Karl Joseph Pfeffer Sr.
October 2, 1930 – April 26, 2020
The morning of April 26, 2020, probable inventor of the “dad joke” left this weird place called Earth.
Karl J. Pfeffer married his beautiful childhood sweetheart, Marion, in Staten Island, NY. After serving as a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps, they went on to have SEVEN kids (yes, they were Catholic). In the 60’s, his engineering job at Bell Labs led him to Indianapolis with his wife, six children (one more to come along after they moved), and his mother.
Karl and Marion provided a stable, loving home, full of humor and laughter. Their house was the one where, in summer, everyone played Marco Polo in the pool. And sometimes, after he’d mow the lawn, Karl would cook the neighbor kids hotdogs on the grill. His kids’ friends would MARVEL at the glorious pantry offerings … Charles Chips, which were delivered weekly in a giant tin; five different kinds of cereal - the good sugary kind; Planter’s cheese balls, and the giant clear bin full of miscellaneous candy, which Karl would use to fill up his famous candy jar, next to his chair in the family room.
Karl was essentially a genius. He was a brilliant engineer who would solve tough problems at Bell Labs. Heaven help ANYONE who would dare go up against him during an airing of Jeopardy. He and Marion were super competitive - each attempting to blurt-out the answer before the other. He and she would work on the crossword puzzle together. He knew most every answer, and the words that escaped him - Marion would shout from the kitchen. They would often have their friends over to play cards. They’d play “Oh Hell,” Knock, or Poker - for money. He and Marion earned a pouch full of coins, which became so heavy she could barely lift it. She’d regularly cashed it out for bills. These friends were neighbors who became like family … permanent fixtures in the Pfeffer’s lives. Nights when they played cards, the house was filled with laughter and an occasional curse word. The majority of Karl’s favorite “fun” activities involved utilizing his massive brain power.
If one of the kids did really well with their grades, he’d treat them to a small vanilla cone at Dairy Queen. After church, he would let one of the kids pick out the donuts he brought home for his family, (and even sometimes a box for a neighbor). And speaking of donuts .... on Halloween, EVERY SINGLE YEAR, Marion and Karl would leave the garage door open for trick-or-treaters. Marion would place the powdered donuts from the Wonder Bread store into two separate giant pyramids on a card table, adorned with an orange, pumpkin print tablecloth. He and she would carefully pour apple cider from a local orchard into tiny Dixie cups. The entire neighborhood would make the Pfeffer house the final destination. The little goblins would peel off their sweaty, plastic, face masks, shove donuts in their faces, and each drink about four Dixie cups of cider - as though they’d just had a miserable day at work and were doing shots of Tequila. And the exhausted parents would be welcomed by a strikingly handsome man with shining, bright blue eyes. He’d pat them on the back, while handing them a strong whiskey sour.
Karl made each of his kids feel special by taking them, individually, out to movies such as The Empire Strikes Back, E.T. (he cried), Risky Business (he didn’t research that one very well … awk-warrrrrrrd), Amityville Horror, and Rambo First Blood. (He is the reason why some of the kids are into suspense, gangster, and crime movies. You’d often find him in his chair engrossed in a Charles Bronson or Clint Eastwood flick. He was the consummate spectator of crime dramas, like Kojack, The Rockford Files, Matt Helm, Hawaii Five-O, and Law and Order. He’d figure out the killer before anyone else even spotted the first clue.)
Karl was incredibly kind and generous. He was filled to the brim with grace and humility. And he was super sensitive (but was often too proud to show it).This spilled over to his kids’ friends. For example, one of their friends, a single mom, became very ill, had to have surgery, and was unable to pay her rent. The grateful mother reported someone had anonymously paid her bill. She pressed the apartment manager, who finally spilled the beans that it had been Karl Pfeffer. He had only met this young mother, very briefly - once.
Karl also took care of his mother Rosina. She lived with the family the entire time the kids grew up. Her room was right off the kitchen on the first floor. She was like a third parent to all the children. Karl made sure she - and all of his kids - had everything they needed. Each Christmas, Santa and Mrs. Claus would cram almost everything the kids WANTED (and had circled in the Sears catalog) under the tree - or into each of the seven stockings, arranged by age. (Inevitably, some of the candy would be eaten by Ziggy, their Dalmatian, during the night.)
When he retired, on occasional Thursdays, he’d meet up with his old buddies from Bell Labs for lunch - usually at Acapulco Joe’s. As his friends started to pass away, he realized many of their wives were left with no idea how to take care of important items like paying the mortgage, taxes, and especially figuring out Medicare. He’d leave the house with his briefcase, and Marion would say, “He’s off to help another widow.”
As if working full time and helping raise seven kids wasn’t enough, Karl felt compelled to volunteer his time. He coached his kids’ sports teams and was president of the neighborhood association. He volunteered at Riley Hospital and at the Indianapolis Scarborough Peace Games. One year, after volunteering for the Special Olympics, he arrived home, walked in the door, and proceeded to go straight to the bathroom, shut the door, and cry - because he was so touched by the beautiful people he met that day. (This is the same bathroom he cried in when Bell Labs laid off hundreds of people, including many of his friends.)
