In Memoriam: Bernard “Bobo” Kolesar

Behind the Scenes, From the CEO, Legendary
June 11, 2021

Everyone remembers the nicest father in the neighborhood. The one who always had a smile and never seemed to treat you like a kid, but rather as his friend. That was Bernard “Bobo” Kolesar to me. Little did I know how much influence he would have on my personal and business life many years later.

As many of you know, Jacquart Fabric Products started in the basement of my home in 1958 by my father. At the time, he worked 24 hour shifts as a firefighter for the City of Ironwood. On his off days, Dad sewed small bags and did repairs. Bobo was also a firefighter with Dad but they worked on different shifts.

Once I got into high school and then during my early adult years, I didn’t see much of Bobo. Once in a while I might pass him in a grocery store or on the street and there would always be a friendly exchange.

Then in November of 1994, Bobo came into our much-expanded company and had some work done. I bumped into him and started our usual friendly conversation. He was particularly happy because it was almost hunting season. He was beaming with joy because his sons Brian and Charlie were coming back to join him for deer camp – something they did no matter where in the world they were at the time.

I remember going back to my office and envying him a little for having boys and this hunting camp tradition. I wondered what traditions I could build with my two daughters. Then, early in 1995, the Women’s College Basketball Final Four came to Minneapolis (only four hours away) and our youngest daughter KJ was a HUGE fan of the game. We went with Grandpa and a family friend. 

While I was sitting at one of the games, I realized this could become a tradition with KJ. Since then, she has only missed one Final Four tournament. My wife Denise and I alternate who goes with her. We then started a tradition where Denise and our oldest daughter Gina go on an art and music trip around Mother’s Day each year. All because of Bobo.

You likely also know that in 2001, I bought a 98 year-old hat company that was so small that all it was at the time was fill-in work for a couple of people. During my first winter of ownership, a woman came to me and told me a story that her late husband’s hat was buried on the shore of his favorite fishing spot on Lake Superior. Soon thereafter, Bobo came to me and told me a story about a dance he went to in 1947 in Ironwood. He reminded me of how dark and drab everything was post World War II and that on that night, he decided to wear his red Stormy Kromer cap. As I recall him telling me, when he walked on the dance floor, a group of beautiful women saw him in his hat and wanted to meet the daring man who wore that bold red hat…and that is how he met his wife.

After I heard these two stories, I wondered if there was more to this hat than I even imagined. I went searching for a marketing company that might advise me. After I showed a 1915 picture of Stormy and Ida Kromer and a 1942 picture of my Grandpa Lopez wearing a hat, the creative director said to me, “You don’t have a clue what you have here.” They almost immediately got me on the front page of the Milwaukee Journal and launched us on the trajectory that we are on today. All because of Bobo.

A few years later, Bobo came into our Stormy Kromer factory store and asked to speak with me. He asked, “How small of a hat do you make?” I said, “It would fit an 8-10 year old.” He sighed and said, “That’s too bad, because one of my sons is about to have a baby and I wanted to buy my grandchild their first Stormy Kromer.” 

Less than a week later we were making baby hats.

That takes us to earlier this month when I got an email from one of Bobo’s nephews. He told me that Bobo was very sick and the family would like a batch of customized Stormy Kromer hats to wear when they went to visit him. The order was placed immediately, and the team rushed to get them done by Monday, June 7th. Unfortunately, that was two days too late. Bobo had passed away on Saturday.

The hats are still going to the family. They will be great reminders to all of them what a wonderful person Bobo was.

I know that I will never forget him. May he rest in eternal light.

-Bob Jacquart

12 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Bernard “Bobo” Kolesar

  • Lisa M Lauren says:

    So sweet! My grandpa would beam at this blog post. Thank you for loving on him all these years! Grandpa was just the best! He will be missed.

  • David says:

    These are the kindest words! Also an amazing reflection on Bobo and the impact he had on all of us.. I am also a proud owner of 3 SK HATS! Just love them! May god bless all of you!

