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Longest CBJ advertiser retires after 60 years

Ron Hahs has changed a little over the 60 years he worked at Northwestern Mutual. His ads have changed too. Below are two ads that ran in The Cash-Book Journal in 1964. Submitted photo

The CBJ’s longest advertiser, T. Ronald Hahs, retired after 60 years with Northwestern Mutual. He began advertising in The Cash-Book Journal the first week he went into business and advertised every week, except for six months when he served active duty in the National Guard.

Hahs had not planned to go into insurance. He said he entered it “by accident.”

He grew up on a farm near Old Appleton. For eight years he attended a one-room schoolhouse in Old Appleton. He graduated from Perryville High School and went to Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau.

Hahs majored in math and speech at SEMO. During his senior year, he did his practice teaching at Jackson High School. R.O. Hawkins offered him a full-time teaching position to begin in the fall of 1964.

For the first three summers while at SEMO, Hahs worked for the Missouri Utilities Co. (Now Ameren UE) on its tree-trimming and brush-cutting crew. “It was a very good-paying summer job,” Hahs said.

He assumed he would work there again the summer after graduating, but he learned he was not allowed to work on the summer work program after he had finished getting his degree. He didn’t know what to do that summer.

Ron’s uncle, Luther Hahs, called him and offered him a job working for Northwestern Mutual. He guaranteed him as much income as he would have earned with the utility company.

Working for his uncle that summer meant that Ron became licensed to sell insurance and received company training. He even attended a big company meeting in Milwaukee, WI. “I saw the business at every level,” Hahs recalled.

“I went ahead and honored my teaching contract. That year, 1964-65, I taught at Jackson High School, where I taught math, speech and coached the debate team. But I guess I had been smitten by the business world. After that one year, I quit teaching and went full time into the insurance business.”

Hahs lived in Jackson at the time. He started working out of his home in 1964.

From 1970 to 1975, Hahs rented office space on East Main Street from dentist T. Wayne Lewis. “He was T. Wayne Lewis and I was T. Ronald Hahs on the sign. And we had another bit of irony; we both used our first initial, “T,” and we both were named after our fathers, and our fathers were both named Truman,” Hahs said.

Ron’s Uncle Luther worked in the district office at 20 N. Pacific in Cape until he suffered from a severe stroke in August 1972 at age 53. He became totally disabled and never recovered.

Both the Cape and Jackson offices were connected to a major office in St. Louis, where management decisions were made. Things were left as they were for a while, hoping Luther would recover. After about a year and a half, on Jan. 1, 1974, Ron was named the district agent. He kept serving his clients from his Jackson office but also started spending time performing managerial duties in the Cape office.

In 1975, Ron closed his Jackson office and moved to the district office in Cape Girardeau.

In 1990, he and his wife, Beverly, built a new office on Mount Auburn Road in Cape, not far from where Ford and Sons Funeral Home currently is (but the funeral home had not yet been built).

It was a financial and a business gamble to build a new office at that location, because in July 1990, there was just one other building between their building and Kingshighway. The rest of the land along Mount Auburn was vacant. The area is now filled with professional offices and the decision to move to this location turned out well, he said.

Hahs was required to retire from his management duties with the company when he turned 65, so he did. But there is no company rule about retiring from serving his own clients, so he continued to work as a financial advisor for many years.

He decided June 1 of this year was the right time to retire. He is now 81, and he started working at age 21. Saturday, June 1, was his 60th anniversary with Northwestern Mutual, so it seemed like just the right time.

All during his working career, Hahs advertised his business week after week in The Cash-Book Journal, except for six months when he served in active duty for the National Guard. He did advertise that he was going away, and he announced his return six months later.

Hahs was deferred from military service while teaching, but once he quit teaching, he had military obligations to fulfill.

“I came really close to joining the Air Force — the Air Force training program — for four years. But I got a phone call from one of my fellow teachers, Herb Wickham, and he said, ‘I hear you’re about to do something stupid.’ That’s just the way he said it. Well, I didn’t know he was the commander of the local National Guard unit [and] right then they were going through some reorganization and it was opening up some slots in the National Guard. He said, ‘You come over and talk to us.’ Well, it didn’t take long to convince me that going away for six months of active duty — even though you had a six-year obligation — six months and back to my business, rather than four years — that was an easy sell on their part for me to do that.”

Hahs believes it was a good business decision to advertise every week and always have a presence in the local newspaper. “I thought that having that in there every week showed a matter of permanence, over time,” he said.

Ron’s office at Northwestern Mutual will go on without him, now that he’s retired. “We have built the Hahs Group here, such that I know with total confidence that we have the folks who will take good care of my clients that I have developed over all these years,” he said. The Hahs Group includes Ron, his first cousin David Hahs, David’s son Clay Hahs, along with Jesse Barge, Ron’s assistant Crystal Goodwin and Megan Janet.

Northwestern Mutual is first and foremost a life insurance company, Hahs explained. It was formed in March 1857 in Milwaukee, WI. This was before the Civil War. At that time, Wisconsin was considered to be the northwestern frontier, hence the first part of the name. “At the time, the nation’s major insurance companies were all on the East Coast,” Hahs said.

The word “Mutual” in the name came about because the company is owned by the policy holders. All company dividends are paid to the clients to reduce their costs or increase their benefits.

The company paid 14 death claims in the Civil War. Because it was based in Wisconsin, they were all for Union soldiers.

The company sells life insurance, disability insurance, long-term care insurance and annuities. It also has investment services, so it sells stocks, bonds, mutual funds, retirement accounts and education savings accounts. “We offer total financial planning,” Hahs said.

Looking back at his career, Ron has achieved numerous distinctions within the company. He is also a life member of the “Million Dollar Roundtable,” which includes people from the entire financial industry. Those who are members for more than 10 years, become life members.

Ron and his wife Beverly have done quite a bit of traveling over the years. He hopes to continue that during his retirement. They have four married children, 14 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren spread around the country, so some destination spots are already chosen.

Ron plans to continue his membership in the Jackson Rotary Club, where he has been a member for 57 years. He and Beverly are also active in their church, Centenary Methodist Church, where they sing in the choir. Ron is chairman of the administrative council of the church, and teaches an adult Sunday school class.

“Beyond that, I plan to get back to playing some golf. I kind of got away from that,” he said.

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at cashbook@mvp.net.

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