Local News

Longtime supermarket worker dies in store's grease trap

Posted February 11, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— A Chatham County man died Wednesday morning after falling into a supermarket grease trap, Sheriff Richard Webster said.

Caley Earl Gardner, 80, fell into the grease trap behind Ray's Super Market, 901 Old U.S. Highway 1 in Moncure, and couldn't get out, Webster said.

Ray's Super Market in Moncure Moncure grocery mourns death of 'Mr. Earl'

Authorities didn't release details regarding the cause of Gardner's death, but his daughter said she thinks he suffered a heart attack.

Gardner, who was known around town as "Mr. Earl," had worked at Moncure's only grocery for 50 years, employees and relatives said.

"He was the person who was always out to help somebody else," said Marcie Lorbacher, the youngest of Gardner's four daughters. "The town of Moncure will not be the same."

Gardner showed up for work at 5 a.m. each day and was known for his sausage-making expertise.

"He could outwork and outrun any of us," Lorbacher said. "(People) came in just for the sausage. They loved his stuffed sausage, and he made a bunch of it."

Gardner went to clean the store's grease trap Wednesday morning, like he always did, his daughter said. When he didn't return, another store employee went to check on him and found him in the trap, she said.

Rescue workers were unable to revive him, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

The store closed for the day, and grief-stricken employees were sent home.

Chatham County authorities are trying to determine how Gardner fell into the grease trap. Lorbacher said he had a lot of experience with the grease trap and knew how to get out of it.


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  • FromClayton Feb 12, 2009

    "He was an active man. Many people his age are sitting around, waiting to die."

    Come on now, the only people his age sitting around and waiting to die are ones that have had massive strokes or with crippling arthritis and other debilitating problems. It's not like they're choosing to sit around. It's all they can do.-smcallah

    no, smcallah, I really do know 80 year old sitting around waiting to die with no physical or mental disibility. They quit using their brian and using their bodies and THEN the alzihimers or stroke comes. Very very sad.

  • commonsensical Feb 11, 2009

    Grease trap - like a small septic tank that separates water from grease to keep the grease from entering the sewer system.

  • this is fdup Feb 11, 2009

    by all accounts he sounded like a good man. prayers for him and his loved ones

  • ERRN Feb 11, 2009

    Grease trap? What? Can someone explain.

  • headlong Feb 11, 2009

    Thoughts and Prayers to Mr Earl's Family and Friends!!! God Rest is Soul!!! Sounded as if he had a heart of gold indeed!!!

  • smalldogsrule Feb 11, 2009

    Knew Mr. Earl well when I worked that store as a Lance Snack Rep. Prayers for his family at this terrible loss.

  • 1Moms_View Feb 11, 2009

    This is such a loss for the whole community. Mr. Earl was such a sweet man. I'm sorry for his family and those from the store who loved him also. He will surely be missed.

  • Jax is proud to be an American Feb 11, 2009

    So sad. I fel sorry for the family and friends of a dear man.

  • PaulRevere Feb 11, 2009

    O.M.G. I will never understand how whomever up there chooses the way people die. I intend to ask when I get up there, though!

  • whatever02 Feb 11, 2009

    What a sweet face. That makes me sad.