William Horine Zimmerman
The co-founder of the nationally acclaimed Herbfarm Restaurant died Tuesday, January 16, 2001, after a year-long battle with cancer.
Bill Zimmerman, 83, was known throughout the region for his gentle manner and love of gardening, cooking, birds and animals. He delighted patrons by regularly appearing with a pet goose or chicken under his arm.
"He was a wonderful, wonderful man," said Jerry Traunfeld, the restaurant's executive chef. "He was very kind and exactly what you would want a grandfather to be."
An avid grower of succulent plants and scented geraniums into his 80s, Zimmerman would try and outdo the restaurant gardeners by producing the first ripe tomato of the season.
"He was very good at it," Traunfeld said.
Bill Zimmerman was born in a log cabin at the corner of Second and Dunkle Streets in Fairbanks, Alaska, on July 16, 1917. His father, John Franklin Zimmerman, a Chicago-educated mining engineer from the Zimmerman family farm in Harvel, Illinois, provisioned in Seattle in the summer of 1897 on a stopover en route to the Alaska Gold Rush. After his father died in a mining accident in the 1920s, young Bill lived in Los Angeles with his mother, Mary Horine, his brother Frankin, and his sister, Mary. As a boy during the Depression, he helped support his family by selling fruit and vegetables from a roadside stand.
He studied engineering in Los Angeles, and met Lola Kammer, formerly from Brule, Nebraska, at a Burbank rooming house where she was working. They were married on December 10, 1941. (Pictures from Bill's youth.)
Mr. Zimmerman worked for Lockheed Aircraft during World War II and after, serving as part of the team that built the first American jet fighter. In 1946, after the war, Bill and Lola moved to Gold Beach on the southern Oregon coast where they built and operated a salmon fishing resort, Rogue Woods, near a spot that the author and sportsman, Zane Grey, had made famous. The couple's two sons, Ron and Bob, were born in Oregon and the family lived on a hill in a house that Bill built with hand tools. They grew a large garden and Lola canned fruit at the end of every summer.
He moved to what was rural Bellevue in 1954 with his wife, Lola, and their young family after landing a job with Boeing. During this time the family built another home on Pine Lake on the Sammamish Plateau complete with dock and small boats. Bill and Lola, who had always wanted to live in sight of Mt. Si, purchased a former berry and dairy farm in Fall City in 1974.
The next spring, Lola found herself with too many chives in the garden and set up a small roadside stall. By the mid-1980s, the Herbfarm had grown into a restaurant, school, garden and retail store, and attracted visitors from around the world.
In January 1997, a fire destroyed the restaurant. Katrina Gammon, a former Herbfarm employee, said that when she drove Bill home after the post-fire fund-raising event, he stopped to clean her car's dusty headlights with his dress shirt.
"He was selfless," she said. "He would come through the office pretty much every day, making sure we weren't working too hard and bringing little clippings, quotes, inspirational sayings."
The family temporarily opened shop again in Issaquah while they built a new permanent restaurant in Woodinville.
"He would have loved to eat there," said daughter-in-law Carrie Van Dyck, who runs the restaurant with husband, Ron Zimmerman. "He loved to eat."
Indeed, Zimmerman approached his cancer treatment as he did many things in life -- through food.
"He ate a lot of herbal medicines, garlic and natural grains," said long-time Herbfarm employee Carol Divers. "He often said his healthy eating had contributed to a long life."
Dad's last days were difficult for the entire family. Bill's youngest son, Bob, relates his memories:
"I was present with my brother and my mom when dad died. He had been going downhill rapidly in his last few weeks and was not lucid at all. The day he died, even though he never opened his eyes, he was able to squeeze my mom's hand to show that he still could hear what was being said and to show that he still understood."Bill is survived by his wife, Lola, and his son's, Ronald William, and Robert Raymond.
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