In Memoriam – William “Bill” Carter – December 20, 1928 – October 18, 2016

In Memoriam – William “Bill” Carter – December 20, 1928 – October 18, 2016
At the lunch counter at Carter’s Pharmacy

Two months’ shy of his 88th birthday, Bill Carter – the head of Carter’s Pharmacy, the hub of Ortega Village for over 60 years – passed away Oct. 18. A Celebration of Life will be held Saturday, Dec. 3, 10 a.m., at Ortega United Methodist Church.

“Dad was proud that his grandson, Clayton Carter, is the Youth Minister of Fleming Island Methodist Church,” said his son, Greg Carter. “So in lieu of flowers, we would like donations to be made to the Carter Memorial Fund at Fleming Island UMC.”

The Ortega pharmacy was opened in 1955 by Paul Braden, who offered Bill Carter a partnership; it became Carter’s when he bought Braden out in 1967. In 1986, Carter opened a second pharmacy at the corner of Park and King Streets; it closed in 2009.

The Ortega pharmacy/soda fountain/lunch counter also served as a small business incubator of sorts. Butch Frazier launched a watch repair business from a little spot inside Carter’s Pharmacy to establish Frazier’s Jewelry next door.

“We never had a contract; just a handshake,” said Frazier of their 39-year association. “He was always so helpful, so generous. He was lighthearted and always asked what he could do to help – and meant it!” Gina Frazier, who works with her brother, said “Mr. Carter treated us like his kids” and noted that his passing is “the passing of an era.”

Carter’s has been operated by son Greg since 2002, but by popular demand he has kept the old-time feeling that is part of his father’s legacy – friendliness, home delivery and the soda fountain where folks have been gathering for years to eat and visit and do what Mr. Carter loved to do best – tell jokes.

Greg tells of his father teasing a regular customer who suffered from migraines that he had her “anti-husband pills” ready. A lot of the joking was about Bill’s alma mater, the University of Florida, where he received a degree in pharmacy. An avid football fan, he adamantly believed the Gators had never been beaten – even when they lost the game. “When Herschel Walker and the Georgia Bulldogs beat the Gators, 44-0, Dad insisted that it was poor coaching,” laughed Greg.

Longtime friend Fred Miller recalled an amusing story about two boys who went into the pharmacy on a hot July afternoon and proceeded to snitch a couple of ice cream bars and hide them in their pants pockets.

“He always had time to talk to you; he loved his work, he loved people. He cared about this community and this neighborhood.”

— Sally Simpson

“Mr. Carter never said a word about it. He just followed them outside and told them he wanted to talk to them a bit. He was a great talker. He kept them there telling stories until he was sure the ice cream had melted all over the place then just went back inside.” Miller chuckled and said, “He was a great guy with a great sense of humor.”

Tony Mobarak, who has run the Counter at Carter’s for five years, said, “You’re not going to find anybody like him. He was always making jokes; he called plain old tap water Ortega Mountain Spring Water.”

“Mr. Carter was such a well-liked guy,” said Jackie Griffin, who has worked at Carter’s Pharmacy in Ortega Village for 25 years. “We have people who come in from out of town to visit the pharmacy and talk about coming here as kids. We miss him so much. He considered us family and not just the people who worked here but their kids were family, too.”

Jeannie Hayes who has been employed at Carter’s for 17 years said tearfully, “It’s just too fresh to talk about, but he was a wonderful man.”

At once time, a spiral stenographer’s pad allowed customers to sign for items at the drugstore, a testimony to old-time trust and friendship. Kids flocked to Carter’s after school from St. Mark’s or Ortega Elementary to charge ice cream sodas, candy (sometimes for all their friends) and frequently way more than their parents authorized. Kids rode their bikes all over the neighborhood and the meeting place was, of course, Carter’s.

Winslow Colbert walked by Carter’s every afternoon on her way home from Ortega Elementary School. “Mr. Carter knew us all by name and was so friendly. We could get almost anything we wanted and say ‘charge it and ‘thank you,’” she recalled. “One day I went to Brownies at St. Mark’s and had forgotten to tell my mom that it was my turn to bring refreshments. I went to Carter’s in tears and Mr. Carter made 20 soda fountain drinks and helped me take them upstairs at St. Mark’s to the meeting.”

Sally Simpson and Sister Utsey are part of the regular lunch bunch at the Counter at Carter’s. “Mr. Carter – everyone called him Mister Carter –  cared about everybody,” said Simpson. “He always had time to talk to you; he loved his work, he loved people. He cared about this community and this neighborhood.” 

Church friends, neighbors, family, customers and employees all agree Bill Carter was generous to a fault.

“Dad grew up dirt poor during the Depression,” said Greg. “Sometimes charitable organizations would bring food and clothes to their house to help out. He had a lot of sympathy for people. If your car was broken down or you needed clothes, he’d take care of it but always incognito.” Ortega friends and neighbors recall him lending a wheelchair or walker to someone who needed a helping hand with an ailing loved one, saying, “Just bring it back when you’re finished with it.”

“When my husband was sick, I would go to Carter’s Pharmacy for his prescriptions and Bill would send a milkshake home for my husband from the lunch counter,” said Nancy Schwanbeck, Carter’s Ortega Forest neighbor for more than 30 years. “He and Helen were just so thoughtful and generous; they did a lot but they never talked about it.”

Scott Lucas, former youth director at Ortega United Methodist Church, remembered how Carter would call and ask if he needed anything for the young people, then donate over and beyond the amount needed. Carter was the first to help a baseball team, acquire a church van for the youth or help an employee.

Bill Carter combined his love of people with community service as chairman of the Duval County School Board and as president of the Jacksonville City Council from 1979-1985 and as an active member of Ortega UMC.

He was predeceased by his wife of 58 years and son William (Chip), Jr. He leaves behind sons, Greg Carter and Steve Hyers, and daughters, Ericka Carter, Valerie Mitchell and Robin Grace, 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

By Peggy Harrell Jennings
Resident Community News

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