By Rick Myers
It’s what makes humans so interesting and entertaining. There’s nothing better than being around someone whose personality is bigger than life and in this business, I’ve been blessed to be around many.
The characters I’ve met in the newspaper industry alone, there is enough material to write an award-winning sitcom – and I’d still have enough material left over for one hell of a motion picture.
There was no bigger personality than that of Earl “Big Earl” Stamatkin, who passed away in late October after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer. He was 55. Big Earl is best known in Hendricks County as owner of Big Earl’s Catering.
I first meet Big Earl probably 10 years ago. We served together on the Avon Chamber of Commerce’s auction committee. Big Earl was going to cater the event so I had requested that we have some Chivas Regal at the auction. He came up to me that night and with a smile on his face, asked, “Did you get that Chivas Regal I promised you, Mr. Myers?” Indeed I did.
That was a fun night. Big Earl would also auction off a catered party for 50 people. We happened to buy that one that night and he then offered another – because he could and he enjoyed making folks happy with his food. We had the party at our home the night before the 500 and the service was absolutely magnificent. All Big Earl was required to do was serve food, but in Big Earl fashion, we got an Indycar tire that served as a centerpiece and race flags – what a party!
Bill Bailey, president of Acme Masking Co., Inc. & Acme Coatings Inc., first met Big Earl in 1995 and in no time became friends.
“He was truly Mr. Motor Speedway,” Bailey stated. “Everybody knew Big Earl and Big Earl knew everybody. Earl will always be remembered as one of the friendliest, kind-hearted guys you would ever meet. He will be sorely missed … I can’t say enough good things about him. I think about him daily.”
Avon Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tom Downard met Big Earl while in high school.
“The real Big E … was a genuine, hard-working, blue-collar guy with the biggest heart around,“ Downard remembers.
“He would help anybody, any time that he could. If you spent any time around him he was sure to have you rolling with laughter.”
He continued: “For our chamber events, we would have Earl cater. I always knew it would be done professionally and the food would be outstanding. He always wanted his clients to be happy. I am going to miss Big E, as a friend, and a business associate.”
He did indeed want his customers to be happy. Every time I had Big Earl cater an event, he would check with me afterward to see if all was good. He even did that back in June, when I know he was not at 100 percent.
Here’s to a man that lived life big and wanted his customers to live life big as well. Whether he was entertaining them at his Turn 2 suite at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or catering a party for 50 in someone’s backyard, service came first.