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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.

dads parents 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.

Bill and LolaHe 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 herbfarmThe 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."

"The Evergreen Hospice in Kirkland was a wonderful place for dad's last days. They are so caring. The night before he died, my mom was sitting in a chair beside my dad. She was exhausted. The nurse came in and had mom lay down while she took her place beside my dad, holding his hand and soothing him. Later in the early morning, the nurse stayed in the room and talked to us, telling us stories and helping us through a very stressful time."

"My dad died just after noon on the 16th. My brother and I had just walked out of the room to take a break. My mom reached over and squeezed my dad's shoulders. She whispered to him, "Honey, it's OK if you want to leave. You can go now." He seemed to relax and then opened his eyes wide open. I just happened back into the room at that moment. His eyes were as blue as the ocean, and then he closed them. I quickly called in my brother. We came back into the room. Dad became relaxed and was gone. We all got to say our last goodbye's."

"Dad's minister noted at the funeral that, as if to acknowledge the passing of great Spirit, at the moment of his death, birds gathered in the garden outside of his room and a crow gazed thoughtfully through the window."

"The funeral at the Fall City Cemerty was wonderful. We had some of dad's favorite music playing as the people gathered around the gravesite. Anne and Thomas distributed sprigs of Rosemary and Mable-gray scented geraniums to everyone present. The minister, Tricia Klink, from the Religious Science Center for Spiritual Awareness in Bellevue, gave a short sermon and then related how she came to know dad. He was the first one to answer her "ad" when she was starting her new church."

"After that, she invited those in the gathering who knew dad to come forward and tell stories about how he affected their lives. It was wonderful! Even the UPS driver came forward and told how dad had affected his life."

"Art Taylor, a long-time co-worker with Bill at Boeing, came forward to relate how Bill had affected his life. Art recalled that Bill had a list of "Life Sayings" that were posted by his desk at work. When he retired, he was given a fancy plaque and momento's. Of all the items, he shared that Bill's life sayings are what he still has framed in his living room for all to see."

"Both Ron and I shared a few memories and then we watched as the coffin was lowered into the grave. Ron sprinkeled some of the ashes from the HerbFarm restaurant that burned down. Many dropped in handfuls of earth."

"Afterwards there was a gathering at the HerbFarm offices where we shared more memories. I think dad would have approved."
Bill is survived by his wife, Lola, and his son's, Ronald William, and Robert Raymond.