Archive for August, 2011

The Tragic Life of Karen Eckhart

Posted in Stuff on August 3, 2011 by bigdaddygouda

Karen Eckhart worked as a cook at Nicholas Pizza for 20 years. She came to work everyday. She only called out sick once in her two decades of employment and that was to bury her mother 10 years ago. If you were a customer of Nicholas Pizza in the last 20 years then you know Karen. She was the short lady with the short haircut and glasses. . If you didn’t know her by looks then you may have recognized her voice; a high-pitched southern twang. Karen was famous for asking customers if they want “extra cheese, something to drink?” after they had placed their order.

She didn’t talk much to her co-workers, unless of course she was telling them how they screwed something up. She was feisty but fair. Moody and loyal. She rarely smiled but she rarely complained. She was both sweet and sour. She was an odd duck too.

One time she entered the walk-in cooler. I was by the sink doing dishes. She didn’t see me. Karen stopped in the middle of the cooler, put her hands on her hips, looked down at her feet and said, “Hello feet…..what did I come in here for?”

She liked Danny, the restaurant manager. Although she only really asked him two things on a daily basis: “Are the Yankees playing tonight?” and “Did you order this lovely weather we’re having,” the latter question was usually asked during a snowstorm or heat wave.

Karen lived above the pizza place and for the most part she kept to herself. As far as we knew she had no family. If she had friends we never saw them. She was, in all honesty, fiercely private. On her days off she could be seen driving her big old Cadillac to Price Right to shop, to the laundromat and then to the smoke shop to buy a carton of cigarettes. At nights, as she sat in her tiny apartment with her pets, a cat named Silly and a dog named Baby, she often watched Animal Planet.

About six months ago Karen became ill and was forced to retire from Nicholas Pizza. Her apartment above the business was too big and expensive and she was set to move in to Torrington Towers at the end of this month. About 10 years ago when I was a delivery driver for the pizza place Karen would always shoot me a sarcastic smile when I had to take a delivery to the Towers. The elderly residents rarely tipped and they usually complained about the service. Danny used to say to Karen, “Be careful, you may end up there someday.”

Her reply was always the same, “I’d rather be dead.”

Since leaving Nicholas Pizza, the owner, as a sign of loyalty would do Karen’s laundry for her on Monday morning. Sunday night’s the delivery driver would walk up to her apartment, grab her laundry and return it to her the next day.

I worked two Sundays ago and was tasked with retrieving the old lady’s clothes. She hadn’t seen me in about 3 years and seemed generally happy to see me. We made small talk and she told me it felt strange not to be working anymore. It was the most honest thing she had ever said to me.

This past Sunday the employees and Nicholas Pizza found it odd that Karen didn’t call to have her laundry picked up. When they called her she didn’t answer the phone.  The next day when she didn’t answer the door when the meals on wheels arrived the owner of Nicholas Pizza called her landlord. He, along with her long-time boss at Nicholas Pizza entered her apartment.

Karen was dead. It appeared she died of natural causes. She was 65 years old. The ambulance came and took her away. Animal Control came and took away her beloved cat. There was no family to call. And if there is, no one knows about them. There will be no funeral. I don’t even know what the city does with dead people who have no kin.

As I stated, Karen was a private person. It seemed she liked to be alone. That’s how she lived her life and that’s how it ended. Alone.

I knew Karen for 10 years but I didn’t know much about her. She kept everyone at bay. I’m sure she had hopes and dreams and fears but she never shared them with anybody and that’s okay. It was her life and of course, she could live it how ever she chose.

To me though, it just seems wrong in some way that the woman died in her tiny apartment with only her cat for company. But my boss at the pizza place summed it up best when I saw him tonight.

“She did everything for herself and made it on her own,” he said. “I respected her for that.”

I did too. Rest In Peace.