There’s nothing like attending a funeral to get you to sit back and evaluate your life.
Carl Karcher, the founder of the Carl’s Jr. restaurant chain, passed away last week. My wife grew up in Anaheim, California 2 blocks from Carl and his family – and her 7 siblings matched up with Carl’s 12 children. We attended the funeral on Friday and it was an extraordinary outpouring of love, gratitude and respect for a man who took a single hot dog cart in 1941 and expanded it to a national and world wide restaurant chain with more than 3000 restaurants. Carl was a real-life Horatio Alger and his entrepreneurial rags-to-riches story is the American dream.
The celebration of Carl’s life was something you had to see to believe. There were more than 2000 people at the Mass, in a church that only holds 1500. For the 2-hour service, there were 80 priests con-celebrating the mass, including his son Father Jerome who presided over the funeral mass. In addition, there were upteen Knights of Columbus, Knights of Malta, and their auxiliaries, a brass ensemble, a full choir and the front half of the church was taken up by Carl’s 12 children, 51 grandchildren and 45 greatchildren and their families. Of course, they served Carl’s Jr. hamburgers at the reception afterward at Carl’s house. Two portable trailers served up Carl’s hamburgs and the crowd was serenaded by the All American Boys Choir.
In one of the eulogies, Carl’s son talked about a poem called The Dash. On a gravestone, there are two dates marking the beginning and the end of someone’s life. In the middle is “the dash”, and it’s what you do with your dash is the most important because that is what is truly important. Carl’s life touched many people during his 90 years on this Earth and he always put his family and his faith at the front of everything he did. He was famous for passing out free hamburger coupons with the Prayer of St. Francis on them – in fact it was recounted that he even handed a free pass to Pope John Paul II when he a private audience with him several years ago.
Not all of us will leave a story and legacy like Carl – but it certainly puts things in perspective and makes you wonder about “what your dash will be”. I know I’ll be thinking about my dash whenever I see a Carl’s Jr. restaurant or commercial, or taste one of their famous burgers.