Foodservice Equipment Reports


When Deirdre Flynn from NAFEM called me a week ago Monday to tell me that Mike Carpenter had suddenly passed away, I was so flabbergasted, all I could say was, “What? What? That really, really sucks!” Not the most elegant of responses, but a deeply heartfelt one.

Judging from all the e-mails and phone calls flying around last week, most of us in this industry had similar responses. After all, many of us had just seen Mike at the FEDA Annual Convention or the SEFA meeting in Hawaii. He was his usual friendly, upbeat, vital self. As friends of his said all week, it shows that you never know when it’s your turn.

Once the shock wears off, all one can do is damn death, offer sympathy to the family, and remember and celebrate the life. I’m afraid the shock is still palpable, but I’ll tell three quick stories of the life. I know many of you have your own stories and please, send them to us. We’d love to hear them.

I first met Mike in 1982. He was working for Bob Horn at Anchor Hocking in a marketing role. We went to see them in Lancaster, Ohio, AH’s headquarters. But Mike and Bob weren’t in the office building; they were working out of a temporary office trailer. I can’t remember why, an expansion or a renovation. But I do remember Mike. He was a vibrant, whip-smart and very personable guy even then.

He went on to work for Hobart and then took the head marketing job at Vollrath. It was while he was in Sheboygan that he rose to true prominence in this industry. He knew everyone and everyone knew him. He became fast friends with a generation of leaders in this business. He got involved with NAFEM, was elected to the board, and finally led the association as president.

He was NAFEM president at the same time Rick Ellingson from Bargreen Ellingson was president of FEDA. We were all together at a meeting. At the time, NAFEM was asking the question, “Who’s the customer?” Not all the dealers were happy about it, including Rick. I remember us all sitting in the bar debating the issue. At times it got a bit heated. But Mike didn’t let it get out of control. By the end of the evening, everyone was laughing and joking and having a good time. He was very talented at being serious, while also being friendly and working for the common good.

One last story. Mike and Deirdre and I, along with a host of other Americans, attended a meeting of the European Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association in Oslo, Norway. I was making a speech, Mike and Dee were representing NAFEM. We stayed at a hotel overlooking Oslo. It was beautiful, and amazingly, it was the summer solstice, Midsummer’s Night. On that night, the Norwegians light huge bonfires along the harbor. We had an outing on a boat. It never gets truly dark. It was an incredible experience. And that’s how I’ll try to remember Mike: at the top of the world, in a world so pretty it hurts, with big bonfires, kind of like a Viking send-off. I know he’d like that image.


Robin Ashton


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