The Wetaskiwin and restaurant community is mourning the loss of the owner of Huckleberry’s Café.
On the Huckleberry’s Café Facebook page the sad passing of Paul Kalke was announced by his daughter Tasha Chambers.
“And so it is with extreme sadness, that we inform to tell you that the greatest man I ever knew passed away Saturday afternoon. My heart, our hearts, are simply broken,” Chambers said in the Facebook post Sept. 19, one day after Kalke’s passing.
Kalke created and opened Huckleberry’s Café in 1993 and since then it has become a Wetaskiwin culinary hotspot, with people across the province knowing its name. Chambers says that on a weekly basis the restaurant sees customers driving in from other cities including Edmonton just to dine in or take out.
Chambers said that people were drawn to her father for his kindness and his sincerity, and that the allure of Huckleberry’s can in part be contributed to Kalke’s extensive business and restaurant history in Leduc and Edmonton.
“He was a lover of people,” she says. “He made you feel like you were the only person in the world when he spoke to you.”
In addition to running Huckleberry’s, Kalke was well known in the community for lending a helping hand in any way that he could.
“Everyone knew they could count on us,” Chambers says when it came to the restaurant helping with charity or community events, even if it meant just donating gift cards.
Kalke also had a passion for horses and the cowboy in him saw the difference the positive power of a connection between a horse and human, especially children, could have.
He was very invested in helping the success of the “Horses for Hope” program. This Hope Mission program was designed to teach youth how to ride and interact with horses with the goal of developing character with a Christian philosophy.
He played a key role in helping fundraise to get the program off the ground and his daughter says it’s because he could see the greater purpose and good in it.
“He was willing to give his time to that because he believed in it,” Chambers says.
Since the announcement of his passing Chambers says the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming.
“He just knew so many people,” she says. “It’s blessed my heart tremendously.”
Chambers says hearing people tell her stories about their interactions with her dad and how he impacted their lives makes her incredibly happy and is helping her through this difficult time.
“He was just a wonderful dad,” she says. “He became one of my very best friends as I grew older.” Kalke was also a doting and loving grandfather to his grandson, Grayson Travis.
Chambers states that growing up Kalke always encouraged her to work hard and follow your dreams, “he believed in what he could provide.”
She says that this statement helps encourage her everyday to have faith in herself and her goals.
A funeral service and celebration of Kalke’s life was held on September 23.