Ron Zimmerman |March 1948 - April 2023
A romantic, skeptic, brother, partner, pioneer and mystic. A man of routine and adventure, dreamer, friend, stranger, mentor: a man as contrasting as the Cascades and coast where he was born.
His greatest affliction was curiosity.
Ron Zimmerman was born March 9, 1948, in Gold Beach, Oregon, the eldest child of Bill and Lola Zimmerman. At age 5, Boeing brought the family to Bellevue, Washington. Ron passed on April 20, 2023.
Ron was an amazing entrepreneur and leader with unbounded interests and an early and enduring love for both the outdoors and for local foods. In his younger years, he organized his neighborhood friends and sponsored the "Summer Olympics" in his backyard, complete with high jumps, pole vaulting, races and prizes. He ran the half-mile in close to two minutes flat.
He and his brother Bob hiked many miles in the Cascades and Olympics, leading to many hair-raising adventures of survival, including eating marmots and porcupines. In junior high, he organized art classes with still-life drawings and paintings. His love of fishing led to his first mail-order catalog of self-tied flies, eventually sold to Herter, then a leading sporting goods retailer. He ultimately climbed all the major volcanoes in Washington State.
He fell in love with wine and cooking, sometimes carrying flour and a sourdough starter on those forays into the woods and testing some of his recipes on his brother Bob. A side trip while hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains inspired him to collect wine in Napa from the early sixties onwards, eventually amassing the award-winning wine cellar of The Herbfarm Restaurant. Ron originally thought he might become a physician, but the food was a constant backdrop to all his roving pursuits. At the University of Washington, he once wrote, “I majored in Zoology (where my Japanese lab partner, Aiko, taught me to cook squid over a Bunsen burner for lunch) and English (savoring Sacher-Torte in a café after Professor Nelson Bentley’s evening poetry workshops).
In 1974, Ron joined Early Winters, the first company in the world to utilize Gore-Tex fabric in consumer products. Ron was a pioneer in pursuing a joyfully whimsical approach to catalogs. For the next ten years his skill in print design, when paired with his unmatched prose and marketing expertise, resulted in an innovative creative style that inspired customers and co-workers alike. In 1984 the Direct Marketing Association named him the best direct marketing copywriter in America.
Having met after she responded to an ad on KZAM radio in 1979, Carrie Van Dyck and Ron married at The Herbfarm on September 20, 1986.
Earlier that year the couple had taken over the family’s Fall City Herb Farm and founded the nation’s first farm-to-table restaurant, which led the charge to bring fresh herbs into the daily lives of Americans. Three hundred classes per year on cooking, growing, and crafting with herbs, a mail-order business offering herbal products of all types, a nursery, and a tiny restaurant in the garage blossomed into one of the top 40 restaurants in America and the only AAA 5-Diamond restaurant north of Napa Valley and west of Chicago for many years.
Succeeding through recessions, fires, and many challenges, The Herbfarm won many accolades which continue today in the hands of the younger generation. He passed peacefully while working on “The Spirit of The Herbfarm,” a memoir and cookbook due later this year.
He is survived by his brother, nephews, niece, and Carrie Van Dyck, his wife and treasured life partner.
“Zman,” as they called him, will be remembered as one of the most remarkable persons they have ever known; strong in spirit, generous with his friends and staff, and extraordinarily creative in his work. At every endeavor, he gave it his all.
A Memorial Celebration with limited attendance will be held at The Herbfarm in late May. Send your condolences to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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