Carter 'Pete' Willsey

Pete Willsey

Carter Willsey – aka “Carts,” aka “Pete” – died December 14, 2019 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City after a long struggle with cancer. His closest friends and family, including Ted Swenson and Dave Stevens, visited him at the hospital to say goodbye. “I was his roommate for all four years at Yale and have stayed close to him and his dear bride Judy and daughter Frannie ever since,” says Dave. “He played such an immense role in my life for the 56 years since we moved in that day in 1963 as roommates in Farnam/Saybrook. From that day until Ted and I said goodbye to him in his hospital bed, we felt it was a special honor to be Carter Willsey’s close friends.

“He arrived at Yale from Oakwood High School in Dayton, Ohio, and we always razzed him about his humble beginnings, though he was an academic and athletic star and class leader while there. My luck to be placed as his freshman roommate and to maintain our roommate status along with Ted for the next three years made our Yale experience all the more special. Pete was a special Yalie – smart, handsome, hard-working, loyal, fun-loving, and a fine rower were the strengths that stuck with him all his life. We even exchanged dates once. I’ll never forget when I was breaking up with my date for the Junior Prom and Carts asked if he could take her over, which he did after I said okay.

“Accolades have poured in to me about Pete from all sides, especially from Freshman Crew folks like Narelle Kirkland, Alec Kerr, Bob Ramage, and Bob Emmet. A devoted classmate, Carts’ picture pops up all over our 1967 Class Book for all the committees he participated in. After Yale we continued to stay in close touch. When he was searching during the war protest period, he joined me as a teacher at The Gunnery, where he became a very popular teacher of German and Math and coached cross country. Later on, Carts became Ted’s and my coach and mentor when we ran the NY Marathon four times together.

“He finally got marriage right by meeting his dear Judy, settling down in White Plains, and they both invested in a rental property with me in the Hamptons, where he loved sailing and partying with family and friends. He and Judy created an enduring and extremely successful framing and arts business in Armonk serving the region. It is called ‘Framings,’ right in the center of Armonk. Any classmates in the area should stop in to meet Judy personally and get their favorite pictures framed by her. She is a master at the craft and gratefully welcomes all Yalies! We are sure she would appreciate meeting you and hearing your memories of Carts.

“Carts fought various cancers for 3 years and he fought hard because of his tremendous lust for life.  He was especially proud to host his daughter Frannie’s wedding last year and then he came to my Cinco de Mayo birthday party where we had one last celebration. Ted and I and our wives Joany and Charlee already miss our lifetime friend immensely, but we know he is keeping a watchful eye on us from on high. RIP Carter.”

Barry Chase says, “I remember him so vividly and warmly, as would anyone who saw him smile. Very tough losing someone like Pete.” Alex Kerr adds, “What I remember most about Pete was his infectious humor. No matter the gravity of the situation, he was able to relax us all with an incredible one-liner. He was a strong oarsman, a good college friend, and a wonderful human being. His courage during his illness was remarkable. He showed us how to die. I shall miss him.” Dan Jones recalls, “Pete, known on the Frosh crew as ‘Pie,’ was and always will be remembered as a great boatmate on a crew that has remained very close.”

And the last word goes to Narelle Kirkland: “Pete’s passing leaves a permanent gap in the lives of those who have had the pleasure, and good luck, of being his friend. All he had to do was to merely show up at a gathering; everybody there would be uplifted. His heartfelt smile did more than dazzle; it made people feel welcomed and significant. When in his presence, there was no need to go hither and yon around the world seeking bright inspiration or fulfillment by the earth’s great treasures. In his presence, you already had arrived!

“Pete’s personality made him a gift to everyone who knew him. The expression ‘he could light up the room’ should be a part of his permanent memorial. At Yale he easily left all of us rowers in the dust when we’d undergo our annual 6-mile run, yet the coach never appreciated his dogged determination to be a member of the crew. However, we did. His good friends will attest that he was genuinely ‘a man’s man,’ yet he was completely free of artifice and personal prejudice. My life has been made more whole and worthwhile for having been his friend, though our time together seems now to have been far too brief. Thank you, Pete, for sharing your smiling self with so many of us.”

Judy, Carter (Pete) and Franny Willsey