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Duluth native, fishing lure legend Ron Weber dies

Ron Weber, the Duluth native who made his fortune by introducing Finnish Rapala fishing lures to America, died Friday. He was 84.

Weber grew up in Duluth, fishing the French and Lester rivers as well as Alden, Island and Boulder lakes.

"I'd fish for anything," Weber said in a 2001 interview. "I still do. Fishing just got into my soul. When I wasn't fishing back then, I was reading about it in outdoor magazines and dreaming about fishing all over the world. Now ... I don't care if it's Atlantic salmon in Norway or sunnies in a pond, I still love to fish."

Weber graduated from Central High School in 1946 and the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1952. He left Duluth after college to take a job with the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. He eventually hooked up with fishing tackle giant Pflueger, moved to the Twin Cities and became a sales representative traveling the Upper Midwest. In the late '50s, he formed his own company, which became the Normark Rapala Group and convinced Lauri Rapala to move the family's home-based business into a factory and manufacture the lures on a large scale. Weber also brought mass appeal to the thin Rapala fillet knife and Fiskars scissors, bringing them to the United States through Normark.

Weber worked at Normark daily until 1997, leaving the firm in 2000.

Weber and his wife, Mary Ann Myhre Weber, a Cloquet native, maintained strong ties to the Northland. They have a cabin on the Brule River. In 1987, the couple was the first major private contributor to the Lake Superior Center (Great Lakes Aquarium) with a $250,000 gift. In 2000, they made a major contribution to UMD to spur construction of the Weber Music Hall. In 2005, Weber donated $100,000 to the UMD's Natural Resources Research Institute to help restore the Lester River watershed. He later contributed another $25,000.