Talking to some of Peter Carter's many friends and reading the heartfelt messages posted on Facebook Thursday, a shared sentiment emerged: This was a man who had a zest for life and loved every moment of it.

Carter, who turned 70 last month, died Wednesday night after a fall at his Los Gatos home, sending a shock wave of grief through the valley social scene. I had known Carter and his wife, Dennise McNulty Carter, only a few years, but it didn't take long to sense that the longtime San Jose advertising executive was a special personality.

With a movie-star face and a mane of silver hair, Carter was a fixture at South Bay events, from black-tie affairs like the San Jose Rotary Club gala last Saturday to the weekly soirees of the Los Gatos Social Club, where he'll be sorely missed. And more often than not, there would be a camera lens between you.

I always got the impression that photographing people was more of an art and a joy for him than it ever was a job. A few months ago, he was photographing guests at a Celebrity Forum reception with former President Bill Clinton, an impressive gig to be sure. But even there he made a point of telling my wife and me how his favorite photos of us were the ones he took with our kids. He knew how to melt a mom's heart for sure.

Those of us who knew him will miss Peter Carter's stories, his famous Manhattans and, most of all, his company. Those who didn't know him can still take a lesson from his life: Enjoy every minute of it, and capture as much as you can along the way.


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STAGE FLASHBACK: Pioneer High School drama teacher Steve Dini says new principal Stefani Garino was thrilled to hear the school's spring musical was "Hello, Dolly." It turns out she was a chorus member in the iconic toe-tapper when she was a student at Willow Glen High School back in the day.

The show, which runs for six 7 p.m. performances starting March 15, is Dini's 99th directorial effort.

COMING UP: There's another Silicon Valley Reads event that touches on this year's theme, "the invisible wounds of war." A panel discussion at San Jose's Tech Museum on Sunday will cover what deployment in a war zone is like for journalists and others, including former Sunnyvale Mayor Otto Lee, who went to Iraq as a Naval reservist.

The 2 p.m. talk is free, but space is limited. RSVP to SVReads@aol.com.

Contact Sal Pizarro at spizarro@mercurynews.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/spizarro.