Karl Schlosser was born on September 4, 1935, in the small village of Krndija in Croatia to Katharina (born February 11, 1919) and Karl (born February 2, 1915) Schlosser. His family had been farmers for generations, but everything changed when World War II broke out, when many of his family members met unspeakable horror. It was during this time that Karl witnessed things that no child should ever have to see, and it affected him greatly. Not only did he never return to Krndija after escaping, but he rarely spoke about it thereafter. It was mostly through his mother, not he, that Karl’s daughters learned of the conditions their father experienced during World War II.
Karl’s dad was drafted into the German army and was held as a prisoner of war for nine months. During this time, in 1944, Karl (age 9), his mother (age 25), and two sisters Anna (age 5, born April 28, 1939) and Maria (age 2, born September 8, 1942) escaped as their village was being destroyed. To do so, they literally jumped on a train, not knowing where it would take them. Anywhere, they figured, would be better.
They arrived in Dresden, Germany, and stayed there for several months before being reunited with Karl’s father, who had recently been released from captivity, and Karl’s paternal grandfather, thanks to the help of the Red Cross. This, in itself, was an incredible accomplishment all on its own given the limited communication of the time. They left days (Karl said it was one or two) before approximately 3,500 bombs were dropped and much of Dresden was destroyed in February 1945.
At the same, his maternal grandparents, Katharina and Georg Kertz and their 12-year-old son Toni, escaped via horse and wagon over the Hungarian border into Koeflach, Austria. With the help of the government, the Croatian refugees were organized and took shelter in a school, where the local farmers helped them to start over with a new life.
Karl’s family joined the Kertz family in Pichling in early 1945. Conditions, however, were less than ideal. They lived in the chicken coops, which they converted into one-room living quarters. Despite the quality of life they endured Karl was inspired by his family’s reunion in Austria, feeling watched over and guided and knowing from that moment on that everything would be all right. The soldiers were so kind to the family that his grandmother would have Karl sing to them. Karl also acquired a lot of cooking experience during that time. He was responsible for cooking while his mother worked in the fields.
They lived on the farm until 1946, when they moved into a barracks in Rosenthal. Both Karl’s parents worked to save money with hopes of immigrating to the United States, his father for a construction company called Negrelli and his mother on a farm, raising and selling pigs. Their quality of life began to gradually improve, and Karl discovered a new passion, one that followed after his father’s love for music. In June 1950, he sang along with the Vienna Boys Choir in Vienna, which was a significant honor at the time. Only the best of the Austrian singers were invited to sing with the Vienna Boys Choir. Through their jobs, Karl’s parents saved enough money for him to participate in this remarkable opportunity.
One story that Karl always enjoyed sharing was how, coincidentally, his concert in Vienna fell on the same day as his uncle’s wedding, who was only six years his elder and much more of an older brother than an uncle. As the story goes, Karl raced back from singing with the choir and arrived just in time for the wedding. He had no time to change, and was still wearing his leder hosen. When you look at the wedding photo, he's sitting at the right end of the bench in the outfit.
During that same year, Karl’s family had a doctor’s appointment as part of their approval process to gain entry into the United States. They were hopeful, but the doctors believed they had found a spot on Karl’s lung, a sign of tuberculosis, and denied them clearance to immigrate. Years later, a reevaluation would reveal that there was never a spot on his lung, but the belief at the time was enough to keep them in Europe.
Upon learning that the family was denied entry into the U.S., Karl’s parents bought land for 1.5 schilling per square meter. The land was adjacent to that of his maternal grandparents, Katharina and George Kertz, which was next to the land of his paternal grandparents, Michael and Rosa Schlosser, who lived next to his sibling, Zimmerman, who lived across the street from his mother’s sibling, Toni Kertz. Even further, Karl’s sisters purchased land within a five-minute walking distance to the rest of the family. Karl’s new home address was Neue Heimatgasse, translated in English as “New Home Street.” They felt safe surrounded by family. Together, the family, friends, and other refugees from Krndija created a new village and a new future, one in which 40 relatives lived within five blocks. In total, about 500 people lived in the new community.
