Peter Carter lived large. The longtime Los Gatos resident, who passed away last week, left a mark in town that will not soon be forgotten.
Peter died in a March 6 accident when he fell down the stairs at his Victorian home on Broadway as he went to answer the door for a friend who was delivering a birthday present.
Peter turned 70 on Feb. 20. That milestone birthday was celebrated by his many friends in the Los Gatos Social Club, which met regularly on Wednesdays for cocktails and dinner. Peter co-founded the group, taking the merry band to Gardinos Restaurant on most Wednesday nights, but also patronizing many other Los Gatos establishments. The list includes Opa! on N. Santa Cruz Avenue, where Peter's Broadway neighbor Athena Pugliese worked.
"Right after we opened in April 2009, Peter arranged for the social club to come," Pugliese said. "It was our first big party. Peter was so proud to promote all of these wonderful mom and pop shops and restaurants in town. He wanted your business to do well. I consider Peter 'Mr. Los Gatos.' He should have been mayor."
Promotion came easy to Peter, who for 30 years ran the advertising and public relations agency in downtown San Jose that was variously known as Carter Callahan, Carter Waxman and Carter Israel.
When former Santa Clara County schools chief Colleen Wilcox came to town 20 years ago, she hired Peter's firm to do some work for her and they became fast friends. "Peter was one of the most extraordinary individuals I've ever known," Wilcox said. "He was filled with love and passion. His presence affirmed and validated people."
Childhood friend Jon Anderson, who met Peter in 1960, described him as a "really talented guy."
"We traveled in the same circles even though he went to Bellarmine Prep and I went to Los Gatos High School," Anderson said. "As we grew up, got married and had kids, we stuck together."
Peter was born in San Diego and moved with his family to the Santa Clara Valley in 1957.
He attended Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., graduating in 1965. It was there that he met and married his first wife, Michelle Villere, who passed away in 1986.
Peter married Dennise McNulty on Dec. 27, 1987. Together, they celebrated life with a constant stream of family and friends enjoying fine food and fine wine at their Broadway home.
When Peter returned to Los Gatos in the late 1960s, he picked up with his old friend Jon Anderson, while at the same time making many new friends. "He had to know everybody there was to know, but he had a close inner circle of friends. Not everyone in this world is a great friend. He was mine," Anderson said.
Peter was well known for his quick wit and sense of humor that are reflected in an ongoing game he and Anderson played with each other.
"For the last 40 years we'd call each other on Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. Sometimes we'd dial and dial until one of us picked up," Anderson said. "The first to wake the other up won the game."
Anderson said Peter was particularly proud of his backyard garden that he worked on tirelessly. Los Gatans benefited from his gardening skills as well. He and his wife Dennise adopted a couple of planter boxes on N. Santa Cruz Avenue, sharing the gardening chores with friends Jonathan and Kelly Knowles.
A deeply saddened Jonathan Knowles called Peter a "pillar of the community."
Knowles also noted that Peter "often ended his social club emails with the phrase, 'Keep calm. Carry on.' What Peter Carter would want us to do is carry on."
Peter was an active member of the Los Gatos Music & Arts Committee that organizes the Music in the Park and Jazz on the Plazz concerts. He was also a member of the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Foundation board of directors and a longtime member of the San Jose Rotary Club.
An accomplished photographer, Peter's photos often appeared in the Los Gatos Weekly-Times.
Peter's love of photography was evident during the 2011 Los Gatos Children's Christmas and Holidays Parade when he ran up and down N. Santa Cruz Avenue shooting photos of all the floats, bands and dignitaries. "He was a really good photographer," Anderson said.
Peter is survived by his wife Dennise McNulty Carter, sons Scott and Shawn and four grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held April 6 at the Mission Church at Santa Clara University. A time for the service has not been set.
Scott Herhold contributed to this story.