The teasing and sarcasm was incessant in the Pfeffer home. Karl was the major culprit. He’d turn to one of the kids and say, “Wanna lose ten ugly pounds? Cut off your head.” Both he and Marion were quick and freakishly witty. It was one zinger after another. Holidays and birthdays were joyous. When he’d present the October, Dairy Queen ice cream cake, with six names crammed in blue, gel icing on top, he’d join in while everyone sang the Happy Birthday song - horribly - on purpose. “... Happy Birthday to youuuuuuu.” There'd eventually be a lull after all the laughter; Karl would shake his head and say, “Oh brother ... that was TERRIBLE.”
Karl lost his mother, Rosina (Nanny), years ago. He lost Marion, his first love and best friend in 2008 - after 56 years of marriage. He then married an old friend of theirs from High School - Lee Jacobs. Once in a while, you’d catch him patting her on the fanny, followed by a chuckle, then he’d make a sly getaway. Some people say you’ll only have one love in your life, but boy, Karl sure loved Lee. Shortly after marrying her, he lost his daughter, Mary, in 2010. Then in 2015, his son, Eric. Then, in 2018, he even lost Lee.
Somehow, despite raising seven children, and so much loss, he held-out until the ripe old age of 89. Handsome as ever ... and he KNEW it. Ask any of his nurses.They’d say, “Your kind dad looks at me with those beautiful, blue eyes and it makes my day.” (You'd hear him giggling in the background.)
Karl had recurring health and heart issues, developed dementia, and unfortunately contracted Covid-19. It just took the wind out of his sails. He was transitioned into hospice care, and a day and a half later, he passed away. Sadly, since he was in quarantine, no one from his family was allowed to be there.
But the night before he passed, Heidi and Jayna called him and reminded him of several funny stories. And while it is not his birthday until October, they sang the song anyway - worse than ever. His nurse even rounded up the other nurses, and they all sang along. One big awful chorus. Just as if he were at home.
Afterwards, Gretchen called. She thanked him for everything he had done for her and the family, and told him when he sees Nanny, Mary, Eric, and her Mama, to tell them we all love them - and we’ll see them soon.
Karl received the very BEST care - all because of those crazy kids, their spouses, and his grandkids. They helped by spiffing up and selling the family home, finding the facilities with the best care, late/all-night ER visits, hours and hours and hours of medical billing, to thousands of phone calls. Not to be forgotten, were the daily visits. Karl knew he was loved.
If you are lucky enough to have known him, I’m very sorry for YOUR loss. If you knew him - he was one of your dearest friends. Let’s raise a Dixie cup full of primo apple cider (or a whiskey sour) to Karl Pfeffer. And maybe even sing a really horrible rendition of Happy Birthday. ❤️
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Karl will forever be remembered by his children, Karl Pfeffer, Jr. (Leslie); Jayna Dunning (Bruce); Mark Pfeffer; Heidi Blevins (Jim); Gretchen Pfeffer (Eric Clifford); son-in-law, Terry Lee (Mary); and the children Lee shared with him, Frank Jacobs (Cathy); and Bill Jacobs. The grandkids he used to chase around the house include Thomas, Kari, Kristopher, Mike, Megan, Karli, and Jack. It must have been QUITE a reunion with his wives Marion Pfeffer and Lee Jacobs-Pfeffer. (They’ll just have to share him). Also waiting for him, were his mother and father; his eldest daughter, Mary; and his son, Eric.
Due to current conditions, a small, family-only service will take place on Tuesday, May 12th, at Feeney-Hornak Keystone Mortuary, 2126 E. 71st Street, Indianapolis, IN 46220.
A big, laughter-filled celebration of his life will be held sometime later in the summer ... when everyone is allowed to hug again.
- Karl Pfeffer, Father (deceased)
- Rosina Pfeffer, Mother (deceased)
- Marion Pfeffer, Wife (deceased)
- Lee Jacobs-Pfeffer, Second Wife (deceased)
- Mary Lee, Daughter (deceased)
- Eric Pfeffer, Son (deceased)
- Karl Pfeffer Jr. (Leslie), Son
- Jayna Dunning (Bruce), Daughter
- Mark Pfeffer, Son
- Heidi Blevins (Jim), Daughter
- Gretchen Pfeffer (Eric Clifford), Daughter
- Terry Lee, Son-in-law
- Frank Jacobs (Cathy), Step-son
- Bill Jacobs, Step-son
- Thomas, Grandchild
- Kari, Grandchild
- Kristopher, Grandchild
- Mike, Grandchild
- Megan, Grandchild
- Karli, Grandchild
- Jack, Grandchild
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No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Karl Joseph Pfeffer Sr.
May 5, 2020
What a wonderful man! I had the pleasure of knowing him for only 18 years and what a joy. God bless you all and thank you for sharing him.