By John Johnston, Associate Editor
“Been there, done that, got the T-shirt” just might be the perfect motto for Bill and Fanny Timmer, F409276, of Louisville, Kentucky. Where have they been? All 50 states and most Canadian provinces. What have they done? Camped in everything from tents to a VW bus to a pop-up trailer to Type B and Type A motorhomes.
As for the T-shirt, well, read on.
First, we should point out that Fanny has an infectious laugh that pairs nicely with Bill’s dry sense of humor. Those traits no doubt came in handy when Bill was a school guidance counselor and Fanny taught language arts and computers to seventh-graders. They retired in 1999.
But the Timmers, who married in 1970, didn’t wait until retirement to explore North America. The end of each school year marked the beginning of new adventures.
“Every summer we would travel,” Bill said.
“We grew up in the ’60s,” Fanny said, “so a VW bus was kind of required.”
Eventually, the couple bought their first true motorhome, a Roadtrek. That was followed by a Newmar Bay Star, and then a 40-foot Newmar Dutch Star, which is their current coach. They still spend most of their summers traveling. “Being child-free and both retired, it’s pretty easy to say, ‘let’s go someplace,’” Fanny said.
Since 2008, the Timmers frequently have traveled with their good friends Mike and Janet Mangan, F420531, of Albion, Indiana. The couples have been pals since their college days at Morehead State University in Kentucky. Mike is a retired military and commercial pilot who saw much of the world from the sky. He and Janet bought a Newmar motorhome so they could enjoy ground-level views.
In June 2009 the Timmers and Mangans set out on a trip to Mount Rushmore. Before they left, Fanny surprised the Mangans with a special T-shirt she’d designed for the foursome. On the front was the famous and familiar granite sculpture, but the carved faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln had been replaced by the photographed faces of Bill, Fanny, Mike, and Janet. The words “Doin’ the Dakotas” were emblazoned across the top of each shirt, and down below was the phrase “A ‘Monumental’ Experience.”
Said Fanny: “We had people stop us at Mount Rushmore and say, ‘Where can I get a shirt like that?’” Definitely NOT at the gift shop.
It has become a tradition for Fanny to make T-shirts for each trip the couples take together. For example, before they traveled to Big Bend, Texas, in 2012, she designed a shirt that resembled a “Wanted” poster. Bill, Fanny, Mike, and Janet are pictured in Wild West attire with the words: “Wanted In 6 States: The Newmar Gang. Reward.”
Fanny first delved into creative shirt design more than 25 years ago. Every December, before she and Bill went on a skiing trip with another couple, she made special sweatshirts. “I kind of got hooked doing that, because it was a lot of fun,” she said. That led her to start an online T-shirt shop — not as a money-making venture, but so she could upload her designs and get them printed on shirts. You can visit the shop at https://shop.spreadshirt.com/teesigns.
The Timmers joined FMCA in 2009, and that, too, has inspired Fanny to create original T-shirts. She designs shirts for each FMCA convention that she and Bill attend. The shirt for the 2016 convention in West Springfield, Massachusetts, clearly reflects a Paul Revere theme. She and Bill are clad in colonial attire, and Bill is atop a galloping horse next to text that proclaims: “The coaches are coming! The coaches are coming! One if by diesel and two if by gas!”
Both the Timmers and Mangans are members of the Newmar International of FMCA chapter. Fanny is the chapter’s webmaster; Bill is its alternate national director; and Mike is a chapter vice president. Sometimes, Fanny makes shirts for the chapter’s prerally, held just before an FMCA convention.
Such was the case this past March when FMCA members gathered at Rawhide Western Town and Event Center in Chandler, Arizona. The T-shirt for “Wild Bill” Timmer showed him with a lariat in hand and a six-shooter strapped to a hip. “Miss Fanny Lou” Timmer was a dead ringer for a sassy saloon gal. The Mangans appeared on shirts as “Calamity Jan” and “Gambler Mike.”
In fact, Fanny went all out for the prerally. She created personalized window posters that all Newmar International chapter members could display in their coaches; more than two dozen members ordered T-shirts that sported those designs, which featured the likes of Desperado Bob, Diamond Joan, Gentleman Jerold, and Pistol Packin’ Judy.
“Some of the guys were really happy,” Fanny said. “They said, ‘You made me look really slim. I haven’t looked like this in years!’”
Bill downplays his role in the whole T-shirt design process. “Mostly I help by staying in the other room,” he deadpanned. After Fanny stopped laughing, she clarified: “I run stuff by him, and he’ll say, ‘No, no, keep thinking.’”
At Chandler, she was already thinking about FMCA’s July convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. A racing-themed T-shirt, a la the Indy 500, seems likely.
“When it makes me laugh,” Fanny said, “I know I’ve got it.”