Tom Carpenter, an attorney in the Menifee Valley for 40 years and one of the pioneer community servants in Sun City, died Thursday at his Menifee home after a long bout with prostate cancer. He was 79.
The last surviving charter member of the Sun City (now Menifee) Rotary Club, Carpenter was a fixture at community events. Although he retired from the Sun City law firm of Swan, Carpenter, Wallis and McKenzie in 2006, Carpenter continued to serve for years as a judge pro tem with the probate department of the Riverside Superior Court.
Virtually everyone who was involved in community service in the Menifee area knew Carpenter. In 1995, he received the Citizen of the Year Award by the Chamber of Commerce for his 25 years of commmunity service. Two years ago, he received the Chamber of Commerce Pioneer Award.
A member of the Rotary Club since 1966, Carpenter was a proud member of the service organization. In recent years, he enjoyed serving as judge in the club's "court," in which fines were assessed members for dubious rules infractions in order to raise funds.
Carpenter was always proud of Sun City's heritage and often referred to the Menifee Rotary Club by its original Sun City name.
"You realize how fast our history can get lost," Carpenter said in an April 2012 Menifee 24/7 feature article. "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."
A former U.S. Marine and graduate of the Loyola University School of Law in Chicago, Carpenter began his legal career in the midwest and came to Riverside in 1966 after being recruited by a law firm in the newly developed community of Sun City.
Carpenter spent the next 40 years specializing in estate planning, trust and probate law. In addition to his service through the Rotary Club and Chamber of Commerce, he was active in the Hemet Hospital Foundation, Valley Health System, Boy Scouts and many other organizations.
Other recognition he received for community volunteer leadership were the Glen Goodwill Leadership Award (Menifee Valley Medical Center Foundation, 1997); Roger Brubaker Leadership Award (Hemet Hospital Foundation, 1998); and Business Community Award, 2011 (business community pioneer, City of Menifee).
Known for his sense of humor, Carpenter would often laugh when recalling how people would say of him, "How do you know when Tom is serious? When his mouth is shut."
In the April Menifee 24/7 article, Carpenter spoke candidly about how he and his wife Vicki viewed life in light of his battle with cancer.
"I'm reconciled to the inevitable," he said at the time. "Vicki and I are in lockstep on this. We've seen too many cancer patients clutching at straws and making their life more miserable. Quality of life is what it's all about."
Carpenter is survived by his wife, Vicki, and children Tom, John, Lisa (Moser), Drew and Renee (Johnson), and brother, Raymond Carpenter. Also surviving him are seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the MSJC Foundation or to Hospice of the Valleys.