Donald (Don) F. Carpenter Jr. passed away March 3, 2013, in Fairbanks, at age 78. He was born in Summit, N.J., on Nov. 8, 1934.
Don lived in Alaska for approximately 25 years, mostly in Fairbanks, but he also spent a short time in Anchorage.
Don arrived in Fairbanks in February 1990, with a satchel full of $80,000 from working the drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. He came here to help his old buddy, Del Zimmer, run Fairbanks Taxi.
In summer 1995, Don started to build Eagle Cab, with the assistance of Brad Finneseth and Red Benson. His first car, Eagle 1, got its letter set on June 5, 1995. The Radio Tower Base, behind the building, became dispatch.
In August 1995, after a final falling out with Del, Don started Eagle Cab with four cabs, mostly station wagons. His wife, Lori, was one of the dispatchers. Drivers included Lee Engle, Bob Gruenhagen, Argo, Jeff Zwick and Tim Lieb. Don started with a $1.50 meter drop, $1.50/mile rate, which all the other cab company owners say wouldn't work, but the phone rang off the hook, right from the start, and never stopped.
Don felt that to make money in this business, one had to charge a lease that would pay the expenses and leave a profit. But he also felt that the drivers must also make a decent living every day, so he set his rates accordingly.
In fall/winter 1996, with the collapse of United Cab and Yellow Cab, Don acquired their phone numbers plus the Yellow Cab name, which he put back into business. As other cab companies fell by the wayside, Don would buy their phone numbers and get them patched into Eagle dispatch and continue serving all those cab customers.
In winter 1998, Eagle Cab grew again with the acquisition of the shop facility and house that was formerly Fairbanks Taxi. With the enlarged maintenance facility, they were able to increase fleet size. Total mechanics now numbered three.
To take advantage of cheaper sale prices at a dealer's auction, in spring 2003, Don became a used car dealer as well, traveling to the big auctions in Las Vegas and Phoenix. Transporting the purchased vehicles to Fairbanks seemed a problem, not only to Don, but also to one of the largest used car dealers in the state. So, by spring 2004, Eagle Auto Carriers was born.
As a side business, Eagle Auto Carriers went well, especially after changing drivers. However, because of increasing fuel prices and heavy competition from the barge service to Alaska, the car carrier was sold in 2005. In its place was another venture, ATU Transport. This consisted of a 2001 freightliner tractor, and was used on lease to Carlisle Trucking and Hi-Line Transport, along with flatbed work with a leased trailer. In summer 2006, the tractor was sold to Moore Enterprises and Don got out of the trucking business altogether.
In fall 2005, with the price of auto fuel rising, Don was the first cab company owner to try using small fuel-efficient imports as taxi cabs. This turned out quite successful, and now nearly half of the 40-car fleet are small vehicles.
The latest addition to the companies, in summer 2012, under the ATU banner, was Eagle Auto Glass and Repair, a full serve auto glass and auto repair facility. Most of the fleet operators plus several insurance companies now use Eagle Auto Glass as their default glass repair shop.
In addition to owning a cab company, Don was a professional photographer during the 1960s, and a racehorse photographer. He was also a landscaper, oil rig worker and owned a massage parlor in California.
Don is survived by his daughter, Donna Venus Carpenter, and son-in-law, Randy L. Hotaling, of Fairbanks; his son, Todd Carpenter, of Middleburgh, N.Y.; grandson, Joshua M. Gates, of Fairbanks; and granddaughter, Christine E. Gates, of Schenectady, N.Y. He also leaves behind many friends and business associates, including his two longtime friends and associates, Sidney (Sid) Childers and Shpend (Sammie) Dema.
A cab procession will be announced in the next few weeks. There will be a celebration of life for Don in July. The family says donations (money or items) can be made in honor of Don to either the Fairbanks Animal Shelter or to Cat's Pride.
Arrangements were entrusted to Chapel of Chimes Funeral Home.