Today we’re dishing up a delicious recipe from our 2nd edition, Flavorful Favorites cookbook by Irene Bronner for her corn casserole … which couldn’t help but get us thinking a little on the corny side and reminiscing on some of originator Wally Bronner’s jokes!
But to be clear, Wally was more than a sum of jokes! Aside from enjoying tremendous success from his “hobby,” Wally was, in my opinion, one of the most charismatic and genuinely humble men you’ll ever come across. And there are so many others who are of the same opinion, based on their own personal memories. Enjoy reminiscing with us here …
MEMORIES FROM OUR GUESTS:
“As a teenager, I worked at Aunt Hattie’s store in the summer. Wally used her store for storing his window-display items. He decorated store windows at that time. That was before he was so involved with Christmas displays. He and Eddie Beyerlein were in and out of Aunt Hattie’s store all the time.” – Jeanette Elbers
- “I met Mr. Bronner at Bronner’s. He was doing a book signing. He signed a copy of one of his books for me and asked if I knew Jesus and I said, “Yes.” We then talked about different things about church. It was a true inspiration talking to him. God put him in my path so I could be inspired. Even though I live in Canton, Ohio, and only met him there that day, that memory will always be with me. What I really took away is that it doesn’t matter who you are or what you become – always share Jesus.” – Floyd Wimer
- “I have met him numerous times … my aunt has worked at the store for 35-plus years. He always came to graduations or weddings. When I would be catering weddings and he was a guest, he always said hello to me and knew exactly who I was and who I was related to. He was a very nice man.” – Leslie Caldwell Brown
- “We met Wally Bronner in the summer of 1999. We were visiting Bronner’s and were walking up to the chapel, and Wally was coming down from the chapel with a film crew. He greeted us before we could even say hello. I asked him if I could take his picture with my wife and daughter . He was very gracious and even had a conversation with our family for a few moments and explained that they were filming a documentary on Bronner’s. He treated us as if he had known us for years. He was definitely one of a kind.” – Tom Ruhl
- “We met Wally several times in the store. He autographed a Christmas bulb for my wife in 2000, the year she went back to school and finished her third college degree. We also came to the Silent Night Memorial Chapel with my father to sing “Silent Night” with Wally and the Bronner family on Christmas Eve. What a privilege it was to shake his hand and thank him for building that beautiful place of meditation. He treated each guest at Bronner’s like family and made each one feel very special. He was truly part of the experience of visiting the store, and I miss him very much.” – Tim LaVere
“My first trip to Bronner’s was as a young girl with my parents. I saved up my money to shop, and one thing I couldn’t live without was this beautiful angel for a tree top. At first I didn’t realize it, but when we went to check out, Wally himself stopped to talk to me and asked me how I liked my angel. He made me feel special, like I was talking to Santa himself. I felt like it was put on sale just for me so I would have enough. He made sure I knew that it was a guardian angel. I sure needed her, too, because we lost my dad. The angel is one of my most prized Christmas joys, reminding me of the time I met the only person that had more Christmas spirit than my dad and who seemed so humble to talk to a little kid about their shopping experience. His kind words gave me comfort at Christmas knowing I wasn’t alone.” – Cassie Mulligan
- “The first year Department 56 came out with the original building of Bronner’s , they had the artist there signing the building. My wife asked Wally to sign the building. Wally recommended the artist sign it, but my wife said, “No, I really want you to sign it,” and he did. His whole face lit up with excitement. We still have that piece and cherish it. Wally was a great person and he loved meeting his customers and talking to them.” – Patrick Pyska
- “While being raised in Saginaw, I have had the pleasure of being very connected to Frankenmuth in many ways. Mrs. Bronner was one of my mother’s teachers. My grandfather, Al Wakeman, built and operated Frankenmuth’s only movie theater on East Jefferson. Even as a “city slicker,” Frankenmuth was a second home for me. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bronner on several occasions. One of the more poignant moments came on July 4, 2007, when a significant historical event took place at Michigan’s Own Military and Space Museum for a mutual friend, Bob Heft, the designer of America’s 50-star flag. The event was held to honor Heft’s flag design for becoming the longest-serving version of the Stars and Stripes in our country’s history. Mr. Bronner was instrumental in making the event a reality. Following the ceremony, like several times earlier, Mr. Bronner hosted Mr. Heft at his store to display the original flag Mr. Heft made as a high school student, and which President Eisenhower declared to be the new flag of the U.S. in 1960. Mr. Bronner provided his customers the opportunity to meet Mr. Heft, have their photo taken with him and receive an autographed flag. Mr. Bronner was a beautiful Christian man, historian, a tremendous spokesperson for Frankenmuth, and equally patriotic. He loved his country and his community. He was very supportive of others’ successes, as noted above, all while being most humble himself. It is wonderful that we are still talking about Mr. Bronner these years following his death and the impact he made.” – Rodney Wakeman
- “Any time we visited Michigan to see family (Irene is my mother’s cousin), Wally always generously gave us a personal tour of the store (first the old one downtown, then the newer one). He took us into the Silent Night chapel and invited us to sing. What a wonderful life – to keep Christmas in your heart – throughout the year!” – anna_louie
To read more from our guests or join in, visit our conversation on Facebook.
