The funeral procession rolled down Rhomberg Avenue on Friday afternoon, passing the store that defined the life of Ralph Cremer Jr.
It was one last visit to the store for Ralph before he was buried, but it was also a final goodbye to Ralph for family and longtime customers. Lining the streets and wearing the store’s signature white paper butcher caps, about 40 people stood along Rhomberg as they watched the hearse pass by, bidding farewell to the man that, for many customers, had become just as synonymous with Cremer’s as the store’s meats.
Ralph Jr. died at the age of 88 on Tuesday, leaving behind the family business that he loved and the customers he adored.
“He loved talking with customers when they came in,” said Jeff Cremer, Ralph’s nephew and current owner of the family business, Cremer’s Meats. “He was a character and a hard worker, and people really liked chatting with him.”
Ralph Jr. worked at Cremer’s for nearly his entire life. His father, Ralph Sr., opened the three-aisle grocery store in 1948, and, from its first days, Ralph worked there. In 1978, Ralph Sr. retired, leaving his son to run the business until his retirement in 2011. Even after Ralph Jr. retired, Jeff said his uncle continued to show up at the store.
“He really loved it here,” Jeff said. “No one could deny that he was a hard worker.”
Jeff described his uncle as a friendly man that took pride in his work and loved his family. At Cremer’s, the store has a motto of treating its customers like family, and Ralph Jr. took that to heart.
“He was an amazing person,” said Sheri Scheffert, niece of Ralph Jr. “He was loved by a lot of people in town. He was just friendly to everyone.”
Many longtime customers arrived at Cremer’s on Friday to offer their respects to Ralph.
Sandra Plumley, 79, remembers when she first walked into Cremer’s as a young girl and was teased by Ralph.
She said she became a lifelong customer partially because of the friendly conversation she would engage in with Ralph every time she visited the store.
“He was always just the kindest and nicest person,” Plumley said. “I’m glad I was able to say goodbye.”
Jeff said he wanted to provide Ralph’s customers and friends a way of paying their respects while being restricted by the COVID-19 pandemic, so he came up with the idea to allow people to wave goodbye as the funeral procession passed by Cremer’s.
Jeff added that many businesses have struggled through the pandemic to keep from closing, but Cremer’s has received an outpouring of support from residents. He attributes it to people appreciating what Cremer’s provides to the community, and he is thankful to his uncle Ralph for helping create that reputation.
“He was a character,” Jeff said. “It won’t be the same without him, but the store will still be here.”