Robert Mokros was a shoemaker who dedicated his life to helping people with disfigured feet.
Mokros was only 13 when doctors amputated his foot following a farming accident. The German teen learned how to make shoes at a religious school for children with disabilities, and created footwear for Adolf Hitler’s army during World War II. When the Soviets advanced on his home, he and his wife Marta, and their two sons, fled to the refugee camps in the British-controlled zone of Germany. To survive, Robert traded his cobbling skills for food.
In 1956, the Mokros family immigrated to the United States and settled in Minnesota. Robert eventually opened his own store in downtown Minneapolis, where people from all over America came to request his shoemaking skills. Mokros would look at a handicapped person’s feet and cut a likeness from a block of wood. Then, using sketches and casts of disfigured feet, he’d create leather shoes and boots for his customers.
“In my father, I met a man who made others walk,” his son, retired Rev. Norbert Mokros, told the Star Tribune.
After more than three decades in the footwear business, Mokros was forced to retire in 1998, due to ill health. He died in his sleep on May 1 at the age of 90.