In honor of Labor Day, Red Wing Shoe Company, a global leader in the footwear industry for more than 110 years, inducted 10 new honorees into its “Wall of Honor,” a tribute to skilled laborers from across the trades who have worked on some of America’s toughest jobs. The Wall of Honor is both an interactive installation located at the flagship Red Wing shoe store in Red Wing, Minnesota and an online virtual experience highlighting the impressive stories of honorees. First introduced in 2018, it showcases the epic stories of laborers alongside the well-worn pair of Red Wing boots they wore to stay safe and get the job done right.
“America’s skilled workers are a mainstay on job sites across the country, and our new Wall of Honor inductees are a shining example of the hard work they do every day. On this Labor Day, we couldn’t be prouder of the men and women who build everything around us and keep our communities running,” said Dave Schneider, chief marketing officer at Red Wing Shoe Company. “This is just one way for us to recognize their hard work and we encourage members of the public to take time to thank America’s workers over the holiday weekend.”
Red Wing 2019 Wall of Fame Inductees
Ambros Johnson, 1931-2014, Champlin, Minnesota, carpenter
Memorialized by Tyler Moe-Slepica, his grandson.
“My grandfather was my hero. Ambros R. Johnson, or ‘Amby,’ as he was known, was a gentle spirit who remained humble and steadfast in his care for his family and craft. He put his heart and soul into everything he did. The son of immigrants from Iceland and Norway, he gained his passion for carpentry from his father Magnus, a stern but fair man who spent his life as a contractor in Minnesota. My grandfather passed his clean heart and strong work ethic to all his children, and he shared his vocation with his sons and grandson, who grew up to become engineers, contractors and carpenters, extending his passion for the trades to the fourth generation. He recognized quality when he saw it and he wore the same style of Red Wings his entire working life. Every new pair he proclaimed would be his last. Amby passed away in 2014, and many of his family members now proudly wear their Red Wings to honor and emulate him. My grandfather is the greatest man I will ever know — and now that I’m a brand-new father, I miss him more than ever.”
David Rentiko, Snohomish, Washington, aerospace inspector
“My father worked in sheet metal and introduced me to Red Wing. I bought my first pair of 10877s when I was 15 years old. I wore them bailing hay and driving tractors and trucks on the family farm, and they stayed on when I went to school almost every day. For 43 years, my Red Wings have been the most comfortable and longest-wearing boots I have owned. I currently work as an inspector on commercial aircrafts for the world’s largest aerospace manufacturing company. The work involves countless miles of walking, climbing and crouching on the tarmac and in a heavy industrial factory setting. The 10877s I wear now are a perfect fit for this work. I have no doubt these boots saved me from the foot and back problems many of my coworkers seem to have. At any given time, the airplanes I’ve inspected are up in the air carrying tens of thousands of people around the world. I’m proud to be helping millions and millions of travelers arrive safely at their destinations.”
E.J. Engler, Galletin Gateway, Montana, architect/builder
“I always knew I wanted to be a homebuilder, and my grandfather was the inspiration. He put hammers, saws and chisels in my hand at a young age, and I would spend entire days in his shop. I started doing the stick framing for his homes when I was 15. Back in my teens, the older carpenters urged me to go buy a pair of Red Wings. I’ve always been the guy they send up 30 feet to walk the beams, and that flat crepe sole with no heel has been key to keeping my footing all these years. Now that I’m mentoring the next generation, I find great satisfaction in helping to remove the stigma that the trades are somehow inferior to other careers. I also take my 8-year-old twin sons to jobsites whenever I can, just like my grandfather did with me. At 52, I feel like I’m just hitting the sweet spot of my career. I’m so lucky to be doing what I do.”
James Holton, Amarillo, Texas, carpenter/farmer
“I’ve been a builder and a cabinetmaker, and now I’m finishing up my career as a farmer. My mother’s grandfather left the farm to her when he passed. I’d driven one-way tractors and done other farm work as a boy, so I agreed to help transform those 2,400 acres to a working farm with my three sons. I always wore the same style of Red Wing boots when I was in construction and carpentry. But with this new job hazard, I switched to a longer pull-on version with leather up to the calf. Counting my sons, that’s four pairs of Red Wings that hit the ground running from sunup to sundown every day. It’s great to be working with this crew again. It has been a lot of hard work. But each trade has been rewarding in its own unique way.”