In 1951, Karl began an apprenticeship for a company called Kopera, and about a year later, on April 2, 1952, his family moved into his maternal grandparents home (Kertz). They weren’t abandoning their home. Rather, they moved next door so they could begin building a new home on their land. The house was finished in 1953, and later that year, his brother Siegfried was born on September 5th in a hospital in Graz.
Without question, life had indeed begun to turn the corner for the family. Karl had many stories to share of this youthful time period. He often shared about fond memories of playing soccer, boxing, swimming, going to soccer games, and skiing. He spoke of winter days when he had to use skis to go to school.
After getting his masters from 1954-1956, Karl went to work for Negrelli. His manager, Theodore Hermesmeyer, would later become his father-in-law when Karl married his daughter, Thea, on June 9, 1956. Karl and Thea met as young children at age 10, and even then, Thea recalls Karl telling her, “I’m going to marry you someday.” The wedding was small and intimate with a total of 24 guests.
At the age of 21 in 1956, Karl immigrated with Thea to United States. Karl and Thea were sponsored by Karl’s cousin Josef Bauer, who had immigrated to Southern California in the early 1950’s (Josef was sponsored by Father Mathias Lani of St. Stephen’s church in Los Angeles. Father Lani born in what was Hungary than later became Yugoslavia had been a farmer, soldier, musician and athlete, but his greatest challenge was heading the archdiocesan resettlement program for displaced persons from Europe following World War II. As pastor the Hungarians of St. Stephen Parish considered him Hungarian and the Germans considered him German. The Catholic Resettlement Council brought 5,000 refugees here and Father Lani raised $250,000 for Hungarian relief. He worked tirelessly in helping the refugees in every way --- employment advisor, tax consultant, housing agent, budget advisor. For more information go to http://www.donau.org/History.htm). They traveled by ship, arriving in New York. The ship was small, and the men and women slept in different quarters. Because of its small size, strong seas and high waves would toss the ship around, and the food they were eating would literally slide across the table. Karl and Thea said that experience was like watching an episode from I Love Lucy. From New York they traveled by train arriving in Los Angeles, being picked up by Karl’s other cousin Martin Bauer.
With next to no savings, one suitcase in hand, and very little knowledge of the English language, they worked hard upon arriving in the States. Karl entered the manufacturing industry, utilizing his Austrian Masters Degree in metal processes. Karl was considered by his peers, customers, and vendors a master of his craft and was widely respected for his expertise. Within three years of moving to the States, they had two daughters, Ingrid (born November 17, 1957) and Evelyn “Elly” (born March 10, 1959). Both Ingrid and Elly were baptized in St. Stephen’s church in Los Angeles.
Over the years, Karl would tell his daughters and grandchildren stories of how important the Statue of Liberty was to him (remembering the feeling as he entered into harbor, to be able to see Statue of Liberty, brought tears to his eyes). While growing up, Karl’s paternal grandmother often spoke about the United States. Prior to World War I, his paternal grandparents lived in New York for a while, but came back to Croatia with the hopes of returning someday with their children and grandchildren. But when WWII broke out, his grandparents were never able to return to the U.S. Despite this, his grandmother instilled in him that his dreams could come true in America, and always encouraged him to go after the American Dream. Passing the Statue of Liberty on that tiny boat with his wife in tow, that dream became a reality for Karl.
In 1963, Karl’s younger sister Maria and her husband Max, along with their son Maxi Jr., followed Karl’s pursuit of the American Dream and immigrated to the U.S. on May 3. They went not to put down roots, but to earn enough money to return to Austria and build a home of their own. She loved being with her bigger brother and she loved living in California, though, and in July of 1967, she gave birth to her daughter, Conny. Despite the growth she enjoyed, Maria’s husband Max had his sights set on returning to Europe, and moved back to Austria on August 28, 1968. Maria still loved California, the family, and the way of living in those days, and she continued to stay in touch whenever Karl came to visit but unfortunately never returned to United States.
