New Braunfels lost a giant on Thursday.
Mike Reimer, 65, was remembered by the community as a stern but caring father figure during his many roles and 35 years with the New Braunfels Independent School District — as an agriculture teacher, high school assistant principal, a baseball and softball coach, dedicated Texas Tech Red Raider — but mostly as a beloved friend and family member.
“He was a storyteller,” his wife, Linda Reimer, said. “He would buy you a drink — he was just very giving.”
Nicknamed “Big Mike,” Reimer’s stature and personality fit the moniker as he had a wide-ranging impact that affected his hundreds of students and their families.
“He touched so many students’ lives and their parents’,” said daughter Lesli Burk. “He always signed off his emails with ‘New Braunfels High School Class of ’72’ … He had a lot of small town pride.”
Reimer was assistant principal of New Braunfels High School for about 18 years. In the position, he was reputed as stern and intimidating, but with a big heart as well.
Decades ago when “corporal punishment” was common, Lesli said Reimer would paddle students who did not behave. Family members said it helped ensure students got their lives on the right track.
“He would allow them to sign the paddles,” Burk said. “He would paddle them and then give them a hug.”
Kara Bock, current NBHS principal, delivered the district’s statement on Reimer’s passing.
“We were saddened to hear of the passing of Mr. Reimer who served students at New Braunfels High School for many years as assistant principal,” Bock said in an email on Friday. “He is remembered as a man with a big heart for helping students through difficult times, finding ways to reach them so they could experience success both in and out of the classroom.
“He was proud to be a Unicorn,” Bock continued. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this difficult time.”
Keith Garinger, the NBHS principal who hired Reimer, remembered when he met Reimer in Bryan, where his son played football for the high school.
“He never punished but disciplined,” Garinger said. “With his experience teaching he knew how to work with parents and teachers. We were very fortunate to have the three best administrators and together we made a strong team.”
Reimer was remembered for attending all school events, especially enjoying watching students grow through extracurricular activities and sports. During boys and girls soccer games, Reimer would bring his BBQ pit and invite people to bring meat.
A lover of livestock shows, he taught an agriculture class for about 15 years at Canyon High School. Tiffany Soechting, now a Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch animal specialist, remembered helping Reimer as a student in his class.
“I was his office secretary in my agriculture class and he would always rely on me to do extra bookwork,” Soechting said. “He still introduced me as such today. We were still friends through the days, like so many of his students are.”
Jaime Chavez Jr., one of his students, gave Reimer his Purple Heart to honor everything Reimer did for Chavez. Chavez said Reimer’s disciplinary ways “made good people,” because he molded so many students into outstanding adults.
“He was always part of my life — you know, I was on the football team,” Chavez said. “He was a very father-like person and a father for a lot of people.”
Reimer co-founded the New Braunfels Bombers fast-pitch softball team and coached Little League softball, including the 1993 team that earned prestigious honors.
Reimer retired four and a half years ago, but never sat still, his family said. He held frequent fundraisers at his beloved Freiheit Country Store. Burk said she remembers when Reimer elbowed her late sister, Sunni, and said, “I’m going to buy it.”
Linda Reimer said they bought the long-standing store in 2006, and put on fundraisers for St. Jude’s Hospital, March of Dimes, Wounded Warriors and fellow friends in the community who needed help. One such fundraiser for a friend diagnosed with cancer raised over $200,000.
Besides Freiheit, he operated various local New Braunfels businesses. Reimer loved helping out local businesses, and bought food from places such as Granzin’s Meat Market.
Freiheit is covered in family photos and memorabilia, providing a local feel in a rapidly growing city. Reimer later added a music venue and bar that has featured performers such as Mickey Gilley, John Conley and Dean Dillon.
C. Jason Spence, owner of Spence & Company Auctioneers and a livestock partner with Reimer since the 1980s, posted a photo on Facebook of Spence’s then 6-year-old son, Spencer, riding on a tractor on Reimer’s lap.
“We were out there eating at Freiheit, and my little boy wanted to ride on the tractor,” Spence said. “He got his attention and rode on the tractor. That’s just the kind of guy he was. He was pretty memorable, just a great big guy but a good man.”
Reimer did not particularly enjoy the NFL or Major League Baseball since his heart was in high school sports. He even was a “Unicorn handler” at NBHS. In his free time, he also loved playing poker with his poker buddies and telling outrageous and funny stories to his family.
The New Braunfels native was born on Aug. 21, 1954. He graduated from Texas Tech in 1976 and had a bachelors in agriculture education and a masters in administration. He was a proud alum of New Braunfels High School from the class of 1972.
He is survived by his wife, Linda, who he married on May 10, 1974, and three children: Lesli Burk, 41; Kerry Reimer, 34; and Cody Reimer, 37. A daughter, Sunni, 20, passed away in 2007.
A dedicated family man, he especially enjoyed spending time with his three grandsons: Jax, 4, Braeson, 9, and Beau, 6. They loved wrestling, riding on tractors and grabbing ice cream.
After news spread of his passing, dozens of past students, families and friends shared fond memories on Facebook. Even community members who knew Reimer briefly or met him at an event shared their condolences.
“To the man whose presence made high school safe,” Claire Flores, a former student and Freiheit worker, posted on Facebook. “The man who gave myself and many others their first job at Freiheit, providing a learning environment (and) teaching us the necessary skills to be successful.
“Thank you for everything you have done for me.”