Marcus McIntire, Kansas City, Missouri, concrete foreman
“I have been pouring concrete walls since 1994, in all types of weather conditions: heat waves, downpours, snowstorms, even the occasional nice day. When I was starting out, I would buy the cheapest work boots I could find, but it cost my feet plenty. They got pruned from being wet and muddy. They got cold walking through snow and ice. My choice of poor footwear was also causing a variety of foot, knee and back problems. Around 1999, I bought my first pair of Red Wings They had everything needed to protect my feet from the Missouri elements. And I’m not sure if this is a coincidence, but my foot, back and knee problems disappeared. I haven’t bought another brand — or even style — of boot since. I don’t know many people who make a career out of concrete, because this is dirty, physically demanding and often thankless work. But I take great pride in it. I like using my hands and seeing such tangible results.”
Michael Rydman, Toledo, Ohio, diesel mechanic
“I’ve worked in factories most my life and worn Red Wing boots for 22 years. I tried saving money with other work boot brands. They felt great when I tried them on, but they were starting to wear and my legs, back and knees were killing me after just a couple weeks. I replaced those boots with my first pair of Red Wings and I immediately felt the difference. The past 16 years I have been in fleet maintenance for trucking businesses, and right now I’m with one of the world’s largest delivery companies. I work with coolants, oils, solvents, mineral spirits and chassis grease. We even power-wash our own trucks. I also do a lot of welding, cutting with torches and all mechanicals, and I’m constantly walking on bolts, screws and hot metal. My Red Wings protect me through it all. I take great pride in knowing that what we do in this shop makes everyone on the road safer. I love my job, I love my shop and I love my Red Wings. If I weren’t limited to 40 hours a week, I’d be at work even more.”
Rebecca Wilson, Petersburg, Virginia, conservation specialist
“I have been both a firefighter and botanist. My Red Wing boots have gone with me through deserts, glaciers, bogs, pine forests, snow fields and more over the past 24 years. Currently, as Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation Longleaf Pine Restoration Specialist, my team and I are also working to bring back the nearly extinct longleaf pine ecosystem. In 2006, we extracted seeds from the existing acres, hand-seeded them to get the saplings started, and then planted them back in the landscape. The trees now cover 3,000 acres, are 30 feet tall and are beginning to produce cones. Sometimes when I am having a bad day, I walk among these trees and view it as an affirmation that the work I am doing is making a difference. Today, I wear my Red Wing boots when teaching 18-to 24-year-old AmeriCorps volunteers how to become wildland firefighters.
Labor Day “Thank You” Banners
In addition to inducting a new class of honorees into its Wall of Honor, Red Wing Shoe Company also hung “Thank You” banners at select high-visibility locations in Minneapolis and New York City to honor local laborers. The banners serve as another reminder to the public to keep the contributions of skilled workers top of mind as they enjoy the Labor Day holiday.
In Minnesota, the banner is installed at the Public Service Center, 250 S. 4th St., in downtown Minneapolis. In New York City, the banner is installed in Bronx, New York.
For more information about Red Wing Shoe Company, visit www.redwingshoes.com.
About Red Wing Shoe Company
Red Wing Shoe Company Inc. is a global leader in the design, production and distribution of work, safety and lifestyle footwear and work apparel. Established in 1905 in Red Wing, Minnesota, today the privately held company’s family of brands includes Red Wing®, the premium choice for purpose-built work footwear, workwear and accessories including a collection of Heritage styles created for any occasion; Irish Setter®, the footwear brand of choice for hunters and workers who want uncompromising quality and technological innovation; Vasque®, a pioneer of performance hiking footwear; WORX™, a trusted brand for the industrial safety footwear market; and S.B. Foot Tanning Company, one of the largest U.S. producers of fine tanned leather for footwear and leather goods. Its brands are distributed to more than 110 countries in an immersive multichannel environment of 500+ Red Wing retail stores, third-party partners and owned e-commerce platforms. The Red Wing Shoe Company employs more than 2,000 employees worldwide and operates two U.S. manufacturing facilities in Red Wing and Potosi, Missouri. For more information, please visit redwingshoes.com, facebook.com/RedWingShoes or follow @RedWingShoes.