Cynthia Root Carter




Cynthia Carter

Cynthia Carter

Cynthia Root Carter, born in Hood River, Oregon six months to the day after the Titanic sank in 1912, died on March 22, 2016 at her home in Washington State.  The journey between its launch and its conclusion 137 miles away took Cynthia’s life to every continent except Australia.  Afraid to travel alone more than a few local miles behind the wheel of her car, she traveled often, fearlessly and enthusiastically, when her husband, the late Robert S. Carter, escorted her.

Cynthia visited far too many destinations to include here, but listing only the places she visited that start with the letter “A” (and only some of these) suggests the scope of her travels:




Angkor Wat (and much of Asia)



The Antilles, Greater and Lesser

Antalya in Anatolia

Africa (north coast only)

Atlantic Ocean, westbound by sail


Cynthia and Bob first met as young children vacationing with their families on CYNTHIA CARTERBailey Island off the coast of Maine.  They learned early to love the sea and sailed extensively, initially in their small sloops and eventually, starting in 1967, in their 44–foot ketch.  Following the custom of down-east mariners, the ketch, whose layout Cynthia helped Bob design, bore the name of its captain’s sweetheart, Cynthia R, on her transom.  And out of their deep love for the island and its water, Cynthia’s family placed the bulk of their Bailey Island property, including the undeveloped head of the island’s Mackerel Cove, in permanent nature conservancy.

Cynthia’s family roots were firmly planted in old eastern U.S. soil.  Cynthia’s mother, Eleanor Hastings Root, an aspiring opera singer, descended from George Washington’s maternal grandfather by his first wife.  Her great-grandfather, George F. Root, was a leading composer of popular music in the mid-19th century.  His The Battle Cry of Freedom and Tramp, Tramp, Tramp became rallying standards for Union troops fighting the Civil War.  Cynthia’s musical gene, though she never exploited it, gave her a uniquely rich and lilting singing voice.  Still, when recordings or other singers prompted her, she could and did softly sing many dozens of Broadway tunes and other popular standbys, always word for word and in perfect pitch, into her second century.

Cynthia replanted her eastern roots when a record freeze wiped out her family’s young apple orchard at the foot of Mount Hood in 1917-18, forcing the family’s permanent return to New York City.  She attended the Packer School and graduated from Wellesley College, majoring in art history, in 1934.  She worked as an assistant curator of the Brooklyn Museum of Art for several years before marrying Bob on New Year’s Eve, 1937.

She is survived by her son Lief Hastings Carter and his wife, Marilyn Vickers, of Athens, Georgia, and by her daughter Delight Carter Willing of Bainbridge Island, Washington.  Her grandchildren Stephen Hastings Carter, his wife Kelly Miller and Cynthia’s two great-granddaughters, of Brooklyn, N.Y., also survive her as do Robert Benjamin Carter and his wife, Susan Kwasniak, of Dallas, Texas, and Laura Elizabeth Carter of Athens, Georgia.

She returned to the Pacific Northwest in 1951 when General of America Insurance (now Safeco) in Seattle hired Bob Carter to begin a division of marine insurance for the company.  They purchased two acres on the eastern shore of Lake Washington in 1952, where they kept sheep, daughter Delight kept a horse, and one year raised a steer, though in this case even its hamburger was tough.

Typical for her generation, Cynthia’s primary mission in life was to care for her husband and children.  She would never have chosen without Bob’s determined planning to “sail” their sloop Carib from New York City to Chicago via rivers, canals, and other inland waterways in 1949. Nor would she have chosen to be the first (and only) mate on the first small cruising sailboat ever recorded to have circumnavigated Vancouver Island, or to cruise the Mediterranean and much of western Europe on Cynthia R for over a decade.  Among other adventures, they cruised by various rivers and canals, traversing hundreds of locks in the process, from the Med to and around the Baltic sea and western Norway,  Then they retraced their steps.  In the Med they discovered a partially sunken city on the southern coast of Turkey.  Archeologists had lost track of the site’s existence.  Bob and Cynthia supported archeological research at the site for the ensuing 20 years, and these investigations determined that the site was ancient Aperlae, a producer of murex snail royal blue dye highly desired by Roman nobility.

 She made these and many other voyages with and for Bob, but her real passion apart from her family remained art.  In her middle 70s, when the annual summer voyages began to shorten, Cynthia took up Sumi-E oriental drawing and water coloring.  She made quick progress and came to quietly admire her works, yet she proceeded merely to put them in folders and move on.  But relatives insisted on framing the best works–of a pine branch with a few clusters of needles, two columbine flowers, a single iris stalk and blossom–and putting them on their walls.

Those who knew her found it hard to reconcile Cynthia’s reluctance to share her lovely singing voice and her artistic talents with her outgoing social graces.  Her empathy for both strangers in need and those close to her was limitless.  Born before women had a universal right to vote, she was an avid supporter of the League of Women Voters and a lifelong Democrat.

To call her a “people person” understates her nature.  Cynthia was, to her core, instinctively and preternaturally a superb hostess both at home and on the sea.  Until her last weeks, and long after arthritis confined her to the wheelchair in which she occasionally nodded off in her last few years, arriving visitors, often unexpected (at least in her mind), would instantly get an alert and smiling welcome they didn’t forget.  Countless times her offspring heard people, even those who who knew her only slightly, say “We just love your mother. She’s amazing.”  The offspring heartily agree.

Cynthia Carter

8 Responses to “Cynthia Root Carter”

  • Ginney Rankin says:

    Lief, I’m sorry I never met your mother, but from reading her obituary, she was a wonderful woman. My sincerest sympathy to you and your entire family.


  • Joyce Lhamon says:

    Delight, I always admired your parents and am glad to have known your mother through many years. She was remarkable.

  • Trese Williamson says:

    What a special lady honored by this wonderful tribute. I can see where you got your wanderlust, Delight!

  • Shaun Stephenson says:

    Delight, What a wonderful tribute, I am sorry that I was not able to meet her. You must be very proud to have such an accomplished Mother.

  • Chantelle Butler says:

    It was an honor to be invited to her last Birthday and meet such a lovely and witty lady. She will be greatly missed, but her adventurous spirit and admirable character will surely be remembered forever.

  • Anne Air says:

    Delight and Lief— What a rich and exciting family history you share! This was a beautifully (and lovingly) written insight into a woman’s life that was truly “well-lived”. Thank you for sharing. I do wish I had known her. Anne Air

  • Cam & Marilyn Hinman says:

    Delight and Lief, we met Cynthia and Bob on another of their adventures, crewing aboard the three masted tall ship TOLE MOUR from Hawai’i to the Marshall Islands. We are so very fortunate to have enjoyed her friendship for 27 years and their Medina hospitality numerous times. We concur, Cynthia was a remarkable lady.

  • Robert Lindley Vann says:

    My name is Lindley Vann and I was fortunate to know Bob and Cynthia years ago when they supported my archaeological work at Aperlae. We are soon publishing a final report and would like to share this with the family. Bob provided us with a Foreword that is included in the final manuscript.

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