The real Hormel producers: One family with long history

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 1, 2000

Descendants of the Kjome family have worked an amazing 712 years for Hormel Foods Corporation in Austin.

Monday, May 01, 2000

Descendants of the Kjome family have worked an amazing 712 years for Hormel Foods Corporation in Austin.

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Three daughters and three sons produced the Hormel Foods employees. The 712 years is a combination of their active years and retired years. Still, it is every bit as amazing, because so many members of three families have chosen Hormel Foods Corporation for their life’s work.

"That’s something, huh?" observed Dale Ramlo, a descendant, who compiled the statistics. "I don’t think there’s any other family that can match the total for family members working for the same employer all those years."

The family first settled with other Norwegian immigrants in the Decorah and Highlandville, Iowa area and later Spring Grove in Minnesota.

Today, six members of the Bjorgo, Kjome, Ramlo clan are retired and all live in Austin: Duane Halverson and his wife, Marilyn; Dale Ramlo, Donald Ramlo and his wife, Lucille; Norman Kjome, Jr., Ronald Ferch and Jacob Brady, who married Carol Kjome.

Three descendants are still working for Hormel Foods. They are Mark and Scott Ramlo, sons of Dale Ramlo, and Ronald Ferch, son-in-law of Norman Kjome, Jr.

"I spent three months this winter researching family records to obtain this information," said Dale Ramlo. "I used the old ‘Squeal’ magazine, which like the Hormel News Magazine, lists employees’ retirement dates and other milestones."

Johanna Kjome Bjorgo’s husband, Henry started the skein in 1924.

Three of his sons, Gordon, Vernon and Curtis, also worked at the Austin plant, as well as Orville Halverson, a son-in-law, Duane Halverson, grandson, and Marilyn Halverson, Duane’s wife.

James Kjome, a brother of Johanna Kjome Bjorgo worked 8 years until quitting.

All other family members worked a total of 292 years for Hormel Foods in Austin.

Duane Halverson (still living) worked the longest, 43 years from 1951 to 1994. His wife, Marilyn, worked 27 years.

Except for Curtis Bjorgo, 5 years, the other family members worked an average of 38 years at the Austin plant.

The Bjorgo family’s 292 years could be higher, but George Kjome’s year could not be documented. He was a brother-in-law of Joanna Kjome Bjorgo.

Another sister, Cora Kjome Ramlo, produced a family that accounted for 167 years of the 712 years total.

Her son, Dale, the family historian, worked 38 years. His son, Mark, began work at Hormel Foods in 1967, and another son, Scott, started working there in 1981.

Donald Ramlo, another son of Cora Kjome Ramlo, worked 37 years and his wife, Lucille (Kerling) Ramlo worked four years.

Descendants of Norman Kjome, Sr., accounted for 245 of the 712 years total.

Norman Kjome, Sr., started working at the Austin plant in 1925 and worked for 15 years before quitting in 1940.

He returned to the company in 1942 and worked for another 27 years or 42 total.

His first wife, Loretta, worked 15 years and his second wife, Mabel (Hildreth) worked 23 years.

A son, Norman Kjome, Jr., compiled a career spanning 37 years.

His son, Kurt, worked two years and a son-in-law, Ron Ferch, started working in 1984 and is still employed by Hormel Foods.

Granted the total is inflated by including the retired years, but when they are subtracted from Ramlo’s 712 total, the total is still an almost equally amazing 538 years.

The descendants held an unofficial reunion recently outside the Hormel Foods Museum at OakPark Mall in Austin.

Ronald Ferch works in SPAM-batching and said he went to work for Hormel Foods, because "I wanted to stay in Austin."

Duane Halverson, retired from the Hormel Foods corporate office in Austin, where his wife, Marilyn, compiled a career working as a secretary in the law department. The couple met when they were both working at the Austin plant office.

"It was a good career and very satisfying work," said Duane.

Mark Ramlo went to work at the Austin plant after completing classes at then-Austin Junior College. After 33 years, he said, "It’s been good. I have no complaints about my career choice."

His younger brother, Scott, started working for Hormel Foods corporation after graduating college and is a product manufacturing manager.

He and his wife have moved seven times in 19 years.

"After graduating college, I looked around and actually wanted to try something different than work at Hormel Foods," Scott said. When he did commit to a job, he still was uncertain that it would be a lifetime career choice. "I said I would give it a try, but that was 19 years ago," he said.

Donald Ramlo worked all of his 37 years for Hormel Foods in Austin. A truck driver for 30 years, he moved into quality control before retiring.

Was going to work for Hormel Foods a good career choice for him? "Absolutely," Donald said. "I never regretted it for a minute except, maybe, when I lugged beef. Otherwise it’s been good work for Lucille and me."

The father of five daughters also served in the U.S. Navy, during World War II. What ship did Ramlo sail during the war? "It was the USS Austin, a destroyer escort, and I felt right at home, being from Austin, Minnesota," he said.

That left Dale Ramlo to share his memories of working for Hormel Foods and Ramlo, it turns out, is a walking, talking advertisement for the Austin-based, multinational marketer of meat and food products.

"It’s a wonderful company. Just wonderful," he said, "And one of the reasons is all the young people they bring in to work. They are so observant and willing to find a better way to stay ahead of the competition."

"And, then you have R and D (research and development). Don’t discount that place," he said.

"They’re thinking all the time," he said.

"I’d love to go right back now if I could," he said.