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Jack Karp

1936 - 2016 Obituary Condolences
Jack Karp Obituary
After a long battle with cancer, Jack Karp passed away on July 22, at his home in Chicago. He was 80 years old. His friends and doctors were amazed at how he bravely managed his illness, pursued every avenue of care, and became an authority on Pancreatic cancer. Jack's life was filled with amazing achievements twists and turns that reflect a unique and quixotic personality that endeared him to his friends and family and co-workers, After obtaining his B.A. from Cornell University, he graduated from Harvard Law School. His ambition to practice law was soon thwarted by the untimely death of his brother and his need to go into his family business, Karp Bakery Supply Company. His vision and ambition guided him in expanding the company by acquisitions, broadening and diversifying the product line and adjusting to all the changes in this rapidly growing business. By 1997 he had achieved profits large enough to enable him to sell the business to CSM. Company, a sugar firm based in Amsterdam and traded on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange. His innovative approaches to business, to packaging, equipment design and invention of new products are legendary in the industry. He used his analytical skills as a trained lawyer and his remarkable curiosity to continuously reinvent the business of the modest bakery supply company and to turn it into one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Not only did he work tirelessly, but he passionately loved the industry. His friends remember his pursuit of prints about bakery for his collection. Others recall the doorbell ringing and Jack standing there with a new product (five pounds of puff pastry!) or jars of his delicious Olalalaberries. Most of us had never heard of these then arcane delicacies. The sale of the company freed him to pursue two very different careers, that of Pilates instructor for Parkinson patients and an M.A. degree from Loyola University in Spanish literature. His scholarship led to a memorable master's paper on the difficult subject of Ekphrasis in Spanish literature. Even with these diverse pursuits, he traveled extensively with his wife Betsy, not only to distant lands but to Portland regularly to see his grandchildren and to destinations for family holidays. He was immensely proud of his wife, Betsy and his children (Josh, married to Susan; Jeremy married to Sandra) and his grandchildren the late Mary, William, Leo, Theodore, Francis, Ben, Evan and Audrey. As a reflection of his intellect and eccentric tastes, he read his young sons, not fairy tales, but Beowolf and The Iliad. He was a commanding presence in the life of his children. His son Josh recalls him as a father who influenced him through his readings, his intellect and his compassion. Josh characterizes him as a a humble man despite his achievements. Although he was proud to have gone to Harvard Law School, he joke to his son, "You can tell a Harvard man, but you can't tell him much." Jack was the exception, because of his insatiable, curiosity, you could tell him anything. He was proud of his education. His son Jeremy reconfirmed the centrality of education to him by noting that his father believed that "education was the cornerstone to a successful life." For Jack, it not only applied to his business career, but to all the intellectual and cultural interests that he pursued. To his son, Jeremy, he advised that in business, you should look not only to the culinary world, but to the work of artists like Calder because they, like a successful businessman, studied and produced what people found pleasing. A deeply serious and widely educated man, he was also funny, possessed with a whimsical sense of humor. These are the foundations that made him an inimitable raconteur. He could quote everything from Seneca and Maimonides to Woody Allen. His friends remember him for the wit and warmth he brought to them. Jack's lifelong friend, Daniel Swett, who was at his side from grammar school through law school, remembered him even in these years as he was developing the qualities to become the "sophisticated gentleman that we have loved for all these decades." Vivacious, regal in bearing, he was remarkable for his friendships unique for their depth and for their longevity and diversity, encompassing bakers, lawyers and scholars. As a civic leader, he served on the boards of Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the Old Master Society of the Art Institute. He also served on many corporate boards For several years he was a board member of the Kendall College Culinary Institute. Jack will be remembered for his unique personality, unusual and prodigious intellectual skills, learning, wit and empathy, for devoting himself to helping others from his bakery employees, to his children to Parkinson disease sufferers. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Old Masters Society of the Art Insitute of Chicago to the Karp acquisitions fund for a purchase in Jack's memory of a Spanish Renaissance Painting.
Published in a Chicago Tribune Media Group Publication on July 26, 2016
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