Fred Carter, 95, died on December 8, 2018. His beloved family surrounded him as he transitioned from this life to the next.
He was born in Newport on August 17, 1923. Fred was one of nine children born to Victor and Helen (Gogen) Carter. He married his soulmate, Ruth (Besaw) Carter, on July 31, 1948. They recently celebrated their seventieth anniversary. Their marriage blessed them with eight children, 20 grandchildren, 53 great-grandchildren, and 23 great-great-grandchildren.
Fred has been seen high above Newport, hanging from the boom of a crane while painting the steeple of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea Church. He is renowned for his love for the Clyde River, which was located a stone’s throw from the house he and his wife of 70 years, Ruth, lived in. He was truly a legend in the greater Newport area — a colorful, caring one at that.
A house painter his entire life, Fred worked almost to the end. He began in the business working for his father, Victor, and his grandfather Louis. In 1960, he founded Fred Carter Painting. In 1993, he incorporated the business with his sons Michael and James. Fred took pride in his work.
A man of faith, he liked painting area churches, but he was particularly honored to paint his church, St. Mary’s. People still talk about seeing Fred fearlessly painting the steeple of that church high above on a crane. He also loved to talk about the couple years he worked as a bartender in the early 1940s at the rowdy Snake Pit bar, which was in the basement of the Newport House hotel on Main Street (which was located where People’s United Bank is today).
Standing at about five foot tall and weighing about 100 pounds with long white hair hanging to his shoulders, Fred may have walked with a swagger, but he had a big heart for his family, friends, and those in need. A child of the Great Depression, he understood tough times. As a lifelong hunter, fisherman, and trapper, in his youth, and when he and Ruth were raising their own children, he used his catch to help feed his family. For that matter, he said the secret to his long life was the massive amounts of fish he ate, particularly from the Clyde River and Lake Memphremagog. “Eat fish, it’s brain food,” he used to tell people.
And because he understood hunger from his youth, he didn’t want to see anyone go hungry. Drop in at his house, and you’d likely get a bite to eat, and you’d surely be offered a stiff drink, very likely Canadian Club.
A gifted storyteller and jokester, Fred loved people, and he had an impact on everyone he met. Quite honestly, you never knew what he was going to say. He was famous for coining sayings, and outrageous nicknames for people, some which stuck for life.
Fred was also proud of the fact that his friend Scott Wheeler, the publisher of Vermont’s Northland Journal, who he watched grow up on Clyde Street, recorded his and Ruth’s memories in the pages of the Journal and in two of Scott’s books, When Salmon Was King: Voices from the Clyde River and Newport’s Centennial: Voices from a Lakeside Community.
Fred was a lifelong member of St. Mary’s Star of the Sea church, and he was a fourth-degree member of the Knights of Columbus, a member of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, and the Elks.
Surviving Fred is his wife, Ruth; their children: Sandra Columbia and her husband, Larry, Linda Parenteau and her husband, Yvan, Nancy Duncan and her husband, Edward, James Carter and his wife, Patricia, Michael Carter, Theresa Coffin, Tina Bliss and her husband, Greg, and Bernard Carter. He is also survived by his grandchildren; great-grandchildren; and great-great-grandchildren; and by his brother Louis and his wife, Lucille. Also surviving him are many close friends, including Rick and Jean Kelley, Molly Gonzalez, and Andy Gonzalez.
He was predeceased by a daughter-in-law, Wendy Carter; a sister, Vivian Judd; and brothers Leonard Carter, Victor Carter, Francis Carter, Wayne Carter, Lionard Carter, and Robert Carter.
Fred had a great appreciation for his daughter Linda Parenteau and his great-granddaughter Michelle Runne, for the daily home care and love they provided that allowed him to live a full life at home until almost the end.
A celebration of life will be held at American Legion Post #21 on Saturday, January 19, from 3 to 7 p.m. Scott Wheeler will lead the celebration, and people will be welcome to share memories about Fred. At Fred’s request, he wants it to be a wonderful party, celebrating his life, not mourning his passing.
In lieu of flowers, people are encouraged to donate in his memory to the Mary E. Wright Halo Foundation, 1073 Upper Quarry Road, Newport, Vermont 05855.