Pamela Van Dusen Carpenter, 79, mother and volunteer

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Pamela Van Dusen Carpenter

Pamela Van Dusen Carpenter, 79, of East Falls, a mother and volunteer, died Friday, Sept. 18, of complications from progressive supranuclear palsy at home.

A "displaced Minnesotan," Mrs. Carpenter came to Philadelphia in 1966 with her husband, John, an Episcopal priest. The family lived for two years in Port Richmond, where he was vicar at St. George's and Holy Redeemer Parish.In 1968, the two moved to Center City so he could attend law school. He joined the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, and Mrs. Carpenter embraced Center City life with her five small children.

Mrs. Carpenter made her home into a hub for neighborhood youngsters.

"She once explained that if she had all the neighborhood kids over, then she knew where her own kids were," said daughter Rachel.

Mrs. Carpenter volunteered at Greenfield School as one of the first instructors in the Great Books Program, and ran the flea-market booth of the Spring Fair for many years.

She served on the board of the YWCA in Center City. She stuffed envelopes for an antinuclear action campaign. She served on the vestry of Trinity Memorial Church at 22d and Spruce Streets, and was a Girl Scout troop leader.

In the 1980s, she began working outside the home, first as a bookkeeper at William H. Allen Bookseller at 20th and Walnut Streets. From 1986 until her retirement in 1997, she worked in the career placement office of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. She began as a receptionist and became the librarian after creating the library.

In the 34 years she lived in Center City and the 15 she lived in East Falls, Mrs. Carpenter made countless friends, some of whom lived with the family for months at a time.

"She was the kind lady who smiled at strangers, kept her doors open for all the neighborhood, and became . . . 'everyone's mom,' " said her daughter.

She was an avid photographer. She prized her Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic camera and made good use of it.

During the last years of her life, she met the challenges of a rare and debilitating neurological illness, progressive supranuclear palsy, with courage and grace, her daughter said.

Born in Minneapolis in 1936, Mrs. Carpenter graduated from Northrop Collegiate School in 1954 and received a bachelor's degree in English from Smith College in 1958.

Besides her husband of 57 years, she is survived by daughters Sarah, Jennifer, and Mary; son E. Gilbert "Gib"; five grandchildren; a sister and a twin brother; and nieces and nephews.

A funeral service is to be at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 1625 Locust St. Burial is private.

Donations may be made to CurePSP, progressive supranuclear palsy, via www.psp.org/donate/ways-to-give.html

bcook@phillynews.com

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