Rheba Mabie Zimmerman: Living Legend 2014

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.