William Ritchie Carpenter
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Carpenter, William Ritchie

William Ritchie Carpenter, 73, of Freeville, slid peacefully away at Hospicare on December 27, 2015 after four years facing the challenges of ALS. Born in Stratford, CT he was the son of the late Raymond and Frances (Harris) Carpenter. Bill's first passion was the theatre. A quick study, while still in high school he became a stage manager at the Shakespeare Theater in Stratford, CT and then for the Fantasticks in NYC. He joined the army to see the world, then moved to Ithaca and was the founder and artistic director of the Hangar Playfair, later to become the Hangar Theatre. He went on to become artistic director for the Longwharf Children's Theatre in New Haven, CT. At the same time and with the help of clown troupes which he founded, he devised a series of workshops and programs for schools, psychiatric wards, community centers, prisons and VA hospitals to assist mentally ill and emotionally disturbed people in finding the joy in themselves and sharing it with others. Bill turned his passion for the theater toward a new vision for community celebrations. He and his wife Lotte started the Midway Caravan, and its most popular venture, The Backyard Circus. Bill brought laughter and smiles to thousands for over thirty years as he travelled the country from Cape Cod to Hawaii, inviting children and their families to join him in creating imagination-rich shows and the wonderful memories that resulted. To these families, he will always be 'Ringmaster Bill'. Bill and Lotte travelled to many interesting places around the world. He loved books and movies and his interests kept him engaged, journaling visits to every art museum in North America, writing books, creating travel slide shows, and most recently chronicling what movies can teach us about history and foreign lands. He was loved and he will be missed. Bill is survived by his wife Lotte (Jensen) Carpenter; daughter Leslie (Dean) of Allentown, PA; son Will (Renell) and granddaughters Sophia and Ryah of Bethlehem, PA; brother Tom (Tecky) of Stratford, CT; sister Nancy of Lunenberg, Nova Scotia; nieces Shey (Pat) O'Grady, Tara (Tomas), Ritchie (Mike) Gilligan and nephews Ramon, Todd (Elizabeth), Aubrey (Julie) Ives. He was predeceased by brother, Ted (Shirley) of Boston, MA. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Bill's memory may be made to Hospicare, 172 East King Road, Ithaca, NY 14850 or to an ALS research program. The Carpenter family wishes to express gratitude to the doctors and service providers at the Syracuse VA, the many wonderful volunteers, caregivers and providers at the Ithaca Hospicare, as well as friends and neighbors for their support and kindness. It was Bill's wishes that there be no funeral; his ashes will be scattered in Nova Scotia. There will be an open house at the Carpenter home in Freeville for calling hours on Sunday 1/10/16 from 1-3pm.

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Published in Ithaca Journal on Jan. 6, 2016.
Memories & Condolences
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5 entries
June 19, 2016
Knowing Bill's passion for theatre from the Stratford Children's Theatre productions we did including "Meet Mark Twain" with Will Geer.as well as working together at the Shakespeare Festival..its great to see he enjoyed it for a lifetime and his passion brought so much joy to others.
Bonnie Bassett
April 20, 2016
I am so sorry I have just heard of this, he was the most interesting creative person I've ever met in my 3 years of doing home health care. I especially loved all the stories of his days doing the circus and theater(not to mention newspaper clippings and teaching me many things and exchanging countless ideas), may he rest in peace and my condolences to your family. What a truly beautiful soul, and so many inventions that we came up with that I still have written in my notebook! I am so so so sorry!!
Brianna (bri) Lewis
January 28, 2016
Bill and the Back Yaaaaaarrrrrrrd Circus were always a favorite for our family at the State Fair of Texas. It was a must stop every year in the early 90's, and we still liked to go back and just watch Bill in action as the Ringmaster even after our kids were grown. Always pleasant to meet and greet each year. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family. What an amazing life he had, pursuing his passion. He will always be an inspiration.
Ed Gunsalus
January 6, 2016
Bill will be missed. He brought joy to so many. Thank you for sharing him with the rest of us. Peace and blessings to you all - Melodie Sartain and Family
January 6, 2016
Bill brought laughter and light to my life, even though I only knew him for the last few weeks of his life. He memory will be honored in me.
Marlaine Darfler
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