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Obituary: Alice Betts Carpenter

Longtime Scripps employee, teacher, grandmother, reader, traveler, friend

Alice Betts Carpenter, resident of Mt. San Antonio Gardens in Pomona, wife of Charles Carpenter, and longtime friend of the Claremont Colleges, died peacefully on July 18 at the age of 85 after contending with dementia for several years.

Born November 7, 1935 and raised in Long Beach, the daughter of Fredrick and Dorothy Betts, Alice spent childhood summers in Big Timber, Montana and Mt. Baldy, California.

One of her first jobs while in high school was professional gift wrapper, imparting skills that brought a special panache to many subsequent family Christmases. She graduated from Scripps College (B.A., philosophy, 1957), married Charles Carpenter, and brought three sons into this world. When her boys were (almost) done being babies, she went back to university for an advanced degree in British literature (M.A., UCLA, 1967).

During her professional career, she lived and taught in Bakersfield, California and North Haven, Connecticut, where she also worked as assistant to the editor for the Journal of Experimental Psychology at Yale. In the 1970s, she came back to Claremont, serving at Scripps College as director of alumnae relations and secretary to the board of trustees from 1977 until 1997.

“Alice Carpenter was unstinting in her devotion to her husband and three sons, in each of whom she tried her best to cultivate an awareness of the world’s beauty in all its forms,” her family shared. “Epitome of grace, quick to make friends, but private in her core, Alice’s great passion (apart from her family) was her love of books and the friendships that spring from sharing ideas, preferably outdoors in the shade, with flowers but no bugs, plenty of food and drink for all.”

She was a team player on family camping trips, but no fan of roughing it. She played a decent game of tennis, though, and was a creative, discerning traveler who brought her native curiosity and literate eye to places far and wide. She trekked in the Himalaya—content to walk all day, so long as there were no big hills—and admired machicolated parapets on more than one Scripps alumnae trip to Europe. She was beloved for her eclectic culinary skills: tamale pie, grit soufflé on New Year’s morning, and an iconic mid-century tuna fish and potato chip casserole.

A lover of the written word, she traded a possible life of scholarship for the monumental project of being an unfailingly really good mom to three sons. In lieu of a literary career, she will be remembered for good-humored, razor-sharp little poems she’d dispense when the time was right and Christmas letters of understated wit and clarity.

She is survived by Charles Carpenter, her husband of 64 years; brother Fredrick Betts of Atlanta; sons Chris, Paul and David; and grandchildren Jack, Michael, Melanie and Audrey.

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