Mary Lesnett Carpenter was born Mary Allie Lesnett to Robert and Allie Lesnett on Aug. 15, 1926, in Los Angeles, the city she loved and served throughout her life.
She died in Santa Barbara on June 17 at age 91.
Mary grew up in Hancock Park with her older brother Robert (Bob) and younger sister Marjorie (Margie). She attended Third Street Elementary and John Burroughs Junior High, as did a boy named Jack Carpenter, four years her senior, who would be her husband. Mary spent her high school years at Marlborough School, where she made lifelong friends, graduating in 1944.
Her love of literature and music emerged early on. At 17, Mary boarded the Coast Daylight to head north to Stanford University. Mary thrived at Stanford, and it was there she met John “Jack” Dexter Carpenter upon his return from military service in 1946. They wed in 1948 after Mary earned her B.A. in political science.
Mary and Jack raised their three children in the Palisades, where they made their home for 40 years on Alma Real Drive in a house built by longtime friend and fellow Palisadian Phil Prince.
A member of the Assistance League of Los Angeles’ Nine O’Clock Players (NOP) for 59 years, Mary played the piano and acted in numerous NOP productions. She also volunteered in a music mobile that visited LA-area schools to introduce students to various musical instruments. She held season tickets to The Music Center and served on the LA Philharmonic Committee.
Mary served as president of the Westside Guild of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She was a longtime member of the Junior League and National Charity League, both of LA, and gave bus tours of the city during the 1984 Olympics. Her husband Jack took Mary to Dodgers games; Mary took Jack to the Hollywood Bowl and Dorothy Chandler.
In the Palisades, Mary played weekly games of tennis and paddle tennis, drove carpools of notable acclaim, and belonged for many years to her “Bitch and Stitch” sewing club. She and Jack were longtime members of Calvary Church and loved to host summer evenings of croquet and dinner in their backyard.
Mary and Jack retired to Solvang, living on the Alisal Guest Ranch, where the family has gathered for Thanksgiving for more than 40 years. There Mary stayed connected to Los Angeles, attending The Music Center’s Friday concert series with longtime friends from the Palisades.
More than anything, Mary loved hosting her six grandchildren at her home in Solvang and looked forward to their many visits over the years.
In 2013 Mary and Jack celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary and attended Mary’s 65th Stanford reunion. After Jack’s death, Mary took a trip with two of her adult children to the Hudson River Valley, discovered a talent for painting, and visited friends and relatives in LA and San Francisco.
Mary leaves a strong legacy of family, faith, community and making the most of what was given her at every stage of life, particularly her last. In recent years she inspired many people with her tenacious will to live and engage.
She was known for her quiet strength, sharp intellect, gracious spirit, elegant way of acting and dressing, and her many kind gestures, particularly her handwritten notes. Mary always had a book going and could rock a string of pearls, hat and handbag to rival Audrey and Jackie.
Mary is predeceased by the guy who swept her off her feet with his charm and his Studebaker in 1946, her adored and adoring husband Jack Carpenter.
She comes home to her beloved Los Angeles to be laid to rest beside her parents, Robert Lane and Allie Meek Lesnett, her brother Robert Lane Lesnett, Jr., and her sister-in-law and Marlborough classmate Shirley Gage Lesnett.
She is survived by her sister Marjorie Alden and by her three children William Lesnett Carpenter (Kathy), John Bruce Carpenter and Alison Carpenter Davis (Kirk). She also leaves six grandchildren to whom she gave her time, energy and chocolate-surprise cookies: Jacqueline Makaleka Smith (Zachary), Jackson Crist Davis, Stephanie Malia Carpenter, Emily Lesnett Davis, Robert William Carpenter and Eleanor Carpenter Davis, as well as her two great-grandchildren, Madeleine and James Smith, and her nieces and nephews.
A memorial service will be held Friday, Aug. 3, at 3 p.m. at Calvary Church, located at 701 Palisades Drive, with a reception to follow.
Contributions to honor Mary may be made to the Nine O’Clock Players (nineoclockplayers.com), which has brought musical theater to Los Angeles children since 1929, and to Spotlight, The Music Center’s scholarship and arts training program for high school students (musiccenter.org/support/ways-to-give/support-the-spotlight).
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