MEMORIES FROM OUR TEAM
- “There were so many great memories of Wally but mostly that he loved to make you laugh or smile! Always telling cheesy jokes and laughing along with you. He would ride his bike down the aisle in our office area and blow his bike horn. That always got our attention. If you commented on his tie, there was always a great story to go along with that. He was like a dad or grandpa to many of us and such a loving, giving man. He treated every person with respect and always remembered your name. He is and will always be missed and remembered by many employees and guests.” – Wendy
- “A fond memory for me is when Wally and Irene attended my wedding. While visiting with Irene and him, Wally mentioned how he enjoyed our wedding cake so much that he had to have a second slice. My husband and I didn’t have your typical wedding cake in 1989. We had cheesecake layered on pedestals and two glass-blown bride and groom ornaments as our cake topper. 😊 I loved Wally’s joy for life and the energy he radiated when he was in a room.” – Erin (You might enjoy our video with other neat wedding cake topper ideas.)
- “I remember him standing back watching/listening to a group of people in the showroom, then approaching them and greeting them with a Christmas greeting in their language/dialect. Was so amazing!” – Debbie
- “He would greet foreigners with a few words in their native language. His heart was with the Silent Night Chapel after he saw the one in Austria. He loved to meet people and he remembered names well. He would stand at the door on Sundays and greet the people.” – Irene
“Years ago, the Rockettes were in the area and made a stop at Bronner’s. Two members of the troupe did a small performance and partnered with a local radio station to hold a promotional kick competition in the Season’s Eatings snack area. The two Rockettes did their famous kick and Wally joined in!” – Carol
- “I have so many but what really comes to mind is how he loved dressing up for Halloween. Once a staff member got in his office and took his green shoes and red coat and dressed up like Wally. She had his mannerisms down pat. Wally was never one to be upstaged so he came out in the showroom in stocking feet and a t-shirt and said he was looking for his clothes. It was hilarious.” – Jan
WITH A SIDE OF JOKES, PLEASE
We’d never be able to share all of Wally’s jokes. But he did include 111 of them in his very last book 111 Reflections Plus… We share just a few here as an a-side before you get to the main course. 😂
- A man was proud to say that he had provided dinner for his wife every night since they were married. When asked what he makes best for meals, he replied, “Reservations!”
- It’s noticeable that my hourglass figure gained 20 minutes.
- A man who suspected that his dear wife had a hearing problem decided to give her a test. From upstairs he hollered to his wife in the kitchen, “Honey, do you love me?” No reply. From the top of the steps, he posed the same question and again received no reply. The concerned husband rushed down the stairs to his wife, put his arms around her and again asked, “Dearie, do you love me?” She promptly replied in a raised voice, “For the third time, yes I do!”
- A daughter about to be married asked her mother, “What should I think about on my wedding day?” The mom counseled her to concentrate on three words. “You’ll be walking down the church aisle; ahead of you is the alter, and the organ will sound out the hymn. So, daughter dear, just remember those three words: aisle, alter, hymn.” The daughter asked, “Aisle, alter, hymn?” The mother answered, “Sure you will – just look at how much I altered your father.”
- Speakers and Christmas can be quite similar … you never know when you might get a fruitcake.
- A husband had his shopping problems every Christmas. Whatever he bought for his wife she was inclined to return because it was the wrong color, style or size. The ingenious man had a good idea and purchased a gift certificate from Bronner’s CHRISTmas Wonderland for her. Would you believe it – she returned the certificate. It was the wrong size!
- Sometimes when I share some humor with a guest, I ask, “Did you get the drift or should I snow again?” I hope those questions aren’t too flaky. (This is also a line from a closing clip that always made me smile in my years of showing our DVD presentation A Decorative Life: The Wally Bronner Story in our Program Center.)
On a personal note, Wally shares this sweet joke:
“My wife took me to Alaska for an anniversary gift. I thanked her and asked how she would top the gift for our next anniversary. She replied, “I might come back and get you.”
And now … one of those famously delicious recipes that may have added “20 minutes” to Wally’s hourglass. 😂 DINNER IS SERVED!
– 1 (15-oz.) can whole kernel corn, drained
– 1 (15-oz.) can cream-style corn
-1 (8-oz.) pkg. Jiffy corn muffin mix
-1 c. sour cream
-1/2 c. butter, melted
– 1 to 1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. In a large bowl, stir together the two cans of corn, corn muffin mix, sour cream and butter.
3. Pour into greased 9 x 13-inch casserole dish.
4. Bake 45 minutes or until golden brown.
5. Remove from the oven and top with cheese.
6. Return to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
7. Let stand for at least 5 minutes and serve warm.
*submitted by Irene Bronner
We accidentally (or was it?!) mixed some additional cheese in with the ingredients in the first bake. Hey, the more cheese the better, right?
DO YOU HAVE A MEMORY OF WALLY?
We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!