Speaking of travel, it was in 1964 that Karl and his family began to truly explore the state of California. They took many camping and boating trips, usually in Kings Canyon with the Bajhart family and often times with Thea’s sister’s family (Anneliese, Alex, Alex Jr., Margaret, and Karin). Each camping trip started with a 3 a.m. drive to the destination (Kings Canyon, Bass Lake, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, etc.). On the drive, Karl would tune the radio to the Spanish station, which reminded Karl of the Austrian music he loved. Elly’s job was to stuff Karl’s tobacco pipe, while Ingrid’s job was to navigate with the map. Each morning, his family would wake up to the smell of bacon frying in the pan. From 1964 until the end of his life, almost every vacation Karl took was with his daughters and their families. Karl was an amazing figure to his daughters, and he inspired their love for nature, play, family, gardening, cooking, music, helping others, travel and work ethic. For proof of this, look no further than the fact that when his daughters went on vacation, asking Karl to join was first on their list.
In 1965, Karl took his first of many visits back to Austria. It had been nine years since Karl had seen his parents or heard their voices, and much had changed since he left in 1956. Karl’s brother Siegfried was now 12 years old, and although there was an 18-year age difference and 6,000 miles between them, their relationship blossomed and they grew much closer as the years went by. Much of this was due to the fact that Karl returned to Austria more than 20 times over the next 40 years, some times by himself and others with his children and grandchildren. Together, they celebrated birthdays, holidays, and other special occasions. Karl took much pride that the legacy of the family, including the stories, vacations, love, fun, and music, would continue to grow as the family expanded. To him, there was no Austrian family or American family. It was one family.
Wanting his parents to experience the life he had built for himself, Karl brought his parents to live with him in Los Angeles for a period of weeks in 1966. One particular trip that was meaningful for all of them was the visit to the orange groves. Oranges were luxury items in the 1940s and 1950s, such a rare commodity in Austria that they were given out as Christmas presents. To see the look on his parents’ faces when they arrived at the grove brought tears to his eyes. Three years later, Karl’s father passed away in 1969.
In the July 1973, Karl and Thea invited their niece, Carmen Rechbauer (the daughter of Thea’s sister Maria and husband Anton), to visit them for one month from Sydney, Australia. This would be the first of many visits Carmen made to the U.S. She was 12 at the time, and loved it so much that she stayed an extra month. During this time, Karl took Ingrid, Elly, and Carmen on several adventures, including trips to Disneyland, the wax museum, and camping. Karl also took five young teenage girls camping that summer (Ingrid, Elly, Carmen and two of their girlfriends). Today, whenever Carmen sits down at a Blackjack table, she still thinks of Karl, as he was the one that taught her to play during her visits. To Carmen, her Uncle Karl personified youth. He never grew old in her mind. Like many men of that generation, he was solid and committed but never let go of what she calls “the naughty little boy” within. Whenever he walked in, his sense of fun and adventure brightened up the room.
After nearly 20 years of living in the country, Karl became a citizen of the United States on January 11, 1974. Karl’s ceremony was held in downtown Los Angeles at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and his excitement could not be expressed in words. For his daughters, they saw firsthand the privilege of what it means to be a citizen of the U.S. and to be able to follow your dreams and passions and find success.
Despite all his time and focus spent raising a family and becoming an American citizen, Karl never lost sight of the businessman in him. In the late 60s early 70s, he and Thea ran a venture of buying and fixing up homes, and at one point they owned five homes in Southern California. In 1974, Thea encouraged Karl to branch out from his job as a plant manager at Bazz-Houston and be self-employed. Together they became a partner in Tricoss (Tri-County Spring and Stamping), located in Goleta (north of Santa Barbara). She helped to facilitate the endeavor by setting him up with meetings and even selling door to door herself. When Thea congratulated Karl for becoming a businessman of his own, Karl response was that it was her who was the businesswoman.
As Ingrid was finishing up her senior year in Downey at the time, Karl commuted on weekends for one year between their home in Downey. In the summer of 1975 the entire family moved to Goleta.
