Most remember a Grand Forks man killed Sunday in a rollover near Hillsboro, N.D., as the owner of a carpet store that featured a Siberian tiger in commercials.

But Jean Weivoda described her husband, Harold Weivoda, as "the tiger man" who had a love for his business and the giant cat that served as the store's mascot.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

"She was the real carpet girl," she said, adding her husband loved the tiger. "She was with him since the beginning."

Harold Weivoda, 72, died in the crash on Interstate 29 about 10 miles north of Hillsboro. He was the owner of Weivoda Carpet Girl.

Born in Albany, Minn., Weivoda started his carpet business in 1977, opening the store at 5800 Gateway Drive. Jean Weivoda said her husband noted that Grand Forks was growing toward the northwest and saw opportunity there.

He went to Mississippi to buy loads of carpet to sell in North Dakota fields and parking lots from a trailer, she recalled.

"He had hired some girls, and the customers that would come would say, 'Hey, carpet girls. I would like a piece of this," she said. "That's how he came up with the name of the store."

Weivoda was widely known for a Siberian tiger named Tesha that was featured in commercials and taken to corporate events and school visits. He got the tiger in the late 1970s from a Midwestern animal dealer when she was 6 weeks old and she lived to be 24 years old.

The tiger raised eyebrows with local authorities, humane societies and animal activists. It even garnered a visit from PETA officials.

Weivoda jokingly told one of the visitors to pull out back, open up the car and haul her away if she wanted to take Tesha, Jean Weivoda said.

Tesha was treated well, sometimes better than his kids, his stepdaughter Natalie joked.

"They wanted her on a cement slab, and Harold thought, 'How inhumane is that?' " she said.

He was working on a memoir called "Tiger Tales."

But the two said he was dedicated to his business and worked long past retirement age. Weivoda Carpet Girl celebrated 40 years this spring.

"He wasn't a quitter," Jean Weivoda said, adding his family would be proud of him.

Visitation is at 10 a.m. Saturday at Bigwoods Lutheran Church near Oslo, Minn., with a funeral service to follow at 10:30 a.m.