Of Jerry Kimmel’s most cherished moments in a life full of many, the 2006 Fédération Equestre Internationale World Equestrian Games stands out.
“He paid for the entire Team USA to travel to Aachen, Germany,” Greg Kimmel, Kimmel’s son, recalled. “They couldn’t raise all the money for the trip, and Dad said, ‘We’re going. We’re doing this.’
“He went to everybody on that team and said, ‘Pack your bags, we’re going.’”
It turned out to be the trip of a lifetime.
With Tim McQuay aboard, Kimmel’s stallion Mister Nicadual won team gold and individual silver.
The moment was, his son said, likely his proudest in reining.
Jerry Kimmel, who became a leader in the world of reining after turning a “harmless hobby” of horses into a full-blown business with a breeding program still in operation, died on Friday.
He was 82.
Kimmel Reining Horses, initially based at his J Bar C Ranch in Granbury, Texas, collaborated with McQuay Stables in Tioga, Texas, to produce some of the world’s top reining horses. His daughter, Christine Pearce, relocated the business to Weatherford, Texas, in 2018.
Kimmel was honored with the National Reining Horse Association’s Dale Wilkinson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014.
“He became a very good friend,” said Tim McQuay, Kimmel’s trainer. “He was very involved with what we were doing and loved to be there to do it. He was just lots of fun to be with and no matter what we did, he was very excited when everything worked, but he never held it against you when it didn’t either, you know. He was just a very good person.”
Gerald Kimmel was born June 23, 1937, to Gerald and Edna Kimmel in Marshall, Michigan. He grew up with a younger brother, Jim, and a half-brother, Rick. He played sports and was the class president at Marshall High School, graduating with the Class of 1955.
He married his wife, Carmen, on March 29, 1958.
Kimmel and his longtime friend Bill Everett founded Kevco Inc. in Marshall in 1964, ultimately building one of the nation’s leading distributors of plumbing and building materials to the manufactured housing and recreational vehicle industries. Over three decades, the partners and their employees expanded the business, at one point encompassing more than 30 branches and 16 manufacturing plants across the country.
Kimmel and Kevco, which went public in the 1990s, were awarded Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southwest region by the Dallas Business Journal in 1995.
After retirement, Kimmel was lured to his “second calling.”
“He was always a horse enthusiast, but it wasn’t until the late 1990s that he went full bore into horses,” Greg Kimmel said.
Jerry immersed himself in Western Pleasure under the tutelage of Cleve Wells, who became a close friend.
“My dad’s philosophy was, ‘if I’m going to do this, I’m going to find the best guy there is and that’s who I’m going to learn from,’” Greg Kimmel said. “He hooked up with who I still consider the best trainer in the country in Western Pleasure and that is Cleve Wells. They developed a really strong friendship.”
Kimmel left the discipline and turned to reining, asking Wells to find a reining horse for him. One reining horse, Indy Star Dun It, blossomed into Kimmel Reining Horses, one of the industry’s best-known names.
Her half-brother, Dun It Gotta Gun (Hollywood Dun It x Katie Gun x John Gun), emerged as one of the operation’s top sires, establishing an Equi-Stat record of better than $846,000 as a sire. Mister Nicadual (Mister Dual Pep x Nicacheka x Reminic), or “Dually,” has more than $695,000 as a sire, according to Equi-Stat.
“Cleve found him his first reining horse and introduced him to Tim and Colleen McQuay, and it just kind of snowballed from there,” Greg Kimmel said.
“He was the ultimate competitor. Even shooting baskets in the driveway with me or playing pool or whatever it was. He had a pretty strong competitive nature.”
Dually’s 2006 show season, his first under Kimmel’s ownership, was a breakthrough. Under Todd Crawford, he finished third in the National Reining Breeders Classic Derby Open. At the NRHA Derby that year, they finished sixth.
In Germany, Team USA was a hit. McQuay and Dually rode to an almost perfect routine, topping their qualifying score with a 230. Before the score was announced McQuay dismounted in the pen and began dancing a jig, knowing what Dually had just done.
Jerry Kimmel said at the time the experience and triumph were “thrilling.”
“It was a great thing for him in Aachen,” Jerry Kimmel said some time later. “To watch him come up has been amazing. He just showed how outstanding [Dually] is.”
“He was there all the time,” McQuay said of Kimmel’s legacy in reining. “When they needed something, he was there to try and help. If they were having an auction for anything for the association, he was involved and buying something.”
In addition to his wife, son and daughter Christine, Kimmel is survived by daughter Amy and her husband David; a son-in-law, David Pearce; daughter-in-law, Jennifer Kimmel, and 10 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and his beloved dog, Charlie.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, gifts in Kimmel’s memory be made to the NRHyA—Youth Unrestricted fund of the Reining Horse Foundation to benefit youth reiners. Donations can be made online at www.reiningfoundation.com or mailed to RHF, 3021 W Reno Ave, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73107.