The leader and Executive Chairman of Kohler Company, Herbert Vollrath Kohler, Jr., passed away on September 3 at the age of 83.
One of Kohler's most notable professional achievements here in Wisconsin was the opening of multiple golf courses.
He opened Blackwolf Run, the first piece of his golf portfolio, in 1988. Then came the now ever-popular Whistling Straits 10 years later in 1998. Both courses have been recognized among the best golf courses in country, according to Golf Digest.
“He attracted the golf world to our doorstep. Before he built Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits, Wisconsin was a flyover state for traveling golfers. That’s definitely no longer the case," said Gary D'Amato, senior writer with Wisconsin.Golf.
In total, the Kohler courses have hosted six Major golf championships to date.
Kohler's family remembers him as an inspirational man who had a lasting impact on everyone he came across.
“His zest for life, adventure and impact inspires all of us," the Kohler family said. "We traveled together, celebrated together, and worked together. He was all in, all the time, leaving an indelible mark on how we live our lives today and carry on his legacy."
Kohler helped expand the family business from plumbing fixtures to include power systems. Under Kohler, annual revenue expanded to about $6 billion annually.
His father, Herbert Vollrath Kohler, Sr., developed a planned community, the Village of Kohler, for the company and workers and their families in 1912. Herb Kohler would transform it to include the Kohler Design Center and Destination Kohler — the hospitality and tourism arm that includes The American Club and Kohler's golf courses.
“As long as I can remember, it’s always been a fabric of the community. Whether it’s friends or family working for the company itself," said Sheboygan Mayor Ryan Sorenson.
Born and raised in Sheboygan, home to many of Kohler's employees, Sorenson said Kohler is synonymous with Sheboygan.
“Herb had a big heart for this community and his company. [He] definitely cared about making an impact," said Sorenson.
The family plans to host a private service. At a date to be determined, Kohler Co. will host a tribute to Herb Kohler for associates, past and present.
There will be a website coming soon to learn more about Herb Kohler’s countless contributions, his dynamic life, business impact and well-deserved accolades. Information regarding ways to honor his memory will be detailed soon.