By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Oct 11, 2002 at 6:02 AM

In 1988, Cardinal Lemoine's parents, both educators, sat in an auditorium and watched their daughter accept her degree in Apparel Design from East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.

There's an old expression: "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree," meaning, like it or not, we are similar to our parents. Metaphorically speaking, Lemoine was an apple who, after graduation day, went on to experience other orchards, but eventually found her way back to her family's tree, which in this case, was education.

But first, Lemoine began her decade-long fashion career as a pattern maker in North Carolina, and later, in her home state of Virginia. "I found the work creative and interesting, and I liked working with fabric," she says. "I also liked thinking about the way the body moved, and how to make fabric move with the body."

In 1993, Lemoine was offered a job at JH Collectibles in Milwaukee, a city that, naturally, evoked images of only three things: cheese, Laverne & Shirley and beer. Despite her unglamorous perspective of Brew City, she packed up a 14-foot moving truck and moved to the East Side without knowing a single Milwaukee native.

Unfortunately, JH filed for bankruptcy in 1996, and only a couple of months earlier, Lemoine's mother had passed away. Jobless and grief stricken, Lemoine was flooded with relief when she received a call from an executive at Harley Davidson, offering her a technical designer position in the leather department.

Lemoine, 36, describes the role of a technical designer as "the liaison between the designer and the factory" and someone who "takes the fluffy fashion sketch and makes it production-ready."

During her five-year stint at Harley, Lemoine helped to design countless leather jackets, bustiers, chaps and pants, some with fringe and some without. "Fringe is extreme," she says. "People either love it or hate it."

This job was arguably less creative than pattern making, but working for Harley Davidson, specifically in the fashion department of the prestigious company, came with a lot of other perks.

Lemoine traveled to rallies and dealer shows around the country, and to Korea, Indonesia, China and Hong Kong to nurture relationships with foreign factory owners. "I was wined and dined in Asia. I ate the best lobster of my life in Hong Kong. I went to parties where Keanu Reeves was hanging out," says Lemoine. "But something was missing. It just wasn't fulfilling enough."

In attempt to feed her deeper need, Lemoine went to massage school in 1998. She continued to work at Harley, and although she hoped to eventually leave and become a full-time massage therapist, she came to the realization that such a life would be just as stressful in other ways due to lack of insurance and an unsteady flow of income.

Meanwhile, Lemoine volunteered at Sojourner Truth House and the Counseling Center of Milwaukee and thought about becoming a counselor, but decided that she wasn't quite ready to make a change. "Corporate culture is seductive," she says. "It has to be in order to keep you working 50 hours a week. The dangling carrots are money and travel, but before you know it, work becomes your whole life."

Finally, one afternoon, Lemoine and her fiancée, Jeff, were biking and talking about her desire to find a more meaningful profession. Jeff, a middle school guidance counselor, suggested that she consider the same occupation. "I hadn't thought of school counseling, although it was really perfect. I wanted to work with kids and I could utilize my counseling skills," she says, and then, chuckling, "And I get my summers off."

Like all things meant to be, once the decision was made, everything quickly fell into place. Last summer, Lemoine was accepted into UWM's educational psychology and counseling program and September 7, 2001, was her last day at Harley. She currently works 20 hours a week as a graduate assistant at UWM, and occasionally gives massages from her Riverwest home. "There's nothing like seeing the light pour through your windows at 10 a.m. on a weekday," she says, happy to be experiencing life outside of a cubicle.


Like other subjects in this series, Lemoine found the switch difficult, but worth every sacrifice. "My life is simpler: I ride my bike or take the bus places. I spend more time in the library and on the couch. And of course, my spending habits have changed dramatically," she admits, and then says with a smile, reminding us that she will always be an apple with a few roots in fashion, "Instead of Banana Republic, it's The Gap Outlet now."

Have you, or someone you know, ditched a day job for a dream? If so, e-mail

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.