Covey Family Funeral Homes, Hanson-Walbridge
213 West Main Street
Bennington, VT 05201
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Lewis C. Carpenter

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BENNINGTON -- Lewis “Lewie” C. Carpenter, 91, a lifelong resident of Bennington, died on June 20, 2003. He was born on Sept. 13, 1911, the son of Charles A. Carpenter (1874-1951) and Bessie Elmina Upham (1877-1953), both of Bennington.

A warm and generous person, he was a loving husband, father, and a participant in the commercial and musical life of Bennington. After the death of his wife, Lestina, in 1997, Lewis was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He was cared for at his home on Putnam Street by his daughters and by many caregivers, including personnel of Bennington Home Health, until June 2002. Thereafter, he resided at the Bennington Health and Rehabilitation Center until his death.

Lewis was a member of the First Baptist Church, where he had served on the board of deacons and on the board of trustees. Since 1934, he was a mason belonging to the Mount Anthony Lodge 13. He was also a member of the barbershop quartet organization SPEBSQSA and Bennington Moviemakers.

Growing up on Carpenter Lane, in the Lyons District of northeast Bennington, Lewis had an affinity for the outdoors, taking long hikes, riding horseback, fishing and observing birds. Like his siblings, Kenneth, Carleton and Elizabeth, he got to be a gifted teller of stories, and a musician. Principally a piano player, he also sang, played drums, guitar or saxophone with various musical groups.

He played drums with a dance band at the Equinox, performed with a group called “Bertha’s Melody Boys,” and other groups, was a substitute organist at the Masonic Lodge, and sang in a barbershop quartet group called the Monumentors (Bennington Banner, March 14, 1959). Lewis continued his enthusiastic piano playing of music, even in recent years after Alzheimer’s disease had robbed him of his story-telling skills.

Graduating from Bennington High School in 1930, he was class president, editor of The Catamount, director of the jazz band, and “writer of girl’s prophesies.” Though accepted at a university, conditions necessitated his joining the family business, Theo. A. Carpenter and Sons, begun by his grandfather in 1892. A paint, hardware and lumber concern, this business occupied the unique block building at Main and Safford streets, and others in the area. Staying in the business until 1962, he then worked for Sprague Electric for two years and then for Sherwin Williams Paint before retiring in the 1970s.

In 1940, Lewis married Lestina E. Wheeler of Whitingham and Colerain, Mass., a graduate of Simmons College, who then worked as a librarian in New York City. Their first daughter, Priscilla was born in 1943, before his military service began, and the second, Janet, after his return from the service. The family enjoyed traveling together, often took vacations on the coast of Maine. Lewis had a detailed memory for the back roads of Vermont, which he loved to roam in his convertible.

Inducted into the army in 1943, Lewis engaged in combat as an infantryman (Company L, 112th Infantry Regiment, 28th Division) in the Battle of Huertgen Forest in Germany in November 1944. Seriously wounded, he was taken prisoner and held in a camp near Stuttgart for six months. For several agonizing months after his capture, his family knew only that he was missing in action. A fellow prisoner, Abbe Robert Javalet, a chaplain in the French army who was allowed to help the wounded Americans, became a lifelong friend, visiting Bennington in 1967. Javalet, who became a professor at the University of Strasbourg, recalled the American prisoners’ arrival at the camp as a great event for the long-time prisoners of other nationalities because of the Americans’ buoyant spirit. In a book he wrote about the prison camp, he noted that “Carpenter had lost use of his leg, but not his smile.” The leg wound eventually healed, but a finger was lost. For his service, Lewis was awarded the Purple Heart, Oak Leaf Cluster and a European Campaign ribbon with three bronze battle stars.

Lewis is survived by his sister, Elizabeth (Crawford) McCarthy of Spokane, Wash.; daughters, Priscilla A. Carpenter of Bennington and Janet G. Gram of Rochester, N.Y.; son-in-law Roger Gram of Rochester; nieces Betty-Jim Phelps of Williamstown, Mass. and Betty Joyce McDonald of Williamsville, N.Y.; nephews Ethan Crawford Jr. of Seattle, Charles Crawford of Spokane and Carleton Carpenter Jr.; and grandnieces and nephews. Cousins residing in Bennington are J. Russell Carpenter and his son John Carpenter.

Lewis Carpenter’s Upham ancestors were in Bennington by 1817 or earlier, according to town records. Ebenezer Upham (1764-1834) had been a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Other Bennington ancestors include Betsy Morse, who lived in the early 1800s and Susan Elmina Nichols (1840-1906) born in Petersburgh, N.Y. Lewis’ grandfather Theodore A. Carpenter (1845-1928) served in the Civil War, married Emma A. Kelley, and moved to Bennington from Rensselaer County, N.Y., where several generations of ancestors had lived. Theodore’s parents were James Carpenter (1822-1899) and Rachel Ostrander (1828-1912). James was the son of John Carpenter (1793-1857), a blacksmith, and Sarah Ostrander (1793-1863). The Ostrander line is known back to a 1660 immigrant to New Amsterdam from Holland, an employee of the Dutch East Indies Company.

Funeral services will be held at the First Baptist Church in Bennington on Tuesday, June 24 at 1 p.m. with the Rev. Norma Drosky, pastor, officiating. Interment will follow in the Carpenter family lot in Park Lawn Cemetery. There are no calling hours.

Memorial gifts may be made to the Bennington Free Library, Alzheimer’s Association of Vermont, the Vermont Nature Conservancy or the charity of one’s choice in care of the Hanson-Walbridge Funeral Home, P.O. Box 957, Bennington, VT 05201.
Published in Bennington Banner from June 21 to June 23, 2003
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