Karl and Thea took up yet another opportunity in 1978 when they became the sole owners of Tricoss. Karl took a lot of pride in his work and his relationships with customers, so much so that he would sometimes turn down work if he felt he was delivering an inferior part or service. There once was a customer who had approached Karl to make a part for a satellite, but because Karl felt the material the customer wanted to use would be inferior, he turned down the job. The customer had someone else construct the part, and in the end, the satellite crashed. NASA launched an investigation afterwards, and one day Karl received a phone call from NASA asking why he had refused the job. Karl told them he knew the material the customer demanded would not be up to the task and that there would be problems. That was his way¬–do it right, or don’t do it at all.
It was here that the second wave of Karl’s family would be born, starting with Shane on November 15, 1979, followed by Christopher (June 6, 1984), Jeff (December 19, 1984) and Ryan (March 7, 1987). Karl loved his grandsons and they adored and respected their “Opi”. They enjoyed many camping adventures, fishing trips, and sleepovers. There wasn’t an event in their lives that Karl would miss. Before long, his grandsons’ friends were calling him “Opi” as well, and by the time Karl passed, with the exception of his professional colleagues, everyone respectfully referred to him as Opi.
Further illustrating his knack as a courageous industry leader, Karl set the tone for future innovation at Tricoss when he purchased the first of three waterjet cutting machines for the company in 2000. After realizing in the 1990s that more jobs were going overseas, Karl knew he needed to do something different to keep business going here in the States. It was this foresight and technological advancement that allowed for the company to remain competitive and still exist today under the leadership of his first born grandson, Shane, who took over day-to-day management for Karl in 2011. Karl became the Chairman of the Board and was still coming to work on a regular basis until he became ill on September 16, 2013.
During his years as a husband, father, and grandfather, Karl became known for a number of his personality traits and skills. He was a well-read man, keeping up on technology, reading about nature, and thumbing through one of his favorite magazines, Arizona Highway. Karl loved the photographic nature of Arizona, the vibrant colors and diverse landscapes. Moreover, Karl was inspired and calmed by nature, which was illustrated in his love for gardening, fishing, camping, and often simply sitting on his patio to enjoy being outside.
Indoors, he was known for cards and being an excellent cook. Every Christmas, Karl would prepare with the help of his daughters and grandsons the traditional Austrian dinner of Wienerschnitzel and German potato salad, making sure that one of his grandsons was cooking alongside him. Karl took pride in many of his other recipes, including his infamous chicken soup and beef jerky. He was also especially passionate about the process of barbecuing a tri-tip. It was an art for him, no doubt, and he laughed at all those who thought it needed to be marinated. Marinating good meat is a sin, he would say. He would eventually create a cookbook of his recipes for each of his children and grandchildren. And when it came to cards, Karl’s game of choice was Schnapsen, an Austrian card game that his children and grandchildren grew up playing with him. It was clear that Karl’s enjoyment came not so much from cooking and playing cards, but more from the way these activities brought the family together. The most incredible thing was how much love he had to go around. Karl had a special gift of making each of his children and grandchildren feel as if they were the only one, a gift his parents had as well.
Karl also had a great sense of humor. One Halloween, he dressed up as a woman. Elly and his niece Heidi went with him to the thrift store and bought a dress, wig, stockings, and old lady glasses. Together, they dolled him up for the Halloween party at Elly’s home. If there is any question about whether or not he looked hot, let the photos that remain do the talking. In general, Karl always believed in paying it forward. He was known as being candid, encouraging, fun-loving, grateful, hard-working, and non-judgmental. But mostly, he was respected for his generosity. Over the years, Karl helped many people achieve their dreams and helped them get back on their feet when they were down on their luck, whether it was buying a trumpet, purchasing a car, donating to the Boys and Girls Club, co-signing for homes, helping his daughters build their homes (and planting their gardens), giving jobs at Tricoss, or helping someone start their own business. Karl would give the shirt off his back to help someone (and one time he did give the shirt off his back).
In 1980, Karl and Thea’s shared love of photography led them to open the Santa Barbara Camera Exchange in Goleta. Karl wanted Thea to enjoy the same success as he did with Tricoss, and so she took the lead as the manager of the store. They also joined a photography club and went on many photo shoots throughout California, Nevada, and Arizona. Their engagement in the world of photography also led them to meet renowned photographers Emil and Joseph Muench. Karl’s nephew Peter (Anna’s son) soon joined them in the hobby, visiting in the summer of 1981, and felt inspired by the life they lived.
