Born in Arkansas in 1921, she has lived in “about twenty” states, including years spent in the star-studded social circles of Southern California. Even at 96, she remains spunky and good-humored with an infectious laugh.
It started with a job. Carpenter’s mother moved the family from Colorado’s Grand Valley to become the housekeeper of a well-known California actor. The actor’s family was connected with Roy Rogers, Carpenter said, and soon the actor’s children, Carpenter’s brothers and Rogers were playmates.
“That’s how we met a lot of people, because somebody knew somebody that knew somebody else and first thing you know, you know the governor and you don’t think anything of it,” Carpenter said.
She lived in Hollywood, Compton, Downey and other Southern California neighborhoods where she knew former president Ronald Reagan and his family before he became a politician. She described Reagan as “very down to earth,” a naturally outgoing and friendly person.
Traveling the nation
Carpenter also traveled around the nation with her husband, who worked for the government. The Carpenters had good jobs, she said, so they put off having children.
“We were too busy to have kids, then it was too late. Not that I missed out on anything. I don’t think I did,” Carpenter said.
Then Carpenter’s second husband died unexpectedly.
“He’d always come to where I [worked] and have lunch with me and I wondered why he didn’t show up that day. I waited and waited,” she said.
It was a difficult time but Carpenter made the best of her situation. “I was left with two cars and a home and a motor home so I had to get in [the motor home] or get out,” she said.
Carpenter decided to get in and joined a local RV club. With a friend or by herself, she traveled all over. “We went everywhere. All up and down the coast we’d go. Any place where you could move a motor home. The whole gang would go,” she said.
Though some doubted her ability to drive the big motor home, Carpenter loved it. “They said, ‘you’re too little to be in that. You’re driving that great big unit and you’re too little to be in it.’ Little or not, I went,” she said.
Eventually, in the 1990s, she sold the motor home and moved to Moab to be closer to family. Her sister and mother lived in Moab at the time and one of her brothers lived in Grand Junction.
Now Carpenter lives at Canyonlands Care Center, where she keeps up with a variety of friends and family.
“We’re always together doing something,” she said of her family.
She also participates in social activities around town, such as the Lunch Bunch, a group of ladies who met every month for lunch at a different restaurant, all wearing red hats. The group would also meet to do crafts. The Lunch Bunch has now disbanded after several members moved or passed away.
“That’s when it’s scary,” Carpenter said. “You realize well, old girl, here you are crowding 100. I’m determined to live to be 100, mean or not. I’m just so grateful that I was here to live it and be able to tell my nieces and nephews and family ... I’ve had quite a life.”
Carpenter keeps busy with crafts — knitting, sewing, crocheting, cooking and gardening — and said that she meets many new people at the Care Center.
“I get involved with everything here ... I’m the type of person that needs to be doing something because that’s been my life, always doing. So I just get out and get in the middle of it and enjoy it,” Carpenter said.