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Carl Karcher, Founder of Carl's Jr., Dead at 90

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Orange County's fast-food favored son, Carl Karcher, died yesterday at the age of 90.

It started as a hot dog cart, and grew to eventually become a ubiquitous fast-food mega-chain with the trademarked happy star. We all know Carl's Jr. as the place to get big burgers for a few bucks, but for Ohio-born Carl Karcher, things really kicked off in Anaheim in 1945 when he and his wife Margaret opened Carl's Drive-In Barbecue, which then spawned two mini-outposts called Carl's Jr. Over the next few decades Karcher's criss-cut fries empire grew, becoming the super-sized chain we now know it to be.

Karcher, who "served as his company's chairman and chief executive officer" continued to have an active role in his domain until 2004, when his failing health prompted him to retire as chairman emeritus. While many in the industry lauded Karcher for his visionary business sense, those who have read at least the opening segments of Eric Schlosser's influential tome Fast Food Nation, may see him as otherwise. "Carl was a pioneer in this industry," said Andrew Puzder, president and chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc. "He touched countless lives through his generosity as a business leader and philanthropist and his legacy will most certainly live on" (CBS2.com).

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Karcher's death, attributed to "Parkinson's disease-related pneumonia," comes less than two years after his wife Margaret's from liver cancer. He died at a Fullerton hospital, "five days short of what would have been his 91st birthday." Karcher was both devoutly Catholic as well as notoriously politically conservative; he leaves behind not only a burger-and-fries stronghold, but also "11 of his children, 51 grandchildren and 45 great-grandchildren."

Photo by Keenan Pepper via Flickr