Rheba Mabie Zimmerman: Living Legend 2014

January 7, 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.

26 thoughts on “Rheba Mabie Zimmerman: Living Legend 2014

  • Penne says:

    Wow, Rheba. Congratulations – you’re very inspiring. Thanks for showing us all how life should be lived!

  • Gary Fairbrother says:

    Inspiring indeed! And the cutest clown I’ve ever seen!

  • Robert Kostka says:

    I congratulate the folks at Stormy Kromer for honoring this special young woman. She has accomplished so much in her life in spite of what might have been overwhelming difficulties. She is an inspiration to anyone facing debilitating difficulties. Thank you to all who made this award possible for her.

  • PETE HAYES says:

    What an amazing story abouut a truly great person. She should be proud with all she has accomplished. The very best of luck becoming a vet, an occupation I worship because of the work they do for our animal friends.

  • Rob Golab says:

    Outstanding for Rheba! I didn’t even know Stormy Kromer had this award, but it looks as though it went to the perfect person!
    I’m eleven years older than Rheba, but based on the photo, I wish I would have seen her, as a clown, when I was a kid. It would have stopped my a-typical fear of clowns, as she’s the prettiest clown I’ve ever seen!
    Congratulations, Rheba.
    Also, to the Stormy Kromer team. My SK hat is doing wonders to keep my head warm, with the below zero temps we’ve been experiencing in Southeast Michigan!

  • Shannon says:

    Rheba, I am super proud and lucky to have you as a friend. Congratulations on winning. Love you friend

  • Larry Bishop says:

    I will be on the streets of Tomahawk. Not now, but on July 4th to see you clown around.

    See you then when it’s 100 degrees warmer….

  • Larry D. Nutting says:

    Congratulations, Rheba! You’ve accomplished so much. Follow your dreams.

  • David Kughn says:

    It is a person like Rheba that makes you proud to an American!! Great Job!!

  • Brian Bloomquist says:

    First and foremost the entire list of candidates are some of the most unsung role models anyone would have pleasure of knowing. I met and saw this young lady years ago on the golf course and always pay attention when I hear her name mentioned as she is most likely the most unique individual I have run into. She is a Legend that will represent herself and Stormy Kromer for years to come. Congrats!

  • Darrell Schmidt says:

    Beautiful teeth and smile Rheba- Hope you are still wearing your retainer!
    Dr. Darrell Schmidt

  • Anna McMurtagh says:

    So very proud to know you and follow your path in this life through my husband,
    Patrick. One of the best days he enjoyed in his short life, was the day he and you played golf together.
    He was one of your fans, and was always following your achievements on the sideline.

    • Patricia Mabie says:

      Anna, Thank you for the nice comments. Rheba always thought the world of Murtie. She loved playing 10s and golf with him. We all miss him.He would be thrilled by Rheba’s receiving this award.

  • Bruce J Higgins says:

    WOW, Yes you are deserving and a great choice for this years living legend.
    I enjoyed your refreshing summation by your mother.
    Hoorah to her for your nomination.
    But your quote certainly sums up a life worth living.
    You are now a member of a very outstanding and elite group.
    I hope you get the opportunity to meet the first and he to meet you.
    Congrats Rheba. Keep up the great work!
    Live long & live strong.
    You appear to be a very strong and determined young lady and I am sure you would be impressed by meeting Jim; the most inspiring man on the planet!

  • Jim Dehlin says:

    Congratulations Rheba on being selected as the Stormy Kromer Living Legend 2014.
    Your life story is truly an inspiration. A well deserved honor.

  • Laura Beaubien says:

    Congratulations Rheba ! An honor well deserved, Follow your dreams and be happy. I was very impressed with all of the Living Legend nominees. May all of you continue to inspire others with your acts of kindness. Enjoy your year as the new Stormy Kromer Living Legend as I have enjoyed 2013 and I am sure Jim has enjoyed 2012 ! The very best to you ! My thanks to the wonderful Stormy Kromer crew, you are special. Laura Beaubien, Stormy Kromer Living Legend 2013.

  • Marilyn Jaeger says:

    Truly inspiring! And from our ‘neck of the woods’ northern Wisconsin! Too often we let life control us… Rheba’s story shows it doesn’t have to be that way. Thank you!

  • Doug Hermanson says:

    Rheba! Your amazing. You have grown up to be a really strong woman, you have come a long ways from the Rheba I used to enjoy you grammas rammen noodles with!



  • Leo Lantz says:

    I am awestruck! WOW!! R-H-E-B-A!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Rheba Mabie Zimmerman: Living Legend 2014 - Stormy Kromer