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Remembering Ron Nesler and the legacy he left behind

  • Holly KeeExcellence Award Winner

    Holly KeeExcellence Award Winner

 
Posted on 9/8/2021, 1:49 AM

I can't tell you how many times I've stepped up to the counter, given my order, and heard, "Here's an order."

The last time I went inside at Polar Whip, which was pre-pandemic, I started to speak, and Ron just grinned.

"Here's an order," he said. "Four double cheese, mustard and pickle only, two fries. Next."

My heart is heavy today knowing that I won't hear that voice again.

COVID-19 has claimed another person that I was proud to call friend.

I had a hard time swallowing over the lump in my throat Tuesday when I read that Facebook post.

Like many others in southern Illinois, I grew up on Polar Whip.

I still remember when Ron's dad, John, was behind the counter in a white apron and cap in the A-frame building, when hamburgers were 10 cents, and cheeseburgers a nickel more.

I loved sitting on those stools that would spin around, waiting on my order, and knowing that if wasn't too overzealous in my spinning, I would get to play goofy golf on the small course outside after I ate.

I grew up know that when I placed my order, I'd actually get what I ordered. I don't ever remember an incorrect order from the Whip.

Ron was a unique kind of businessman. I called him once and told him I was bring about 70 kids on a field trip, studying Williamson County history, and a lunch stop at Polar Whip was one the menu.

"That's no problem," he said, and helped me arrange a schedule so the kids could all get served in a timely manner. He even gave a bonus lecture about the history of restaurant.

When COVID closed restaurants for dine-in, Ron and his gang executed the absolute BEST curbside service in the area. They went back to days gone by and used carhops.

Last month my husband called as I was working on a deadline day. "I'm in Energy," he said. "Want Polar Whip?"

(I'll point out that after nearly 40 years, he still doesn't understand that the answer will always be "yes.")

When it came time to pay, the ATM was down and Roger didn't have any cash.

"Just pay me next time you're in," said Ron, waving Roger on his way.

That's the kind of person Ron was ... trusting, good-natured, helpful and kind.

The Nesler family has left its mark on southern Illinois for 90 years.

Ron has been an integral part of the Herrin community for decades. He touched the lives of many as an employer, coach, mentor, and friend. His presence will be sorely missed.

Here's my order ... please, do your part to help get this virus in check. It's not about you; it's about protecting others.