Last month, we announced the winners of the first quarterly West Seattle Community Recognition Awards, a new way to honor West Seattleites working to make a difference — the brainchild of Julie Mireille Anderson from Divina, with the nominating process open to everyone in West Seattle. As we open the next round of nominations, we are profiling the first three winners — people you may or may not have heard about or met, people whose hard work makes West Seattle a better place. Yesterday, we told you about Cindi Barker from the Morgan Community Association; today, Larry Carpenter from the Alki Community Council and Southwest Seattle Historical Society, who has stories galore to tell, starting with the one about the day he and his wife started the cross-country drive to get here:
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Larry Carpenter says he’ll never forget the day he and wife Margelyn moved to Seattle.
“It was September the twelfth, 2001,” he explains, talking with WSB inside the cozy Log House Museum, nerve center — and public face — of the Southwest Seattle Historical Society. The Carpenters were so busy packing the day before, they didn’t get to pay close attention to the news — recalling mostly an early snippet about a “small” plane hitting the World Trade Center.
The rest is history — as is part of what is keeping Larry busy in West Seattle these days. In addition to his role as treasurer for the Alki Community Council, he is volunteer coordinator for the SWSHS.
And that’s a job with its ups and downs, particularly in recruiting, he acknowledges. “I had this terrific run — I asked 45 people to volunteer, nobody turned me down.” The follow-through after they said “yes”? That’s sometimes another story.
First, let’s get back to the story of what brought Larry to West Seattle. He’s from Maryland; the Carpenters’ two children moved westward long before their parents did. Then, in the early ’90s, he explains, the “kids” — well into adulthood — were part of the big wave of people migrating to Seattle right about then. One lives on Capitol Hill now, the other on Beacon Hill, and especially once grandchildren started to arrive, Larry and Marge flew out to visit — a lot — finally deciding it would be easier just to move here.
The drive to Seattle from Maryland took two weeks. Larry remembers one eerie side effect of the post-9/11 state of affairs — “we stayed in great hotels all along the way for great prices, because they were empty — no one was traveling.”
A month after arriving in Seattle, they found the Alki home they’ve been renting ever since. And his induction into West Seattleisms came just days later: “November 13th was the Denny anniversary” — the sesquicentennial, that particular year — “and there was a re-enactment on Alki that day. It was raining, cold, damp … I knew nothing about all that history. I saw it when I went down to the [old Alki] market for some milk, said to a guy at the store, ‘What are they doing?’ He said, the people from the Historical Society are re-enacting [the Denny Party landing at Alki]. I said, ‘This is a crazy place, I think I’m going to like it here!'”
Shortly afterward, Larry saw an ad in the Alki News-Beacon seeking Log House Museum volunteers … he signed up … and now, after several years, he’s the one who recruits and organizes those volunteers.
When we met to talk on a quiet day at the museum, one of those volunteers had just left after her monthly two-hour shift, local realtor Alice Kuder (a WSB sponsor). A quiet day for her, Larry admitted: “Some days, 20-30 people might walk in, other days nothing. So far today, we’ve had three.”
It’s not for lack of intent or dedication that keeps some people from following up on their volunteering commitments, Larry says; those slow days in winter just aren’t exciting enough for some people (although he notes it’s a great time to catch up on your reading).
But for Larry himself, there’s no such thing as “slow.” He has plenty to do, including piles of paperwork, for his Historical Society work and his treasurer role on the Alki council. Even back in Maryland, this is the type of neighborhood work he has done for a long time: “I was always the secretary or treasurer. Did that for 8, 10 years.”
The appeal of those roles, he notes, is that you get to find out the most information about what’s going on and who’s involved. The quest for knowledge runs deep with him — he’s retired from 35 years of “intelligence agency” work.
From his observations, we ask, what’s his greatest concern for West Seattle’s future?
“We need to bring in the next generation (of volunteers and activists), get them involved. The gap is so wide now — we have to keep them from just drifting.”
That’s something you could never accuse Larry Carpenter of doing. At the very least, he’s watching, and working; before our conversation at the Log House Museum concluded, he extracted a promise that we would at least consider the concept of becoming another member of his volunteer ranks.
This weekend, you’ll meet our third winner from the first-quarter West Seattle Community Recognition Awards, Paul Sureddin, a community leader in Fairmount Springs. Nominations are open now for our second-quarter awards — deadline is March 31st, but why not nominate someone now, while you’re thinking about it? Three people will be honored each quarter. Forms are available at Divina (California/Genesee) and other participating businesses, or you can download it here (it’s a Word doc so you can use “replace” and type the info “inline”), and e-mail the completed form to us at firstname.lastname@example.org; explanatory info is here. Then mark your calendar for the informal gathering at which we’ll announce the winners (here’s WSB coverage of the first event, last month), tentatively set for April 18.