Tribute to Sharon B. Weinel
June 17, 1930 - February 8, 2022
The Academic Advisory Council for Sign Research and Education celebrates the life of Mrs. Sharon Weinel, co-partners in life and business with Mr. Jim Weinel of Gemini. In her 91 years, she touched many lives, including that of Patty Herbin, the founding executive director of AACSRE and Dr. Dawn Jourdan, charter AACSRE Board Chairperson. They reflect on Sharon’s influence below.
Perhaps the most telling of all descriptions of Sharon Weinel comes from her Norwegian roots—“Yelkommen” meaning “welcoming”. It was impossible to be in Sharon’s presence and not feel her warmth and grace. In her autobiography entitled “My Life: The Joy of Doing Things You Enjoy”, Sharon shared “I feel as though an angel has been riding on my shoulder”.
Patty shares: “I first met Sharon in December, 2007 on the campus of the University of Cincinnati. The event was the dedication of the James J. Womack/Gemini Chair of Signage and Visual Marketing. It was my pleasure to share the table with Siri, Sharon’s daughter and three of her grandchildren—Lilly, Emma and James Oss. I have always felt that you could tell a lot about a person when seen through the eyes of their children and grandchildren. Sharon’s family so admired their Mother’s journey from her farming roots to the matriarch of a world class sign company. Though Sharon’s accomplishments were countless, it was her zest for finding joy in every person she encountered that will endure.
Our work with the non-profit arm of the sign industry allowed us many opportunities to experience Sharon’s joy. We soon learned that joy was much different from happiness—joy lies within the contentment of one’s soul unlike happiness which is so fleeting. In October, 2015 at a meeting on the campus of the University of Oklahoma, Jim and Sharon shared their vision for an independent research and educational non-profit which would become the collaborative link between the sign industry and academia. What a JOY to be at the table for that vision which became in the Academic Advisory Council for Signage Research and Education (AACSRE) before year end. Sharon’s excitement was evident as she and Jim presented their transformational and legacy gift to establish AACSRE. The Board of Directors of AACSRE remains committed to a robust scope of work yielding very specific, tangible products to define the Weinel collaborative vision. Jim and Sharon Weinel must have been what Bill Shore had in mind when he wrote about “cathedral builders” in his book The Cathedral Within. Shore wrote:
“The builders of the great cathedrals did not consider inspiration and faith as by-products or fringe benefits of their work. For example, when construction commenced on the Milan cathedral, craftsmen came from across Europe—stonecutters, sculptors, master masons, blacksmiths and carpenters—and cooperated to an unprecedented degree. It wasn’t just that building a great cathedral would require everyone to share their strength, but rather that everyone sharing their strength would result in a truly great cathedral. It is about capturing the spirit of the cathedral builders not through the experience of walking into a glorious cathedral, but through the experience of living, giving and serving in a way that builds a cathedral within.”
Sharon Weinel’s aspiration to be part of something bigger and more lasting than ourselves truly defines her spirit of compassion, gratefulness and joy.