You might know him by his car — a 1998 M-Class Mercedes-Benz with 440,000 miles on it.
All of the parts in it have been replaced, his family members are sure, but Alec P. Karter never gave it up because when people saw it, they knew he was nearby. This meant they might come say, "hello."
Karter, a lifelong Brookfield resident and enthusiast, died Sept. 22 at the age of 66. About 400 people came to his services.
"You could have all the civic respect and all the money you want, but I think tonight will be the real measure of the man, the line around the block and the respect there will be from 4 to 7 (p.m.)," Karter's nephew, Steven Lenardos, said before the visitation.
Karter's roots in the community go deep. His parents brought Wisconsin's first stainless steel diner to Brookfield in 1955, inspiring Karter's lifelong interest in restaurants. He owned the Half Pound Pub and Karter's Coffee Shop in Brookfield for 25 years, before forming a real estate company, Karter Commercial.
He also served as president of the Brookfield Chamber of Commerce in the late 1980s. That was a key time in Brookfield's transition from a "bedroom community," where people primarily commuted to Milwaukee for work and shopping, to developing its own business center, the Milwaukee Sentinel reported.
The list of his accomplishments goes on, but his family says it was his habit of reaching out on a personal level to everyone he came by that led him to be known as "Mr. Brookfield."
"He taught me to meet as many people as I can, and to be good to people," his daughter, Lindsay Miller, said. "He's never said a bad thing about anyone, and no one's ever said a bad thing about him."
As his family gathered and prepared for his services, they found that he had friends everywhere they went. They included the owner of their hotel, the bartender at Champps Americana who cried at the news, and the dry cleaner who declined Eleni Hoff's credit card and said, "No. For your brother."
"We came up with five words to describe him," Miller said. "Family, friends, leadership, sports and integrity."
"Family is No. 1," Hoff said. "If you called him to do something for you, he would say. 'Why don't you call more often?'"
A committed man
When Karter did something, he did it thoroughly, and not just in business. On an RV trip through Yellowstone with his daughters, he made them spot every animal on a list before they could leave.
"I'm in college, and I'm sitting there checking animals off a list," Miller said.
Following the Badgers religiously, he took his daughters to games as far away as Hawaii. His family members each wore a bit of red at his services.
"We knew we came first, but sometimes, on Saturdays ..." Miller trailed off, laughing. "He loved his Badgers."
Always prepared to tailgate, Karter often kept a packed cooler in his trunk.
"He was very close to a professional tailgater," Lenardos said. "He would have a checklist for two grills and double charcoal."
Karter also kept up with the Brookfield Lancers, as Brookfield Central High School was his alma mater.
"He was always sending emails asking about how the Lancers were doing," Brookfield Central Athletic Director Todd Sobrilsky said. "We're saddened for our loss, and the Lancer family will forever remember him."
Karter's greatest obsession, though, was his family. He would visit his daughters in Minnesota and Chicago every month. He passed away on one of those visits.
"We were his life," Miller said.
They were not the only ones Karter reached out to. As Miller sat at Brookfield Suites Hotel, she reflected on her father, holding his phone. The calendar on it is full of reminders to wish people happy anniversaries and birthdays.
"It just keeps going off," Miller said. "He's going to be very missed."
Karter is survived by his four daughters, Lindsay Miller, Alexis Karter, Calli Karter and Kristin Karter; two grandchildren, Taylor and Karter Miller; and two sisters, Eleni Hoff and Satira Mekras.
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