Michael Paden Carpenter– artist, broadcast journalist, writer, philosopher and beloved curmudgeon—died September 22 in Edmond after a two-year struggle with cancer. He was 60.
The Sage of the morning coffee crowd at The Red Cup (he designed the establishment’s iconic logo) left this existence amidst an outpouring of love and admiration from his many friends he called “the most remarkable thing” about the last two years of his life.
Michael was born on December 30, 1952 in Oklahoma City. By his own frank account, his childhood years were not easy, growing up in a home scarred by alcoholism and domestic strife.
He graduated from Fair Park High School in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1970. By the time he was a student at the University of Central Oklahoma, his immense talents, scalpel-sharp wit and wry view of the world were already gaining him a growing circle of friends and admirers, who appreciated his insight, humor and brutal honesty.
“Carp”—as his friends affectionately called him–would go on to work in radio and then television as a reporter and anchor. (“I’m not really a journalist,” he wrote, “but I played one on TV.”) In truth, he was an award-winning journalist, whose reporting and writing styles were the envy of his peers. He covered the Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City in 1995 and was the first journalist to correctly predict the link between that tragedy and events in Waco, Texas in 1993. He worked at Oklahoma City radio station KOMA-AM, and at KOCO-TV and KWTV. His career included Tulsa’s KOTV and news organizations in San Jose, California and San Antonio, Texas. Prior to his retirement, Michael also worked for the City of Oklahoma City, producing video and web content .
As Michael lived with the knowledge that his remaining time was short, he told friends that his circumstances had made him reexamine his relationship with the world—and people—surrounding him. “I’ve developed a new awareness and appreciation of all sorts of little things that I had previously only scarcely noticed,” he wrote.
“When I scratch the cat’s ears, I notice how his fur feels between my fingertips. When I’m outdoors, colors seem more vivid and saturated. When it’s not cloudy, the sun seems brighter. When someone says to me, ‘good morning,’ it seems more sincere. I had read that these things sometimes happen, but I thought the authors were speaking figuratively. They weren’t.”
He would tell his friends that in spite of his cancer and prognosis, the last two years were the best in his life.
Michael is survived by his love, Rebekah Ray, his former wife Gwen Carpenter, the many devoted friends who rallied around him and cared for him, his stepmother, Sylvia Carpenter of Arkansas and an aunt, Ava Paden of Virginia, as well as many cousins.
Mike will be remembered by his friends at a memorial on September 29 at The Red Cup from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Contributed by Don Sherry.