Obituary: In many ways, John Carr Sr. touched many lives

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 23, 2013 - 7:53 PM

John Carr Sr.

It took many forms, but John Carr Sr. prepared people for the next step in their lives, either with a new suit for the job interview or support for a new effort at sobriety.

Carr, a longtime resident of the Hopkins-Minnetonka area, died last week at the age of 89.

Always dapper with just the right tie or belt, Carr began a career in retail in the 1950s at Carr's on Nicollet, where he worked with his father, and briefly had a television show on men's fashion. He opened his own store, Carr's Fashion for Men, at Knollwood Mall in St. Louis Park, and went on to manage several stores for Liemandt's, a men's clothing store, before retiring in the 1980s.

An outspoken advocate of recovery, Carr himself struggled with alcoholism and was proud of 50 years of sobriety. He found solace in his faith and attended mass daily for years at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Hopkins, now St. Gabriel the Archangel Catholic Church, where his funeral was held Monday. His passion for politics and social justice was rooted in his faith.

Carr was a frequent speaker on spiritual matters, emphasizing that all humans were broken in some way and that the healing powers of church and community played a key role in finding contentment and happiness. He was a longtime leader of Twin Cities Catholic Cursillo, workshops and retreats that focus on re-engaging with one's faith, and was active in DFL politics.

Carr made a memorable appearance in "Page One," a documentary about the New York Times, in which he was shown attending a conference in Minnesota where his son, reporter and columnist David Carr, spoke. He also played a role in David's recovery from addiction, documented in David's New York Times bestseller, "Night of the Gun."

"When you went to a Vikings game or out to eat, there were always people who came up to him and said he had put a hand on their life one way or the other," David Carr said. "He got around a lot."

He was also an inveterate consumer of news, right up until the end. Family members recalled him in his hospital room, opening his eyes and asking what had happened to the ceiling. They looked up to figure out what he was talking about. "The budget ceiling," he croaked.

During a eulogy for his father, another son, John Jr., recalled talking to his father once and complaining about some adolescent choices his own sons had made.

"My dad looked at me and said simply: 'They don't listen. They watch.' Those five words changed my life," said John, who served as executive director of the Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development at the United States Catholic  Bishops Conference. "And they reminded me why I so loved and respected my father. It was not what he said, but how he lived that mattered."

John Carr Sr. was married to Sandra Carr and lived on St. Albans Bay. He had been married to Joan O'Neill Carr, who was founder of the Hopkins St. Patrick's Day parade and a longtime teacher at West Junior High for 50 years before she died in 1999.  

In addition to his wife, Sandra, Carr and sons David and John Jr., Carr is survived by two other sons, Joseph and Jim, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Marianne. Another daughter, Cathleen, preceded him in death.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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