LOS GATOS -- Peter Carter, 70, a photographer and former advertising executive who made his mark as a social leader in Los Gatos, died Wednesday night from a fall at his home.
A bon vivant who loved cooking, wine, music and politics, Carter had a natural flair for bringing people together, often honoring his many acquaintances with gifts of his photos.
His friends said the genial, white-haired Los Gatos man fell down the steep staircase of his Victorian home at 45 Broadway shortly before midnight.
A friend, Jonathan Knowles, said Carter had been out to a dinner earlier with the Los Gatos Social Club and had left a birthday present behind. A social club member was returning the gift and had rung the doorbell that Carter was attempting to answer when the accident occurred.
Carter was pronounced dead at Good Samaritan Hospital after rescuers were unable to revive him. He had turned 70 two weeks before.
The news left Los Gatos residents shocked. "He was a one-of-a-kind guy who probably contributed more to the social life of Los Gatos than any other single person," said public relations executive Brenna Bolger.
A man who could savor a spicy conversation and still maintain a cutting-edge knowledge of digital photography and music, Carter knew how to seize the moment for a party.
When redistricting meant that Los Gatos moved from Mike Honda's congressional district to Anna Eshoo's, Carter co-hosted a "passing the
"He simply loved being around people," said his widow, Dennise Carter, who explained that her husband's goal had been to spend time with the people who would most regret his passing.
Peter Scott Carter was born in San Diego on Feb. 20, 1943, the son of a military paratroop trainer and a homemaker. His family moved in 1957 to Santa Clara, where Carter enrolled in local schools and graduated from Bellarmine College Prep in 1961.
Wanting to attend college as far away as possible from the West Coast, Carter went to Georgetown University, where he was the editor of the yearbook.
While still at Georgetown, Carter married Michelle Villere, a descendant of early French settlers in Louisiana. To support his young family, he took up photography.
After a brief sojourn in Louisiana, the Carters moved back to California in the late 1960s, where he ran an advertising and public relations firm known as Carter, Callahan and later, Carter Waxman.
The ad executive survived financial ups and downs and eventually returned to the craft of photography, earning fees with his architectural photos of Silicon Valley buildings.
His first wife, Michelle, died of cancer in early 1986. In December 1987, Carter married Dennise McNulty, a nonprofit executive.
The Carter home was known for its conviviality and openness: Carter was a member of a group of wine collectors who vied to outdo one another in marrying wine with food.
While a respected cook, Carter lost his chance at the "Purple Foot" award, the group's highest honor, when he served liver and onions one year.
He also dabbled in politics. While Carter was a staunch Republican, he frequently helped Democrats he liked, aiding Mayors Tom McEnery and Ron Gonzales, as well as state Sen. Al Alquist.
"He wasn't bashful about telling you what his beliefs were and why he might disagree with you," said Assessor Larry Stone. "But he never cut off a friendship because of politics."
Carter is survived by his wife and two sons by his first marriage, Scott and Shawn. Funeral arrangements are pending.