EAST NASSAU, N.Y. — After a long battle with ALS, Donald G. Carpentier, 62, passed away at home August 26, in the Historic Eastfield Village that he created, not as a museum, but as a laboratory where history could be preserved and studied by future generations.
“Eastfield Village, and the Early American Trades and Historic Preservation Workshops [annually held here], are the life work of a true renaissance man. Ever since he moved the first building, a blacksmith’s shop, into his father’s ‘east field’ in 1971, Don Carpentier has dedicated himself to mastering the skills and preserving the tools and artifacts of the crafts and trades people who built the country,” wrote the Historic Eastfield Foundation, which was organized to keep his work going.
A true renaissance man of his time, he was a self-taught craftsman, tinsmith, blacksmith, potter, carpenter, and mason, as well as a teacher, mentor, father, friend, husband, brother and uncle.
He is survived by his husband Scott Penpraze and stepson Bryce, daughter Hannah Carpentier, son Jared Carpentier, sisters Linda (Anthony) Covert, Ellen (Brian) Cypher and brother Jim (Caroline) Carpentier. He is also survived by six nieces and nephews and five grandnieces and nephews. Don is predeceased by his parents Donald C. Carpentier and Delores Bissett Carpentier.
Don was born September 22, 1951 in Knoxville, Tenn., before eventually moving to New York in 1954 and finally to East Nassau with his parents in 1966. He graduated from Averill Park High School in 1969 before attending Hudson Valley Community College for Civil Engineering and then graduating from Empire State College in 1972 with a bachelor’s degree in Historic Preservation.
After becoming interested in antiques as a child he started collecting bottles at 14 and began his first building, a colonial A-frame, at the age of 15. In 1968 he opened his first antique shop, Chicken Coop Antiques, where he bought and sold antiques, enabling him to fund his true passion, historic preservation.
Don’s efforts to preserve historic buildings began in 1971 when he moved a blacksmith’s shop into his father’s “east field.” He eventually dismantled and reassembled more than 20 historic buildings to create Eastfield Village, which serves as a working laboratory for students attending the Early American Trades and Historic Preservation Workshops, the longest-running historic preservation school in the country, now in its 38th year. Don became interested in mochaware pottery after discovering discarded shards while moving the William Briggs Tavern. He researched the era and techniques, rediscovered many lost skills and produced museum-quality reproductions of mochaware pottery that are in use by such prestigious institutions as Colonial Williamsburg and Old Sturbridge Village.
“He was a genius, a Renaissance man, an innovator, a mentor, and then just a great guy. He did not suffer fools but had a great tolerance for anyone who wanted to learn,” said Joy Hanes, Old Lyme, Conn. “I feel privileged to have been his friend and to have known him for about 20 years. His death leaves a great big hole in my life, and in the lives of his friends and family, and the world of American decorative arts.”
Don was proud to discover recently that he had descended from the Bissett and Price families of potters dating back to the Eighteenth Century. Don traveled to England many times in an effort to help preserve priceless molds from the Spode Pottery factory in Burslem, England as well as Falmouth, Jamaica to help consult with the World Monuments Fund.
He has earned many prestigious awards from museums and historical societies, the most recent being the Anne Hyde Clarke Logan Cultural Preservation Award and the distinction of Honorary Fellow of the Nantucket Historical Association.
Don was dedicated to his community and volunteered as an Assistant Scoutmaster in Troop 279 Latham, N.Y., for many years. He was also a member of the Nassau town board for nearly two decades where he earned a statewide reputation for his advocacy of protection of community character and home rule. He was instrumental in the creation of the town’s bicentennial program, committee on historic preservation and related programs, and particularly dedicated to expanding funding for highways and protections from toxic contaminations.
Don’s family would like to thank the ALS Center, 19 Warehouse Row, Albany NY, for its invaluable assistance during his illness, as well as the Hoags Corners Fire Company, 7237 NY 66, East Nassau, NY 12062, and the Nassau Ambulance for their services. In lieu of flowers the family welcomes donations in his memory to any of the charities noted above, as well as the Historic Eastfield Foundation, 3 Timber Lane, Glenmont, NY 12077.
A private celebration of life will take place for family and close friends.