But the years of enjoyment brought on by photography would, unfortunately, be their last great venture as a couple, as Karl and Thea separated in 1985 and divorced a year later after nearly 30 years of marriage. Although divorced, they remained friends and always loved each other.
After the divorce, Karl continued his commitment to his family, and he would have many visitors in the years that followed. In 1986, Karl’s niece Heidi (Anna’s daughter) came to stay with him for almost a year. She was 18 at the time, and her parents knew she would be in good hands. To this day, Heidi says she wouldn’t be who she is now if wasn’t for this visit with Karl and his family. “Words cannot describe how grateful, soul-touched, honored, and filled of love for you I am,” she told him.
Two years later, in 1988, Karl’s brother Siggi, (short for Siegfried), took his first trip with his wife Christine to visit Karl. After growing up in Austria, it was Siggi’s biggest dream to see his brother’s world. He would return several times to visit Karl over the next few years, once in 1993, 1994, and again in 1997 for Ingrid’s 40th birthday. The last time Siggi visited was in October of 2013 not only for Jeff’s wedding, but because he knew it might be the last time the whole family would be together.
Karl invited his sister Anna, husband Peter, and daughter Heidi to the United States in April of 1999, paying for their plane tickets and offering her the opportunity to visit America for the first time. Anna instantly fell in love with her brother’s house and his plants, especially the lemon trees in the back yard. Experiencing his way of life, his supermarkets, and his company meant so much to her, and she enjoyed spending time with him, going to garage sales and flower shops. But what she remembers most was being in Las Vegas with her older brother and realizing that she would have never had that experience if it was not for his invitation. Later that summer, Karl’s niece Anita (Anna’s daughter) and her husband Reinhard and their children Thomas and Anita visited Karl in Santa Barbara.
The family visitations continued as the millennium came and went. In March 2000, Karl traveled to Sydney to visit his sister-in-law Maria (Thea’s sister, who immigrated to Sydney in 1956 along with her husband Anton) for her birthday as well as to see his nephew Peter marry his bride Kelly. Karl enjoyed his time in Australia, from the quality time he spent with his family to the beautiful sights of a country halfway around the world. A few months later in May of 2000, Karl traveled to Austria and was the witness for his niece Kerstin (Siggi’s daughter) when she married her husband, Hubert. Karl’s mother, Katharina, was the witness for Hubert. This would be one of the last great memories for Karl and Katharina, as Katharina passed away shortly after in July of 2000.
As new loved ones were born and others passed on, Karl never lost sight of the importance of preserving and cherishing each and every memory they had together. While celebrating Christmas in 2003 in Austria, Karl and Ingrid created photo albums for his siblings. Karl wrote the following message to his siblings: “It is up to the Schlosser children to record and preserve our family history and honor our traditions. It is my pleasure to share this album with you. Some of the dates are close (within 5 years). You will need to add dates and names for many photos. If you add photos, please make copies for others. Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. With Love, Karl.”
And as the family continued to grow, Karl’s love continued to pour out. In September 2006, Karl’s first great grandchild, Shane Prukop Jr., was born. In March 2010, twins Charlotte and Channing were born. At the time of Karl’s passing, Ashley (Jeff’s wife) was pregnant, and Karl enjoyed touching her belly and would smile when he would hear the name of his future great granddaughter, Lucy.
On September 4, 2010, Karl turned 75, and his family had a wonderful celebration at his home in Ventura. They presented him with a poster-sized photo that showed him standing next to the waterjet cutting machine with huge piece of steel and a caption that read: “Knowledge and capabilities: that makes the difference.” Each family member was wearing a shirt with the same photo from the poster on the front, and the back read “Things Karl Says:” with the following phrases: • Gott in Himmel! • When pigs fly! • Get‘em with American kindness! (He would actually say to “kill ‘em” with American kindness) • Never mind! • I love you too!!! The poster of Karl standing next to the waterjet machine now hangs inside the office.
