MADISON — This past Tuesday, one of the greats, Karl Harter died peacefully at his home after a long battle with cancer which he overcame for years through guts, determination, and love from the community he embraced, and which embraced him.
Karl Harter came from New Jersey and forced himself on the Midwest whether they wanted him or not. Madison, Wisconsin was very likely unprepared for the guy from back east.
He used words like macadam and ephemeral. He used other words as well, some of them inappropriate for an obituary. Several children started their college funds from Karl’s swear jar. On many occasions he would show up, hand out a few bucks and say, “here youse go, let me know if I owe you more.” These kids, who are now young adults, became Karl’s lifelong friends.
He asked his nieces to call him King Karl, telling them he was the King of Wisconsin. They believed him. After they met Governor Doyle, they became a bit suspicious of Uncle- oops -King Karl’s claim to the throne, he assured them that the Governor worked for him. Thank you Jim for keeping his secret.
Karl had compassion, kindness, and curiosity. He was quick-witted, intelligent, playful, and mischievous. He loved his wife, Christina, with all his heart.
Karl was always on the move, through Movin’ Shoes, yoga, golf, basketball, he built a community of friends from all walks of life. Karl gave legendary advice, whether you wanted it or not. He was a hall of fame inductee and published author. Just be careful if you, or your children, ever received advice from him.
Karl loved life and woke up singing every morning. An unmistakable style icon in his black tee, black cons, jeans, and unapologetic language, he made friends wherever he went striking conversation with everyone.
Karl asked his sister where he would be going after he passed, she told him she hoped he wouldn’t run into Mom who would certainly be asking him for money. In this life or the afterlife, you could be sure she was going to find you.
Saying “Thank you” doesn’t begin to convey how grateful we are to Karl’s doctor’s at UW Hospital. Greg Hartig, Paul Harari, Justine Bruce, Aaron Wieland — you saved his life many many times. I would always ask Karl how his appointments were and he would regale me with stories of family travels, new chickens, the plays your children starred in, where they were going to college and most recently the benefits of cashmere vs. wool. You meant so much to him and to us. Thank you to all who supported Karl through his clinic visits, hospital stays, clinical trials, radiation treatments — you are the best!
To the community that Karl was such a part of, we thank you for embracing Karl and us throughout his epic journey with cancer. Your love and support is invaluable.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Karl Harter Head and Neck Cancer Scholarship Fund at the University of Wisconsin, or a charity of your choice.
Karl celebrated life and we will do the same, with details to follow. Recently Karl reminded me that we had agreed his obituary would be simple: “Karl died, Store for sale.” Today his obituary is simple: Karl died, Our hearts hurt.
Love always love