be 80 but not alone, as she will share in the celebration of life with her “Walton “-like family of Beaubien’s, driving from all over the state of Oregon, to be with her on this Blessed holiday and birthday.  My Mother made her life in a world that said ‘they were to young’ and lasted far beyond today’s marriages, raised a family, taught us new lessons and reminded us of the ones we let slide.  I nominate my Mother Laura Mae Beaubien because she would be a superior role model and a person to aspire and emulate her life’s values of a mother’s love.