Tuesday, October 18, 2011

GUEST COLUMN: "Carl Lindner’s Kindness Touched Every Part of Cincinnati" by Rep. Schmidt

By: Rep. Jean Schmidt

WASHINGTON – After I was first elected to Congress in 2005, Carl Lindner invited me to his corporate headquarters in Cincinnati. We took an elevator up to the top floor of the building, which afforded beautiful views of downtown and the Ohio River.

“This is what’s important to me,” he said as we gazed upon the city. “This needs to be important to you.”

I replied: “It’s always been important to me, and it always will be.”

Carl Lindner, the chairman of American Financial Group, smiled. And then he reached out and squeezed my hand.

He loved this city. It was the most important thing to him – behind only his faith and his family.

Carl and I walked over to a table, sat down, and continued our conversation over frozen yogurt. His family rose to prominence in the business world by establishing United Dairy Farmers, the convenience stores famous for ice cream. But Carl Lindner knew I was a health buff – so he had served up Homemade brand frozen chocolate yogurt. I thought that was sweet of him.

“Delicious,” I said. “But my favorite is your family’s chocolate chip ice cream.”

That brought a twinkle to his eye. “Mine too,” he said.

Every time I see UDF’s frozen yogurt, I think of that day and smile.

Carl Lindner, the man dubbed Cincinnati’s most successful entrepreneur, passed away Monday night at age 92.

Although he supported me as an elected official, Carl Lindner was a friend of my family for far longer.

In 1974, when my father’s racing team first competed in the Indianapolis 500, Carl Lindner’s company was the primary sponsor of our car. I have a picture tucked away somewhere of him at the Indy track – standing in a leisure suit next to me, several others, and the racecar known as the American Financial Special.

Because Carl Lindner and my father, Gus Hoffman, were both in the banking business, their paths crossed a lot. In late 1986, Carl bought my father’s small bank.

My dad admired how Carl Lindner thought outside the box when it came to the financial world. In many ways, Carl was a pioneer.

I recall how sometimes, while sitting around the kitchen table, my dad would say: “Let me tell you what Carl is doing now.”

Carl Lindner was also smart enough to surround himself with very smart people. He was an amazing man when it came to loyalty. If you were loyal to him, he was steadfast in his loyalty to you.

Loyalty, honesty, integrity – those are the attributes he personified.

Carl Lindner also epitomized the American dream. He came from nothing, but he believed in himself – and he believed in America. He worked hard, and he took chances.

He was rewarded for his efforts – but all of Cincinnati shared in that.

Look at the jobs he created, not just in Cincinnati but throughout the United States.

His philanthropy was astounding. Carl’s generosity was well known, but not the extent of it. He improved thousands of lives. His office included a wall adorned with the pictures of some of his many charitable projects. There was no part of Cincinnati that his kindness didn’t touch.

The 2nd Congressional District encompasses all or parts of seven counties, ranging from Fountain Square in downtown Cincinnati to the river town of Portsmouth in Scioto County. It also includes Indian Hill, where Carl Lindner lived.

It’s the most affluent community in Ohio, but Carl Henry Lindner Jr. never forgot his humble roots in Norwood.

My heart goes out to his wonderful wife, Edyth; their three sons, Carl Lindner III, Craig Lindner, and Keith Lindner, as well as their wives; Carl and Edyth’s 12 grandchildren and five great-grand children; and all the staff at American Financial and the other Lindner companies.

Carl Lindner was a Cincinnati icon, and he was a great American.

May God bless him and his family.

God certainly blessed all of us with Carl Lindner.