  • Chuck Kolesar says:

    Thank You for the kind words Bob. I’m sure Bobo would have been honored.
    As you might guess, my sons and I have acquired a wide collection of Stormy Kromers. None, so far, in red/black check. Thank You.
    Doubt we’re ready to bury any one of Bobo’s Stormy Kromers. Perhaps a few years of hanging in a place of honor at camp on the hat rack first.
    Glad to hear your Final Four tradition has survived. In a busy world it is so easy to find an excuse.
    Always enjoyed talking with your Dad also. Fly Boy veterans are my favorite conversationalists for some reason.

  • Marcy F Isenberg says:

    Thank you Bob for your kind words of my Uncle Bobo, he was always so proud to wear his Stormy
    Kromer, everytime he visited our home he was wearing one, we too have passed the Kromers on to our grown boys in Minnesota, it is a family tradition of ours to own one Stormy Kromer, you can’t be from the UP and not own at least one!

  • Beet Anderson says:

    I worked at many jobs in my life but working for Bobo was the best. He never degraded anyone and
    he was always quick to give praise and a little advice. He loved to talk about fishing and about all
    the big fish he caught. When I would ask him where he got the fish he would say Lard Lake( which
    wasn’t a real lake) because he wanted to keep it a secret. Bobo was one of a kind. He was enjoyable to talk to.

  • Katy Hevelhurst says:

    Thank you for your shared stories and wonderful words about a terrific man! My husband and I are very good friends of Brian (Bobo’s youngest son) and Denise Kolesar, and we got to know Bobo through the years when he’d make the trek down from Ironwood for the Christmas holiday. We so enjoyed his company and friendship every time we had the pleasure to meet him. He was a special man. I can still remember when my mom passed away, he came down earlier than planned to attend her funeral, and I was so touched that he did that for us. He was a very, very kind man and will be deeply missed but fondly remembered.

    My husband and I have several Stormy hats and love them, and this past Christmas my husband even received a pair of Stormy leather and wool mittens.

    What a great memento you have provided the family with!

    Thanks again for sharing your stories of our beloved Bobo.

  • Steve Salmi says:

    Awesome stories…last time I saw Bobo was at Clem’s funeral. Hadn’t seen him in quite a few years, but it was like yesterday. Reminisced for quite awhile. Special person…and Special company to honor him. Heartfelt thanks!

  • Brian Kolesar says:

    Bob, thank you for your kind words about my Dad. We will miss him dearly. You and I grew up in a special area and time where we were able to meet and know our neighbors. Whether Dad was hunting, fishing, shoveling snow, going to town or meeting my Mom, he had his Stormy Kromer on. I have my own special collection of Kromers now, including the GB Packers special edition from years back. Bob, you have elevated Stormy Kromer to the incredible brand it is today!

  • Susie Wykoski says:

    As a young girl growing up in South Bend,IN I went to the U.P. every summer and when I meet Bobo he represented all i loved from going on vacation there. He was a very nice, humble man who enjoyed all the outdoor activities that made the U.P. special!! The above story is a great example of the pride and hardworking people that I remembered so well. He was a beloved figure at Stormy Kromer and to all who his family and friends. What an awesome tribute!!

  • Dan kolesar says:

    Bobo was my uncle and Godfather. He was also my idol. We would swap my Montana hunting stories with his in the UP. He sure could tell a story, and make you smile. A real gentleman, teacher, and friend. Until we can share a Brandy again.

  • Joe and Lynda Fairfield says:

    Bob,
    Thanks for the beautiful story of Bobo, even though it made Joe and I teary eyed. We were blessed to know Bobo as a boss to Joe in the fire department (he was the best), but more so as a dear friend who came to be like family to us. We never went to Ironwood without a Bobo visit somewhere! The past few years we have been able to share his Florida visits with him. Recent visits brought out many stories, mostly fishing and hunting, and all the good times! We will always hold a special place in our hearts for Bobo and will always love and miss him!

  • Tom Gorrilla says:

    Thank you Bob. Bobo was special. He would light up a room with his smile and personality and always gave us a positive perspective in life. I will never forget his generosity and kindness to all of us who knew him. Rest in peace Bobo.

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In Memoriam: Bernard “Bobo” Kolesar – Stormy Kromer