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Turn of the century
Categories: People, Utrinque Paratus

Jack Weil turns 100

By Leigh E. Rich

What’s the view like from the other side of 100? Not many live to tell the tale or, if they do, few can spin a yarn about the last century as the affable, Jack A. Weil, who officially becomes a centenarian next Wednesday, March 28.

Born in 1901 in Evansville, Ind., Weil and his late wife Beatrice came to Denver in January, 1928, in a Chrysler roadster when US Highway 40 was but a gravel road. Weil, then a salesman of Paris Garters for the A. Stein Company of Chicago, traveled the West for his job.

“This was like heaven,” he says via a telephone interview with the Intermountain Jewish News. “I traveled this area and I fell in love with the beauty of it.”

With the 20/20 vision of hindsight, it is perhaps no surprise that the enterprising Weil, the son of a cattle rancher and the founder and CEO of Rockmount Ranch Wear, would end up in the West. To this day, he exudes the saying he coined when talking to a reporter many years ago: “The West is not a geographic location. It’s a state of mind.”

At 99, Weil continues to run the family business that made western wear—including bolo ties!—famous en masse with his son Jack B. Weil and grandson Steve Weil every day. He pops into work on 16th and Wazee streets early in the morning, tackles a few errands in the early afternoon, then retires for his daily nap.

Humble to a fault, bluntly stating the IJN “surely has better things to write about” when we interrupted the work day, the eternal businessman fielded several questions from his “ranch hands” while simultaneously answering ours.

When asked when he plans to retire, the spirited nonagenarian, for a few last days, at least, innocently replied, “Me?”

In fact, rather than lightening his workload, Weil’s recently added the “lecture circuit” to his hectic days, speaking with first, second and third grade students at three primary schools around town.

“They wanted to know how it was when I went to school, what kinds of toys did I have, what kinds of pets did I have. I told them, ‘You know, I could tell you pretty much anything I want. Who’s around to contradict me?’ “

If retirement isn’t in the picture, what does the future hold for ol’ Wild West Weil, we wanted to know. For one, his family, whom he describes as “very attentive,” “is giving a birthday party for me.” OK, sounds appropriate. He’s 100 for goodness sake. But then it’s back to work as usual.

And while he can’t quite predict what gadgets and trends America might see in the new century, he knows “whatever they are, in the next 40 or 50 years, there will be a whole lot more than in the last hundred” that produced “things that you wouldn’t have dreamed of.

“When I came to Denver it took 36 hours on the train. And now it’s an hour and 15 minutes. To the West coast used to be even longer, and it’s an hour and 45 minutes. The idea of being able to fly from here to London in seven or eight hours, those are things that could have never been forecast. I saw TV come into being. It developed just before WW II, but it never got into commercial use until after the war. It was black and white. I never thought they’d have color.”

As for the old days, Weil talks passionately about the rise of the motor car—especially his Model T Ford—an invention his parents weren’t so sure of at first.

“My father was in the cattle business in southern Indiana. It is very hot in the summer time. He had a horse and a surrey—a four seated buggy. We’d drive by the river to cool off, since there was no air conditioning back then. We were driving along one time and one of those new fangled automobiles drove past with a spare wheel on the back. My father said, ‘I never had to carry an extra leg for my horse.’ “

Or, proving that as time changes it stays the same, Weil reminisces about the day he drove from one city in Indiana back home to Evansville in record time. “I pulled up in front of the house in an hour and 15 minutes, and my mother said, ‘You’re going to kill yourself in that thing.’ “

A little while later, after Weil and Beatrice were married in Humboldt, Tenn., in 1926, Weil moved West where the couple set up roots.

“I thought there was a great opportunity out here,” Weil predicted, “which of course became more than I could ever dream or expect. This western life of freedom and pioneering was like a romance to me.”

A romance it has been. Both Weil and his wife, when not refashioning cowboys or raising a family, served on the board and sisterhood of Temple Emanuel. Beatrice, who passed away in 1990, was also active with the Red Cross during WW II. “She got the bright idea of raising money for polio,” Weil says.

The couple’s family includes children Jack B. Weil of Denver and Jane (Bud) Romberg of Steamboat Springs; grandchildren Steve (Wendy) Weil of Denver, Judy (Jerry) Oksner of Phoenix, Ariz., Greg (Laurie) Romberg of Evergreen, Gail (John) Sigman of Denver and Janet (Larry) Pollack of Poway, Calif.; and great-grandchildren Colter Weil, David and Alison Oksner, Alexandra, Erica, and Rebekah Romberg, Emily and Julia Sigman, Rachel and Ben Pollack.

Compared to the prosperity of the last 100 years, the other side of 100 bodes well for Weil. “Life has been good. It’s been interesting. I’m blessed that I have my good health and a loving family. What the hell else is there?”

A Model T, of course, which Weil drives back into the conversation. “I started traveling in the ’20s in my Model T Ford,” Weil’s smile can be heard over the phone. “The tank of gas was under the front seat and was fed to the motor by gravity. So, if you got on a high hill and you didn’t have a full tank of gas, you know what you did?”

Get out and push? we suggested.

“You turned around and backed up.”

Ah, they certainly don’t make ’em like they used to. 

Rich, L. E. (2001, March 23). Jack Weil turns 100. Intermountain Jewish News.

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