On Monday, April 21, 2014, the Pawling Shakespeare Club, now in its 116th year, celebrated the life of Honorary Member, Cliff Carpenter, with shared reminiscences of one of Pawling’s most dedicated and passionate community members.
Cliff Carpenter passed away on January 9, 2014, just shy of his 99th birthday. Many of the members of the Shakespeare Club have warm recollections of Cliff at various annual luncheons where he was always happy to participate with a Shakespearean recitation, and where his love of Shakespeare and language was most appreciated.
James Earl Jones, another honorary member, attended the meeting in order to share a fond memory or two. He remembered his friend “Clifford” well, and spoke of the several occasions when he had the honor to perform with him. One such occasion was for a Friends of the Great Swamp (FROGS) fundraiser, in which “Clifford” (as Mr. Jones affectionately calls him) and he performed on the lawn on Quaker Hill at sunset, in a scene from “Of Mice and Men,” by John Steinbeck. Cliff played the part of “George” and Mr. Jones played the part of “Lenny.” (The role of Lenny is Mr. Jones’ favorite roll of all time, an aside that he shared with great enthusiasm). He also spoke of the many hours spent with “Clifford” back stage in the 1957 production of “Sunrise at Campobello,” by American producer and writer Dory Schary. Cliff and Mr. Jones each had a small role in this production which toured and finally settled in a Washington D.C. run before heading to Broadway where Mr. Jones made his Broadway debut. Cliff played one of the townspeople who bore the body of FDR to the ferry, and Mr. Jones played the part of a house boy who had only one line. The length of time they performed on stage in this production was short, so the time they had to spend together back stage was plentiful. This was where their friendship took root. Mr. Jones described “Clifford “as having a “tremendous spirit,” and of having a ”… generosity that was infectious.” Mr. Jones spoke openly and supportively of Cliff’s excellent communication skills.
Several club members were present at the Shakespeare Club’s 100th birthday celebration, which took place in 2000 at the Aiken Library, where they shared their experiences of listening to Cliff, Mr. Jones, and Rock Brynner perform selected readings from William Shakespeare.
Many spoke about Cliff’s recent and ongoing cameo role on John Stewart’s The Daily Show. In fact, Mr. Stewart aired a short piece in memoriam to Cliff at the time of his passing. But for those who knew Cliff Carpenter, he will be remembered for his work in radio, and specifically for voicing the role of “Terry” in Terry and the Pirates, his service to his country in World War ll, his commitment to his beloved community of Pawling, and his devotion to his partner, Jean Butler.
Cliff Carpenter also served on the Board of Pawling Public Radio, and was instrumental in its growth. He will be remembered with a family celebration later this spring.
Photos Courtesy of Carol Lee Kantor
From L to R: Marie DiLorenzo, James Earl Jones, Coddy Granum, Forbes Linkhorn