When the Tin Man insisted on getting a heart from the Wizard of Oz, the great wizard cautioned him by saying "A heart is not judged by how much you love, but by how much you are loved by others.
The Wizard was talking about our friend Karl. Some of us had the honor and the privilege of accompanying Karl to Hollywood four short years ago to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Everywhere Karl and the other six Munchkin actors would go, crowds followed them as if they were the greatest of our celebrities.
Lights gleamed, cameras were shoved in their faces, crowds cheered, children smiled. Adults smiled too, remembering the days when they first saw Karl and the other little people in Munchkinland.
I'll never forget sitting in Grauman's Chinese Theater where the movie first premiered in 1939. We were actually sitting with the Munchkins watching the movie for the last time it was shown in its original film format in the theater where it all began.
I'll never forget watching that little man eat like he had not eaten in days. Once I ate with him and he told me that the dessert I was served wasn't any good. So he told the lady at the Sheridan to bring me some chocolate pie like he had. By the way, he ate my other dessert when he finished his piece of chocolate pie.
I'll never forget him telling the same stories, never missing a word or a fact. And, if I was lucky, getting him to add something new to an old story.
I'll never forget the smiles in the faces of the crowd as I drove him through downtown Dublin when he served as the Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick's Parade.
I'll never forget that smile, that giggle, and that song.
Follow the Yellow Brick Road.
Follow the rainbow over the stream, follow the fella who follows a dream,
You're off to see the Wizard, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
You'll find he is a whiz of a Wiz If ever a Wiz there was.
If ever oh ever a Wiz there was The Wizard of Oz is one because,
Because, because, because, because, because.
Because of the wonderful things he does.
You're off to see the Wizard. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
by E.Y. Harburg
In the last decade of his life and especially in the last five or six years, Karl was treated as Prince of the Emerald City. The story of his death has been published in nearly a thousand newspapers and web sites around the world.
Not too bad for a once 30 inch tall adult man, who was basically sold away by his father. But, Karl was never bitter about that. He loved his family as he loved all of us.
Three days ago, Karl was introduced to the real Wizard, our Lord God.
Way up high in the blue skies, he heard his mother's lullabies. He saw that his dreams of seeing his real family and his Oz family once again really did come true. Somewhere, over the rainbow, Karl found that blue birds do fly and trees really do talk. His troubles melted into lemon drops as he wiped his sleepy eyes, blew his trumpet, and saw that he was home.
Ed Grisamore, of the Macon Telegraph, described Karl this way, "The lines on his face are bunched together like rings on a dwarf maple. The tiny, squeaky voice is unmistakable. He was delightful, polite and witty, with a face forever locked in a smile."
We will all miss Karl. Even at 93, we expected him to always be there with that smile. But as we send Karl down the last leg of the great Yellow Brick Road, let us remember his own words: "I've got a good life. A wonderful life. I have no complaints." Just try to get along the best you can. Enjoy what you have. Enjoy where you live. Most of all remember what Judy Garland said, 'There's no place like home." And, now Karl is home, home!
Scott B. Thompson, Sr. November 15, 2011
Rentz Cemetery, Rentz, Georgia