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Leppert Mortuary, Smith Carmel Chapel
900 N. Rangeline Road
Carmel, IN 46032
317-846-2091
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Karl R. Zimmer Jr.

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Karl R. Zimmer Jr. Obituary

Karl R. Zimmer, Jr.

A Renaissance man in a modern world

A loving family, devoted friends, and the Indianapolis arts, cultural and educational communities mourn the passing on Sunday, May 18, of Karl R. Zimmer, Jr. Born in Kalamazoo, Michigan, on September 5, 1926, he grew up in Plainwell, Michigan before moving to Indianapolis at the age of five. He attended Crooked Creek Elementary School.

Karl left Indianapolis to attend Western Military Academy in Alton, Illinois in 1940. After a brief stint at Purdue University, he joined the U.S. Navy, serving in the Pacific from 1945-46. In 1947 he sailed to Europe and forged many friendships among a post-war European generation. It would shape the rest of his life.

Back in the United States, Karl enrolled in The College at the University of Chicago, where he met and married Barbara Evans, his wife of 61 years. He earned his undergraduate degree in 1950, pursued graduate studies in Scandinavian Literature and Languages there, and then went on to obtain a Candidate Magister in Nordic Studies at the University of Copenhagen in 1952. The couple moved back to New York, where he sold paperbacks for Ballantine Books from 1953-1956. He then joined Feffer & Simons, publishers' international representatives. As their first resident European representative selling American books in Scandinavia, Karl and the family moved to Denmark in 1956, and, with an expanding European market, to the Netherlands (a more central location) in 1958. The family returned to New York in 1963 when Karl was made a vice president at Feffer & Simons, responsible for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

He returned to Indianapolis in 1964 to take over Zimmer Paper Products, a paper-packaging manufacturer founded by his father in 1930. Although they remained avid world travelers throughout their lives, Karl and Barbara quickly became part of the community, aspiring through their extensive volunteer work to make Indianapolis a place where culture and the arts could thrive.

Karl served as Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Indiana Council on World Affairs. He was three-term Chairman of the Board of the Athenaeum Foundation and later served on its Board of Trustees. Karl was a four-term member of the Board of the Indiana Humanities Council.

Karl and Barbara passionately supported the humanities at IUPUI. They chaired the highly successful School of Liberal Arts Comprehensive Campaign. He served as Chairman of the Advisory Board of what is now the International Center for Intercultural Communication (ICIC), and together with his wife endowed the Barbara E. and Karl R. Zimmer Chair in Intercultural Communication at IUPUI. An endowed scholarship at The College, University of Chicago, testifies further to Karl's commitment to the Humanities in higher education.

He was a counselor, an advocate and a staunch supporter of all who had a vision and a passion for the arts, and his generous help has allowed many gifted artists to achieve their creative aspirations. He and his wife supported the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Indiana Repertory Theatre and Dance Kaleidoscope. Karl was dedicated to ballet and dance education, and his support was instrumental in establishing the Indianapolis School of Ballet, where he served as the first Board Chair from 2006 to 2009. He continued to support the school as Board Chair Emeritus.

In addition to two successful careers and a life full of community engagement, Karl was a race car driver, a yachtsman, and a gifted writer with three published books: "Spreading the Word," a memoir of his 12 years selling books in New York, Europe and around the world; "Deadly Cargo," an adventure story; and "Ten Worldly Tales," a recently published collection of short stories. And he still found time to share his experiences with many people from all walks of life, whom he welcomed into his home with gracious hospitality. He enriched their lives, as they did his.

The Republic of Finland honored Karl as Knight First Class in the Order of the Lion of Finland. He was conferred the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters by Indiana University.

Karl lost his beloved wife, Barbara Evans Zimmer, four years ago, and he missed her deeply every day. He was also preceded in death by his sisters Anni Zimmer Herndon Bruner and Mary Zimmer Quinto. He is survived by his sister Dorothy Zimmer Bercel Crispino (Cavour, Italy); his children Kaarina Ann Zimmer (The Hague, the Netherlands), Karl R. Zimmer III (Plainfield, IN), and Erik Hunter Zimmer (Boston, MA); and two grandchildren, K. Ryan Zimmer (Edwards AFB, CA) and Alexandra Nicole Zimmer (Mooresville, IN).

The family has planned private funeral services. Memorial arrangements are entrusted to Leppert Mortuary, Carmel . If you wish to make a memorial gift, The Athenaeum Foundation, the Indianapolis School of Ballet, the Charles A. Tindley Accelerated School and Indy Reads were dear to Karl's heart.

Published in the The Indianapolis Star on May 25, 2014
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