Pulse November / December 2022 - Page 48

IN MEMORIAM : HERBERT V . KOHLER , JR .

BY JEAN KOLB “ He was truly one of a kind — a man of incomparable spirit .”

EARLIER THIS FALL , the Kohler Co . family of associates lost its fearless and larger-than-life leader , Herbert V . Kohler , Jr ., who passed away at the age of 83 . Over the years , Mr . Kohler received accolades both for his strong leadership in building Kohler Co . into the global leader for kitchen and bath products and for putting Wisconsin on the map as a major global golf destination with four championship golf courses , including Whistling Straits .
Yet Herb — as many of those close to him called him — was also a visionary in the wellness industry . He designed and opened the 100,000-square-foot Sports Core Health and Racquet Club in 1979 , and when the worlds of fitness and spa began converging , the club ’ s leadership converted a small area into a dedicated space to provide massages and facials for the guests of The American Club , the only fivediamond , five-star hotel in the Midwest . These treatment rooms were once broom closets ; one room was so small the massage table was up against the wall and massage therapists had to get creative on how to provide equal services to both the right and left side of a guest ’ s body . By 1998 , Mr . Kohler knew he had captured the world ’ s attention as a golf destination , but he also realized that golf was not a year-round option in Wisconsin . Mr . Kohler was intrigued by the rapid expansion of the spa industry , viewing a spa as a potential complement or counterpoint to the golf . Though leery at first of golfers mixing with spa-goers in robes , he ultimately decided to go into the spa business in a way that only Kohler Co . could .
After commissioning a spa feasibility study , Mr . Kohler personally picked the location of the flagship spa : the highend Carriage House annex of The American Club , with 52 luxury rooms above a two-story spa housing 14 treatment rooms . For Mr . Kohler , the physical properties of what would become known as the Kohler Waters Spa had to exemplify the company ’ s mission of “ gracious living .” Furthermore , the spa must focus on water and showcase Kohler ’ s collection of plumbing , furniture and tile . Kohler Co . was very good at delivering on that focus .
46 PULSE n NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2022