On August 20, 2011, Elly moved in with Karl for 23 months. In that time, Karl and Elly shared many stories and memories. Every Friday, Elly would order Karl's favorite pizza from Topper's, watch the Walton's or Olympics, sip cocktails, and simply spend quality time together. Karl and Elly enjoyed having the grandchildren over, cooking for them and watching them play in the backyard. Karl's eyes would light up every time they had visitors.
Elly always knew how generous her father was, but living with Karl as an adult herself, she could see the way Karl always helped everyone, whether it was family, children, neighbors, or charity. Karl and Elly loved to go to garage sales together, especially over at the Carr Family Garage Sales.
December of 2012 brought bad news when the family learned that Karl’s prostate cancer had spread. Karl was informed of his developing situation in January of 2013 by his daughters. He continued working his regular schedule and enjoying his role as the Chairman of the at Tricoss making sure the jobs were on schedule, working with customers, , helping with machine set-ups, price quotes, providing Shane with priceless guidance, and keeping the shop clean . September 16, 2013 was the last day Karl worked at Tricoss.
The next day, he became severely ill with a sepsis infection and had his first ever overnight hospital stay. Although he was released two days later, Karl now required 24-hour care and moved-in with Ingrid and Steve in their Santa Barbara home.
Even though he was not one-hundred percent, Karl attended his grandson Jeff and Ashley’s wedding on October 5, 2013. Building upon his reputation for rarely missing one of his grandson’s events, Karl showed everyone that day that with determination (and the love, support, and help of family), anything is possible. Karl was looking forward to their wedding for months, and to be able to witness their ceremony and stay a while at the reception was a huge gift for the entire family.
During the next several months, Karl enjoyed sitting in his recliner in the living room, looking out the window at Mother Nature, listening to his Spanish radio station during the day, watching TV Land (Bonanza, Gilligan’s Island, Andy Griffith show, etc.) at night, walking outside, and sharing stories. These last months were a sacred gift to Ingrid and Steve. In the last few months, Karl shared on a deeper and more profound level, sharing lessons in gratitude, patience, hope, humility, community, laughter, intimacy, family, and understanding beauty. Speaking strongly with few words, his voice carried a deep sense of optimism and, as always, love.
Every day when Ingrid came home from work, Karl asked her to turn on the lights. “I want to see your beautiful eyes,” he would say. Since she worked at Tricoss, Ingrid provided Karl with a recap of the day’s events, including news, challenges, and opportunities that were facing the company. After, Karl would indulge his sweet tooth, asking for a bite-sized chocolate, a Von’s chocolate chip cookie, and/or some ice cream.
At home, he enjoyed his visitors. Even if Karl wasn’t able to participate in parties, he enjoyed all the celebrations that took place around him, both large and small. Since most knew this would be Karl’s last Christmas (2013), the family kept up all the Christmas decorations throughout most of January, and played Christmas songs (in different languages) every day for weeks.
Throughout the whole process, Karl was adored by his doctor, nurses, and caregivers. Although he was in extreme pain from the metastasis, no one was ever allowed to ask him how much pain he was in. Karl never gave up hope and was only bedridden the last six days of his life. His bed was only for sleeping, he would say.
On May 28, 2014, Shane gave a radio interview about his company. Each time Shane would mention Karl Schlosser, Karl’s eyes would get bigger. There was such a sense of pride which cannot be explained in words. That same day, Karl left this world peacefully in the comfort of his daughter and son-in-law’s home, with Steve, Ingrid and his caregiver Araceli beside him and soft Styrian music playing in the room. Karl was holding Ingrid’s hand and the two were gazing into each other’s eyes as he took his last breath.
Karl left this world having achieved the American Dream, but more importantly he left in comfort knowing that his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and Thea had found their own successes in this world. Karl’s greatest sense of pride had always been his family, and it pleased him greatly to know that everyone was in good hands amongst one another.
Karl had a big heart. We are proud and honored to carry forth his legacy of love, laughter, and kindness. Karl left a gift to every person he touched, and his lessons will carry on. We are blessed to have him always in our lives and in our hearts. Opi, you live in us forever.
Karl’s life was filled with so many memories from so many people. Please accept our apologies if your memories are not included here. We ask that you please contribute them in writing, as expanded versions of his life story may be created in the future.