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Morgan standing in a foggy field

In Memoriam: Herbert V Kohler Jr.

September 5, 2022


The man who took his grandfather’s plumbing manufacturing company and grew it into a global, diverse family of businesses, Herbert Vollrath Kohler, Jr., died on Saturday in Kohler – the village that bears his family’s name – at age 83.

Herb Kohler’s personal mission was to create delight. For him, there was no halfway. To warrant the "KOHLER" nameplate, a product had to be more than durable, functional, and attractive. It had to be joyful and memorable. 

He was admired by many as an accomplished, dynamic leader; independent-minded entrepreneur; courageous innovator; and passionate creative. Herb, more than anyone, lived and breathed Kohler Co.’s mission of providing customers with gracious living each day. He was a big personality who was steadfast in guiding Kohler associates in the relentless pursuit of the company mission, and he took immense joy in witnessing his customers’ delight firsthand.

In 1970, Herb Kohler and Mark Staehnke attended a sale in Cox’s Creek, Kentucky. A 13-year-old Stallion, named Vigilmarch, was led to the ring where the auctioneer’s attempts to get an opening bid worthy of this horse were futile. Eventually, meager bids started coming in until a new voice was heard. Herb had entered the race. When Mark asked “Do you have any idea what you’re doing? Do you know what owning a stallion like that means?” Mr. Kohler responded, “No, but I love that horse”.  Little did he realize at the time that the future of Kohler Stables would be shaped for years to come with the legacy of this legendary sire.

With Vigilmarch as the cornerstone of the Kohler breeding program and the guidance of talented trainers Mark Staehnke, J.T. Brown, Owen Haley, and Thomas L. Caisse, the HVK prefix quickly became a presence in the Morgan industry. Vigilmarch produced some of the most gifted and brilliant show horses to ever enter the ring, consistently performing time after time. As foundation stock, his sons and daughters are legendary.

In 1976, Tom Caisse received an invitation which would change his career and have a profound impact on the entire Morgan industry. The combination of Herb Kohler’s intuition and eye for quality with Tom’s master horsemanship created the legacy of Kohler Stables that endures today. With the retirement of Tom Caisse in 2013 as Manager/Trainer, he continued mentoring his successor, Shirley O’Gorman until his passing in 2018. Her knowledge, horsemanship, and passion for the Morgan Horse are evident as she continues to Live the Legacy here at Kohler Stables.

Over the years, Kohler Stables has registered approximately 480 foals that bear the HVK prefix. Some of his incredible horses include World's Park Harness Champion Noble Flaire, World Champion HVK Bell Flaire, Serenity Flight Time, HVK Fieldmarch, HVK Fancy Dan, HVK Viceroy (World Champion Morgan stallion), HVK Hotspur, Van Lu Beauregard, HVK Noble Obsession, ZZ Top, HVK Pavarotti, HVK Make 'Em Cry, HVK Bold Look, along with many more

Herb is survived by his wife, Natalie; two daughters, Laura Kohler (Steve Proudman), and Rachel Kohler (Mark Hoplamazian); and one son, David Kohler (Nina). He is further survived by 10 grandchildren, Lily, Hannah, and Rachel Proudman; Mara, Lena, and Leo Hoplamazian; Ashley, Samuel, Jack, and Tait Kohler; and three great grandchildren, Ophelia, Herbert, and Uma Cartwright.

He will be greatly missed by his family, a large circle of friends, tens of thousands of Kohler Co. associates and retirees worldwide, as well as many others who came to know him.

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