Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Epilogue | Charles Edward Behr

Funeral director Charles Behr was a caring friend during the worst of times

CLEARWATER — Charlie Behr rose to wealth and prominence because he knew how to guide his funeral customers through the worst moments of their lives.

He helped them make plans, choose urns or caskets, then attended to every detail. He turned the struggling Moss-Feaster Funeral Home around and sold his interest for millions. Then an unscrupulous stockbroker lost Mr. Behr's fortune.

Mr. Behr, who with charm and resourcefulness helped build what was the largest independent funeral home in the state, died Dec. 17 of lung cancer. He was 63.

A fastidious man with sparkling blue eyes, Mr. Behr grew up in West Palm Beach. He couldn't afford college and got a job with a local funeral home. He was in his late twenties when Service Corp. International, a Houston company, bought two Miami funeral homes in 1972.

Gregory Jewell of SCI offered a job to Mr. Behr, who was then general manager of both locations. With a confident manner and willingness to manage detail-laden funerals, Mr. Behr was a natural.

"Whenever a family has a death, it's usually the worst day of their life," said Rick Chesler, a funeral director at Moss-Feaster. "And you have to take their considerations into account as far as what their needs are, and try to be ahead of them in anticipating those needs to help them get through it. He was a really hands-on guy who knew how to make people feel comfortable."

Jewell brought Mr. Behr to Houston in 1987 as his right-hand man at SCI, which had grown into the largest funeral and cemetery service provider in the world. In 1990 the two men bought Moss-Feaster in Clearwater and the National Cremation Society.

Their partnership flew in the face of another trend — the corporate ownership of funeral homes. But the men drew traffic to Moss-Feaster by diving into community activities.

As his fortunes grew, Mr. Behr helped friends who were down on their luck. He opened his heart and his wallet, whether they could pay him back or not.

In 1994, Jewell and Mr. Behr fielded an offer from the Loewen Group, which with SCI and Stewart Enterprises now controlled the majority of the funeral market. SCI moved first, buying the business back from them.

But a renegade stockbroker lost $6 million of Mr. Behr's money in 1998 on investments Mr. Behr said were made without his knowledge. His savings wiped out, Mr. Behr was also in the midst of a protracted divorce from his wife of 24 years. At one point, the man others had turned to for help was living in an apartment above one of the funeral homes he had once owned.

Mr. Behr sued. In 2000, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter repaid him about $3 million.

In 2004 he married Karinne Martinez, a movie producer who had produced films with Richard Gere, Michelle Pfeiffer and Armand Assante.

Chest pains in September led Mr. Behr to hospital tests. Doctors found advanced lung cancer. Mr. Behr made the funeral arrangements for himself.

.Biography

Charles

Edward Behr

Born: Dec. 28, 1945.

Died: Dec. 17, 2009.

Survivors: Wife Karinne; daughters Lisa Adams and Kristina Straub; mother Mary Behr; brother Joseph Behr; sisters Mary Simeone, Sue Sanford, Betsy Behr, Ronnie Logan and Terri Behr; three grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Funeral director Charles Behr was a caring friend during the worst of times 12/29/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 29, 2009 8:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. In Syria's Raqqa, IS makes last stand at city's stadium

    World

    BEIRUT — U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led forces battling the Islamic State group in Syria captured the city hospital in Raqqa on Tuesday, leaving IS militants holed up at the local stadium, their last stand in the fight over what was once the extremists' de facto capital.

    This frame grab from video released Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017 and provided by Furat FM, a Syrian Kurdish activist-run media group, shows Syrian Islamic State group fighters who surrendered entering a base of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in Raqqa, Syria. A spokesman for the SDF in Syria says it will be in control of the northern city of Raqqa "within a few days" after attacking the last pocket held by the Islamic State group. SDF fighters launched an operation to retake the last IS-held pocket of Raqqa after some 275 militants and their family members surrendered. [Furat FM via AP]
  2. Florida education news: Constitution changes, #HB7069, school security and more

    Blogs

    NEW RULES: Once every 20 years, Florida convenes a commission to examine whether the state constitution needs amending. Education — Article IX — can play a pivotal role, and this time around the subject appears to be coming into focus for possible change. Members of the public already have

  3. Forecast: Sporadic showers across Tampa Bay as heat is kept in check

    Weather

    Sporadic showers and storms swept through Tampa Bay early Tuesday morning, dropping over an inch of rain in some areas.

    Tampa Bay's 7 day forecast. [WTSP]
  4. Ophelia batters UK after pummeling Ireland, leaves 3 dead

    Hurricanes

    LONDON — Storm Ophelia is battering Scotland and Northern England after leaving three people dead and hundreds of thousands without power in Ireland.

    A woman stands as waves crash against the sea wall at Penzanze, Cornwall southwestern England, as the remnants of  Hurricane Ophelia begins to hit parts of Britain and Ireland. Ireland's meteorological service is predicting wind gusts of 120 kph to 150 kph (75 mph to 93 mph), sparking fears of travel chaos. Some flights have been cancelled, and aviation officials are warning travelers to check the latest information before going to the airport Monday. [Ben Birchall | PA via AP]
  5. 'Oh, my God, this is crazy!' The 911 calls as Hollywood nursing home residents died (w/video)

    Hurricanes

    One by one, the calls for help poured in from nurses at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills.

    The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, where 14 residents died during an air conditioning failure in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, in Hollywood, Fla., Sept. 14, 2017. The police released 911 calls from a nursing home under investigation after some of its residents died in the post-hurricane heat. [Scott McIntyre | The New York Times]