Oct. 13 memorial planned for Harry Carpenter, a ‘force of nature’ who championed Greater Morristown’s history

Harry Carpenter
Harry Carpenter
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By Carly Cannavina and Kevin Coughlin

Local history was important to Harry Gage Carpenter. His admirers want to make sure his contributions are not lost to history.

And so they will gather on Oct. 13, 2018, at the Lamington Presbyterian Church in Bedminster, to remember Carpenter, who left his stamp on many organizations in northern New Jersey, including the Morristown National Historical Park.

Carpenter died on Aug. 5 at his Peapack home after a long illness. He was 89.

“Harry was an amazing person,” said Tom Ross, superintendent of the Morristown National Historical Park, which this year opened a $2.25 million Discover History Center thanks in great measure to Carpenter’s fundraising efforts as president of the Washington Association of New Jersey.

“He was legendary for pitching the project to potential donors and working the phones, and it was difficult to say no to when Harry asked for something. Without Harry’s dedication and effort on the DHC project, I am not sure that it would have reached its fundraising goals to move forward,” Ross said.

The center features interactive exhibits that bring to life Morristown’s role in the Revolutionary War.

Harry Carpenter, left, retires after years with the Association; retired Judge Ken MacKenzie and Assoc. President Eileen Cameron acknowledge him at the 2017 meeting of the Washington Association of NJ. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Harry Carpenter, left, retired in 2017 after years with the Washington Association of NJ; he’s with retired Judge Ken MacKenzie and Association President Eileen Cameron at the 2017 annual meeting of the Association. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

Friends described Carpenter as a patriot, author and student of American history, as well as an accomplished fundraiser, businessman and leader.

He also was a gifted speaker, “who could extemporize an introduction or entire history lesson moments after being asked…and it always sounded prepared and completely appropriate to the occasion,” according to a statement from Jeanne and Dick Floersheimer, trustees of the North Jersey American Revolution Round Table that Carpenter co-founded.

Carpenter grew up in Scarborough, NY, and attended Cheshire Academy and Colgate University. A proud Colgate alumni, he chaired the school’s Presidents Club and was a leader of the Maroon Council.

He met Doodie Kirkpatrick of Glen Ridge in 1947 and they married in 1952.

Soon after, Carpenter was deployed with the Army Quartermaster Corps to Korea. He earned a Commendation Medal for commanding Supply Point 6, which served 65,000 rations a day in a combat zone, his obituary noted.

Years later, he wrote about landing at New York’s Idlewild Airport upon his return from the war in 1953.

“Suddenly my eye saw a beautiful girl rushing towards me. We met halfway, hugged, kissed, cried, and enjoyed the most emotional moment of my life.”

Doodie, who died in 2014, was his best friend, the obituary states.

After Korea, Carpenter became chairman and president of his father-in-law’s aviation supply company, W.S. Kirkpatrick & Co. Though he knew little about aviation at the time, he learned fast and traveled to 65 countries to grow the business over the next 30 years, according to his obituary.

“He was a dynamic, hardworking man who did not take no for an answer, ever,” said retired Superior Court Judge Kenneth MacKenzie, who knew Carpenter through his historical endeavors. “He was driven to succeed.”

Yet it was not an overbearing kind of drive, said Carpenter’s friend, Keith Bodden of the Morris County NAACP chapter.

“Brother Harry had the best traits of leadership: He was a quiet, unassuming man who treated all with courtesy and respect,” Bodden told Morristown Green.

‘A FORCE OF NATURE’

In retirement, Carpenter immersed himself in community service, with an emphasis on one of his passions: Preserving history.

He co-founded the North Jersey Civil War Round Table and then the North Jersey American Revolution Round Table, nonprofits based in Morristown. He also was president of The Morristown Club.

'A PERFORMANCE WITH A LOT OF HEART AND A LOT OF MEANING,' said former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, second from left, with (from left) Harry Carpenter of the Crossroads of the American Revolution and Michael and Alice Samach. Photo by Kevin Coughlin, kristin chenoweth concert, sept 11, 2015
Harry Carpenter, left, of the Crossroads of the American Revolution, at MPAC in 2015 with former Gov. Christie Todd Whitman, second from left, and Michael and Alice Samach, at Kristin Chenoweth concert. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

An avid tennis player into his early 80s, Carpenter was a member of Glen Ridge Country Club, Essex Fells Country Club, Somerset Hills Country Club, The Essex Hunt Club, and Sankaty Head Golf Club on Nantucket.

He also raised money for Colgate, the Morristown-Beard School, the Lamington Presbyterian Church, and the Matilda Jocelyn Gage Foundation — which restored the Fayetteville, NY, home of the famous suffragette, his great-grandmother.

Carpenter chronicled his life in a memoir, Unique Adventures, published in 2016.

“Harry was a force of nature,” said Rich Rosenthal, Carpenter’s successor as leader of the history round tables. Over the years, a friendly rivalry developed over who could recruit the most members and guests for an annual dinner.

“Suffice to say if Harry asked, people immediately said yes. And they meant it. They were doing it because they wanted to do it for Harry,” Rosenthal said of his mentor.

Carpenter’s standards were high, and Rosenthal felt some pressure when he assumed the presidency of the Civil War Round Table.

Replica soldiers hut, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove
Replica soldiers hut, at grand opening of Discover History Center in Morristown, Feb. 17, 2018. Photo by Jeff Sovelove

“When Harry attended the meetings, I knew that that I was going to be critiqued the following day. I was, and I accepted it! He was right.”

Honest and generous, Carpenter willingly tackled any task asked of him, the Floersheimers recounted.

“His word was his bond,” they said in their statement.

The Washington Association of New Jersey honored Carpenter with its Distinguished Achievement Medal in 2014.

“We shall miss Harry and his vigor and energetic personality filling the room, his dedication to America’s history and his engaging presence,” the association said in a statement.

“Harry was a tireless campaigner for WANJ and every cause he held dear. We are forever grateful for his leadership, vision and friendship. He will be greatly missed.”

Carpenter is survived by his daughter Cary Hughes and her husband Andy, of Tewksbury; his son Kirk Carpenter and his wife Susie, of Milford; and four grandchildren: Gage Hughes, Sydney Hughes, Anne Carpenter and Kate Carpenter Labar. His sister Phila Andrews predeceased him; his survivors include his niece Delphie Andrews Broughton and nephews Gage and Hale Andrews.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Harry’s memory may be made to the Lamington Presbyterian Church, 355 Lamington Road, Bedminster, 07921.

The memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct.13, 2018 at the church.

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