Charles Frank Laughner
1927 - 2020
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Charles Frank Laughner

Indianapolis - Passed away peacefully in his home on November 18, 2020. Born on March 5, 1927 to Claude and Flora Laughner, Charles left high school early to work in the family restaurant business, which spanned back to 1888. He subsequently became a pioneer in upscale family/cafeteria style restaurants and had eight Laughner's Cafeterias in Central Indiana with his brothers, Lloyd and Richard. He was known locally as the "Cafeteria King". He also owned and operated many beloved Central Indiana restaurants, including Jonathan's on 96th and Keystone, the Double L Drive-In, Dutch Oven, The Oven, and Steer-In.

Buoyed by the success of his restaurant pursuits, Charles became an avid yet discrete investor and developer of Indianapolis area real estate. While he enjoyed the restaurant business and striking a good deal, Charles' passion was architecture and design. He designed and built nearly all his restaurants and homes, most notably his "house on the hill" off IN-37 and Southport Road, which was nominated to be on the National Register of Historic Places. His restaurants and homes reflected his love of art, often featuring original work from local artists who appreciated his support.

Charles married Patricia Hawhee on June 5, 1948. Together they had one son, Charles "Chip" Laughner, Jr. He later remarried Elizabeth Herring-Laughner on December 20, 2005 and had a step-son, Robert Herring, Jr.

He is preceded in death by Patricia, his two brothers Richard and Lloyd, his two sisters Janet and Frances, and his son, Chip. Charles is survived by his beloved wife Elizabeth, his step-son Robert Herring, Jr. (Mary), his grandchildren Charles "Chad" Laughner III (Jenny), Stacey Laughner Ramsey (Scott), Logan Laughner, Lydia Herring Young (JT), Michael Herring (Christine), Andrew Herring (Casey), and a whole host of great grandchildren: Tyler Cassé, Madi Laughner, Lily Laughner, Liam Ramsey, Gabriel Young, Grace Young, Ava Young, Samuel Young, Michael Young, Joseph Herring, Jacob Herring, Sloane Herring, and a great-great grandchild, Carter Cassé.

A mentor to many employees, family members, and aspiring entrepreneurs, Charles received numerous awards, including being named a Sagamore of the Wabash by Indiana Governor Orr and a Kentucky Colonel. Such distinctions are the highest honor and title bestowed on an individual in both states. Invited to attend several presidential inaugurations, Charles had several other accolades, including an award from the Barbara Bush Literature and Education Program and admission into the U.S. Congressional Record for contributions to Indiana by Senator Richard Luger.

Following the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Charles was a mason for 65 years and achieved the status of a 32nd Degree Master Mason with the Masonic-Mystic Tie Lodge in Indianapolis. Charles' most visible philanthropic efforts focused on the First Lutheran Church in Indianapolis, IN and Community Hospital on Washington Street. He led a seven-figure effort to restore the Church and donated the land for the hospital.

Charles loved sharing a good meal, wine, conversation and laughs with his many friends and family. He will be missed by all.

Visitation will be from 11:00am - 3:00pm on Tuesday, November 24, 2020, at the Crown Hill Cemetery's Gothic Chapel. A private memorial service will be held for immediate family due to Covid-19 restrictions. A live stream of the memorial service can be viewed on Crown Hill's Facebook Page Tuesday at 3:00pm. In lieu of floral arrangements or remembrance gifts, memorials may be given to the Scottish Rite Building Fund, Indiana Parkinson Foundation, and Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association.

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Published in The Indianapolis Star from Nov. 21 to Nov. 22, 2020.
11:00 - 03:00 PM
Crown Hill Cemetery's Gothic Chapel
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Memories & Condolences
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7 entries
November 26, 2020
Chuck was truly a man of vision and dedication to anything that he decided to do ! He was one of coolest and smartest men that I knew . I always enjoyed our conversations . He was very funny and always full of wisdom to share . He and Pat were two of my parents favorite friends . I always made sure to be home when they came to visit . Chip was a great dude , too ! Chip enjoyed coming to the farm and he loved to ride our horses when he was a young boy ! Chuck would always tell me that I didn't have to be there but I wouldn't miss it . I loved it , those were and are some of my best memories of my childhood ! I loved Chuck , Pat and Chip ! I miss them very much but will always have the greatest memories of them forever ! God bless Chuck and his family !
November 24, 2020
Charles and my father were both bellhops in their younger years and they were good friends. Patti and Charles traveled with my parents and went to the 500 together. I am heartbroken at Charles' passing and I wish that I had more of a chance to get to know Charles and learn more about my parents through him. His heart was incredibly good and my sincerest condolences to his family from the family of Edward, Marilyn, Blair, and Dana Karsch
Blair Karsch
November 24, 2020
I have known Charles for over 40 years. He was my client, confidant, exceptional friend and I loved him. He will be sorely missed. His sense of humor and keen sense of business were always evident. He loved his family and I trusted him implicitly,. He trusted me at a young age and I am forever grateful for how he treated me.
He will always be someone I looked up to and I was honored to be his friend.
When I pass on can not wait to have lunch with him again!
'Love you Charles
Howard Gross

Howard Gross
November 23, 2020
On behalf of the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels, the Order offers its deepest condolences and is proud of a life well lived by Colonel Laughner.
Sherry Crose, Executive Director
Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels
Sherry Crose
November 23, 2020
Like so many others, I worked with Charles at Dutch Oven. He was a good friend and mentor. He will be missed. RIP.
Henry Collins
November 22, 2020
RIP Uncle Chuck. I remember so many wonderful stories and jokes between my father and you through the years. Every time you were around laughs were plentiful. You were a great friend of my mom and dad’s abd I will never forget your generosity especially at all of the Jarvis children’s weddings.

I bet you and dad are up in Heaven right now telling jokes abd having a drink or two. Thank you for the wonderful memories.

All my Love - Tim Jarvis
Tim Jarvis
November 22, 2020
I worked for Laughner’s General Office when it was above Dutch Oven back in the 70’s. I enjoyed knowing and working with Charles and all of his brothers. He was always working on some new concept or enterprise. I remember all the grand openings of his latest cafeterias - each decorated in a different style. My deepest sympathy to his family.
Sherry (Ambler) Kearns
Sherry (Ambler) Kearns
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