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Owner of Beck car dealerships in Palatka dies after contracting COVID-19

Carl Beck, 81, owned 5 automotive dealers in Palatka

A popular Palatka businessman dies of COVID, his friends saying it should have never happened. The big loss the community is feeling.
A popular Palatka businessman dies of COVID, his friends saying it should have never happened. The big loss the community is feeling.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – For more than 30 years, Carl Beck owned five automotive dealerships in Palatka and employed more than 340 people.

Close friends of the 81-year-old told News4Jax that he died in a hospital Wednesday afternoon after he contracted the coronavirus. They said Beck was fully vaccinated.

“We were so surprised and he fell very quickly,” said Wayne McClain, Putnam County Chamber of Commerce chairman.

The Rev. Karl Flagg, who is the former mayor of Palatka, prayed with Beck in the hospital days before he died. The two were longtime friends.

“I needed to be there to pray with him and give him assurances that everything was going to be alright,” Flagg said.

Breck Sloan, who is the Beck Automotive Group president, says Beck’s passing greatly impacts the entire Putnam County community.

“It would be very difficult to find someone who has not been touched or affected in some way -- Carl and his philosophy, his standard, if he brought anything to our community, it was a higher standard,” Sloan said.

A standard that, according to the people who knew him, included donating money to various causes and organizations.

“He’s given millions of dollars to this community,” McClain said. “He’s touched the lives of about everybody in Putnam County.”

“Many of the donations, contributions and scholarships and sponsorships that Carl Beck supported -- no one knew but him and God,” Flagg said.

Sloan said Beck took care of his employees and expected his employees to also give back to the community.

“He always said to make sure our people give back, not just take from the community,” Sloan said.

Beck’s close friends also said he played a major role in the revitalization of downtown Palatka. He was said to have helped struggling people pay their mortgage or help send their children to college.

He also loved animals and would often donate money to the local animal shelter.

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