Back in the mid 80′s, one of the important steps we took in building our business was retaining Performance Foods to represent us to the foodservice trade in the Chicago area. At the time, we were so impressed with Mike Trabert, one of the Principals at Performance, who combined great passion, knowledge and leadership in his business and the community.
Eight years ago, Mike was forced to retire from his business career due to the tragic onset of Alzheimer’s disease at the very young age of 48. Recently, Mike passed away from disease and the Tribune published the following tribute to his career.
All of us at Eli’s extend our sympathy to his wife, Karen, and family. Eli’s has made a donation to the Alzheimer Foundation in his memory.
Michael Lee Trabert
Faced Alzheimer’s with courage
By Joan Giangrasse Kates
Special to the Tribune
Published November 19, 2005
“He was extremely passionate about everything in his life, and his enthusiasm was contagious,” said his wife, Karen. “When he learned he had Alzheimer’s, it came as a shock to everyone, but he never lost hope. He faced it with courage and determination, and along the way he inspired a lot of people.”
Mr. Trabert, 57, of Naperville, a former Marine and president of Performance Food Brokers in Oak Brook, died Wednesday, Nov. 16, at ManorCare of Naperville, of complications related to Alzheimer’s.
Mr. Trabert grew up outside Kansas City, Kan., and received a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Kansas State University, where he was a past president of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.
In his early 20s, Mr. Trabert served stateside as a Marine for a couple of years before becoming a salesman for Del Monte Sales Co. in Des Moines. Seven years later, he joined the sales department of Calkins & Co., a Chicago area food brokerage company.
“He was always a numbers guy, but he could also go out and sell a product, as long as he believed in it,” his wife said.
In 1978, Mr. Trabert joined forces with two other business associates to form Performance Food Brokers in Oak Brook, where he was president until his retirement eight years ago.
“Mike helped make this company what it is today,” said Gary Vonck, CEO of the firm, whose major accounts include Brach’s, Eli’s Cheesecake and Tony’s Pizza. “From the very beginning, his strengths were centered around managing the overall business and keeping things coordinated.”
While being treated for his illness, Mr. Trabert kept a positive attitude and maintained a strong interest in the company’s success, colleagues said.
At St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Naperville, Mr. Trabert was a mentor in a program aimed at helping abused and battered women find transitional housing and build new lives. “He understood the importance of helping these women start over and move on with their lives,” his wife said.
Other survivors include a son, Todd; a daughter, Ashley; his father, Orin; his grandfather, Harold Jacobsen; a brother, O. Timothy; and two sisters, Joanne Trabert Ashton and Mary Kay Trabert Poland.