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Editorial: Jensen made Shoe 'family'

Red Wing Shoe Co. boasts three generations of family leaders. While that would be obvious to anyone scanning the company's ownership chronology -- J.R. Sweasy took over the Shoe in 1919, Bill D. Sweasy followed and today Bill J. Sweasy is CEO --what's less obvious is that alone isn't what makes the Shoe a family business.

The Shoe lost an important member of that family this week: Arlo "Ole" Jensen died at age 82.

He spent 30 years helping Red Wing Shoe grow into an international leader of work boots -- and one of the few U.S. footwear manufacturers still making shoes in America.

An idea guy, he also was a people person. He knew all of the company's dealers, visited them and talked them. He knew the workers on the factory floor. He loved people, and he loved what he did.

That's a formula that you can't learn from a management book.

Former advertising manager Art Kenyon recalled an important meeting in Jensen's office one day.

"Hold this a second," Jensen interrupted him. "Do you hear that?"

"No," Kenyon replied. Then he listened again.

People were laughing outside the door.

"As long as people here are happy, I don't have to worry about a thing. They love their job," Jensen said.

And they loved him.