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Red Wing Shoe Company's 'Wall Of Honor' Pays Tribute To American Workers

RED WING, Minn. (WCCO) -- The home of the world's largest boot is at Red Wing Shoes in southern Minnesota. The giant shoe is a size 638.5, and it stands at over 20 feet tall.

If you visit the company's flagship store, you will also notice something new.

Behind that giant boot, the company is shining a focus on workers who strap on their boots every day. The worn-in shoes on their newly installed Wall of Honor represent men and women from 29 different states and 14 different industries.

More than 30 pairs of boots hang on the Wall of Honor in the company's Red Wing Museum.

"These people are multi-generational, people who quietly go about their work day to day, the water works, the electricity works, it's because of their contributions," said Dave Schneider, Red Wing's chief marketing officer.

Schneider said the laces hung on the wall are meant to symbolize a snapshot of stories that they hear every day from people out on the job.

"Kenneth Windell is a third generation lineman from Indiana," Schneider said. "His son and father, they have done nothing but wear Red Wing Shoes for over the last 30 years."

On the wall are stories like that of the late St. Paul native Tom McCarthy, who worked 45 years in the construction industry. He was a third generation pipe fitter and a father of nine. His daughter, Tara, said he never took his boots off.

"He would go run Como Lake. We would always say, 'Dad do you want to put some sneakers on?' and he said 'No, [my boots] fit like a glove,'" Tara said.

His story rests at the museum, but his leather is buried in a time capsule underneath center ice at the Xcel Energy Center.

"Tom's boots are actually at center ice up in St. Paul," Schneider said. "It's part of the inspiration for what's behind [the Wall of Honor]."

Schneider said the Wall of Honor will continually change and grow in order to ensure stories like McCarthy's can be shared and jobs in the trade industry can be encouraged.

"We believe this is an enabler to the trades, getting the next generation of people, of trades people in," Schneider said.

Last year, Red Wing started what they call "The Crew."

It's a group of skilled laborers who speak and inform young people about their jobs. They visited Red Wing High School to educate students on trade careers. Students learned the difference between a lineman and a construction technician and how they can become an apprentice.

Schneider said the hope is to expand this program outside of their hometown to encourage others to see the positive benefits of this type of career path.

If you would like to read about the stories on the Wall of Honor, the company's website has much more information about all the men and women who are honored. According to Schneider, there were over 600 entrees and they picked a little over 30 for this first phase.

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