John D. Karel

John D. Karel. The rise of John D. Karel to the position of secretary and treasurer of the Michigan Chair Company, of Grand Rapids, is exemplary of the just reward due him for his loyalty and industry coupled with native ability that attracted the favorable attention of the officers of the concern. He comes of sturdy Dutch stock, his grandfather after whom he is named coming to Kent county from the Netherlands in 1859 to settle on a farm four miles south of Grand Rapids in 1870. This same farm became the home of Martin and Gertrude (Block) Karel, the parents of John D: Karel. The district schools of that section were located one mile from the Karel farm, but young John Karel, after finishing district school, trudged five miles every day to and from high school for four years. When he had absorbed all that the district schools could teach him, he entered the public schools of Grand Rapids, where he graduated from the high school in 1898. For a year thereafter, he taught in the old Cook school, after which he entered the McLaughlin Business College, where he pursued a course of study calculated to further his success in a business way. After a period a little longer than a year spent as a teacher of bookkeeping, he accepted a minor position with the State Bank of Michigan in February, 1900. His characteristic energy and industry told in this work, so that within a short time he had worked his way up in the organization to the position of savings teller, remaining in that ‘position of trust• and responsibility until April .23, 1905. At that time, he accepted an offer to go to the Michigan Chair Company as a bookkeeper. He lost no opportunity in this work to learn all sides of the furniture manufacturing business, his time being spent to such purpose that in 1913 he was offered the office managership of the Winegar Furniture Company, retailers. He was recalled to the Michigan Chair Company, January 1, 1916, to take the office of secretary and treasurer of the firm, in which he has since continued. His business associates know him for an able executive of sterling integrity, and the people of Grand Rapids know him for a city commissioner who is fearless in championing those measures which make for the welfare of the people and safeguard the city. He served as a member of the city council in 1910, 1914, and 1916, and in May, 1924, was elected city commissioner. He was married in September, 1904, to Pearl Jackson, whose family came from Ireland, where her grandfather was a linen manufacturer. Mr. and Mrs. Karel have one child, Cordelia Gertrude. The Michigan Chair Company, was organized in 1883 under the name of the Grand Ledge Chair Cornpany, with a capital stock of $3,000. The firm was organized at Grand Ledge by Thomas F. Garratt, Henry S. Jordan, and Edward Crawford. The business was moved to Grand Rapids in 1892, still retaining the firm name of Grand Ledge Chair Company, but a re-organization which took place soon after the removal to Grand Rapids changed the name to that of the Michigan Chair Company, with Mr. Crawford as president, Jordan as vice-president, and Thomas Garratt as secretary-treasurer. A later shift promoted Jordan to president, and placed Charles S. Cox in the vice-president’s office. Thomas Garratt was installed as president in December, 1912, Mr. Cox remaining ‘as vice-president, and M. A. Guest taking over the duties, of secretary and treasurer. John D. Karel joined the company in 1916 as secretary and treasurer, and in 1921 following the retirement of Charles S. Cox, the vice-presidency was filled by Charles H. Garratt; who succeeded his father as president following the latter’s, death in 1922. At that time, Mrs. Anna Garratt, widow of Thomas Garratt, entered the company as vice-president, John .D. Karel remaining as secretary-treasurer. Mr. Karel, in rising to the present position in the company, holds a place of prominence, among the executives of manufacturing enterprises of Grand Rapids, where he is respected not only by his associates in business but by the citizenry at large.

Transcriber: Nancy Lesser
Created: 4 March 2003