NEW ULM — There has been no shortage of stories the past several days about Don Veigel, the longtime owner of Veigel's Kaiserhoff in New Ulm who died Dec. 21 at the age of 91.
A fixture in New Ulm for 75 years, his large family, his many friends, and his even bigger pool of loyal customers each have unique memories of the man they describe as generous and affable.
Family members remember the years that Veigel played golf with baseball greats Mickey Mantle and Ernie Banks. Former employees remember Veigel had a loyal customer in John Denver, who would order 20 plates of the restaurant's famous ribs to go when he was in the area visiting his wife's family. There are photos on Facebook of Veigel sitting with Al Franken and George Wendt (Norm from “Cheers”) at the Kaiserhoff.
But the more personal stories and memories are the ones Veigel's loved ones have been most eager to share.
Nicole Helget of North Mankato, Veigel's niece, started working for her uncle when she was 15 and worked at the Kaiserhoff for 10 years alongside her mom, aunts and several of her sisters.
“Donny taught me and all of us about hospitality, generosity and taking pride in your work, your service and your product,” Helget said. “And, as soon as you'd punch in, Donny would inspect you and tell you how beautiful you looked and tell you to make sure that you smiled at the customers and got to the tables fast.”
Veigel was born Sept. 7, 1922, in Minneapolis to Albert and Wilhelmina (Helget) Veigel. The couple bought a small tavern in New Ulm in 1938, where Veigel went to work at the age of 15.
The original Kaiserhoff was at 523 First North, and even though the business started small, Veigel's cousin and life-long friend, Bob Paulson, said the family served their famous ribs since day one.