‘Carp’ says farewell after a decade

Charlotte Sun (Port Charlotte, FL) – Friday, March 29, 2013

PUNTA GORDA — Dozens of photographs used to line Bob Carpenter ‘s office. The Great Wall of China, Russia, Alaska and Rome were just some of the locales documented by Carpenter , or ‘Carp,’ as he prefers to be called, during the times he traveled the world throughout the years.Of all the signposts of Carp’s life displayed in his office, he often pointed to a photo of himself at the Trevi Fountain in Rome, taken in April 1965 while he was working in the U.S. Air Force as an intelligence analyst for the National Security Agency.But he’d absolutely beam when pointing to the photo next to it, taken in April 2010, at the same fountain with his wife Kaye by his side, 45 years later.

The two pictures represent a circle for Carp, now 69, connecting the past with the present. He is retiring as public information officer after 10 years with the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office. Today is his last day on the job.

And just as the department is moving on to a new chapter with a new sheriff at the helm, Carp will be moving to the next phase of his life, visiting once again the many locales he so proudly displayed around his office walls, this time with his wife.

‘It was an important part of his life,’ Kaye said. ‘He has wanted to share those places with me for a long time.’

Carp received a bachelor’s degree in broadcasting from Kent State University in March 1971. Before that, while with the Air Force and the NSA, he served in Crete and Greece, and he volunteered to go to Vietnam — twice.

He funded his university tuition through the G.I. Bill, working in broadcasting while attending school.

It was in Ohio that he met Kaye and started a family. Then he moved to Maui, Hawaii, before coming to Charlotte County, and eventually running a newly built tourist attraction in Punta Gorda called Fishermen’s Village.

He was about to retire 10 years ago as director of the Punta Gorda Business Alliance when former sheriff Bill Clement thought that with all his background in intelligence and the media, Carp would make a good spokesman.

Carp has been at it ever since, sifting through paperwork to provide area journalists news stories — some serious, some not so serious — every day. And there is no shortage of wacky news in Charlotte.

‘I’ve had the time of my life. This is the most fun I’ve ever had at a job,’ he said during a recent interview. ‘But it’s time to move on.’

But looking at the same walls that hold photos of far-flung locales, it’s hard not to miss that his time spent at Kent State also would come to be a defining moment in his life, much like it was a defining moment for an entire generation.

Carp was there on May 4, 1970, when National Guardsmen opened fire on students who were protesting the Vietnam War, killing four and wounding nine. He tells of seeking shelter from tear gas canisters, and can recall clearly the crackle of gunfire as soldiers opened fire on civilians.

Carp also served not only as a witness to the massacre but also as a documentarian, traveling around and recording the hostilities both on and off campus in the days leading up to the shooting. He eventually compiled 55 reels of tape and 6,000 documents, which he says is the second-largest such collection of evidence tied to that dark moment in American history.

Carp plans to turn those memories into a book one day — one that isn’t ‘slanted’ like James Michener’s book, ‘Kent State: What Happened and Why,’ which Carp calls one of the ‘greatest pieces of fiction’ he’s ever read.

Tales like that have made Carp somewhat of a living legend among his CCSO counterparts.

Deputy Jill McBee, for instance, has been hearing the stories for a decade, and during a special send-off for Carp at CCSO headquarters Thursday, she said she would be looking forward to the book.

‘I’m waiting for him to write his book,’ McBee said. ‘I could listen to his stories for hours. I’ll definitely be the first in line to buy one.’

For Kaye , she’s hoping his long-overdue retirement finally will allow him to not only write that book, but also will allow him time to follow all his passions.

‘He is committed to everything he does … he’s always strived to be the best,’ she said.

The Carpenters will be traveling the world in the coming weeks, taking epic tours around Europe, and then Asia. And even with those adventures on the horizon, for Carp the decision to retire was a hard one — not only because of his love for the job, but because of the family and relationships he said he’ll be leaving behind as well.

‘This has been my home for many years,’ he said. ‘I remember the first time someone called me brother. I thought it was slang, but I found out it meant I was one of them.’

Email: mfavorite@sun-herald.com

Email: dwinchester@sun-herald.com

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