Sun City Business Pioneer Tom Carpenter Retains Positive Influence on Community

In his 78 years, Tom Carpenter has had his hand in a lot of projects. As a teenager, Carpenter ser...

tomIn his 78 years, Tom Carpenter has had his hand in a lot of projects.

As a teenager, Carpenter served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Korea. After graduating from the Loyola University School of Law, he worked briefly in his native Chicago as trust manager of a bank. That led to an offer to move out west to Riverside, where he served as a regional trust officer before being recruited in 1966 by a law firm in a newly developed community called Sun City.

"I told them I don't want to chase ambulances," Carpenter said, "but I did want to try my hand at estate planning. I decided if I didn't try private practice, it would haunt me the rest of my life."

Carpenter spent the next 40 years specializing in estate planning, trust and probate law, becoming a partner in the law firm of Swan, Carpenter, Wallis and McKenzie. He retired from the firm in 2006, but he certainly hasn't disappeared.

"I never learned to play golf," he said.

That's probably just as well, because when would he find the time? Carpenter remains active in the Rotary Club of Menifee, which he joined in 1966; claims the title of "the only vertical charter member" of the Menifee Valley (Sun City) Chamber of Commerce; and serves as a judge pro tem with the probate department of the Riverside Superior Court. In his spare time, he enjoys a new-found hobby of photography.

"One of these days, I have to figure out what I want to be when I grow up," Carpenter said with a smile.

Last year, Carpenter was presented with the Chamber of Commerce Pioneer Award in recognition of his long service to the community. Even though Carpenter lived for several years in Riverside and San Jacinto before moving here, he has worked and served in the Sun City/Menifee community for nearly half a century.

Notice the slash in the previous reference to this community. Although Sun City was included in the incorporation of the City of Menifee in 2008, Carpenter refuses to let go of his Sun City roots. When Rotary Club members sing in tribute to "Menifee" during each weekly meeting, one voice from the back of room shouts "Sun City!" instead.

"You realize how fast our history can get lost," Carpenter said. "Certain people in the city want to disassociate themselves from the term Sun City. B.S.! As long as people are alive who remember Sun City, that's the way it should be referred to."

No one ever accused Tom Carpenter of being soft-spoken. As opinionated in social settings as he is professional in the court room, Carpenter retains a sense of humor in all he does.

Talking about his decision to quit high school at age 17 to join the Marines, Carpenter says, "I was afraid they would run out of wars for me to fight in." He describes his work as a judge pro tem as a "replacement" for full-time judges who would "have to deal with people who are fighting over silverware" in arbitration cases.

"People ask, 'How do you know when Tom is serious?' " Carpenter said. "The answer? 'When his mouth is shut.' "