McCarter, ferry worker, KHNS volunteer, dies at 67


Mick McCarter

Mick McCarter, a former KHNS volunteer and board member died Saturday, Aug.  6, of apparent heart failure at his home in Hermann, Mo., according to his wife Michele Fehlings. He was 67.

Friends will gather at the distillery at 5:30 p.m. Saturday to remember him and are encouraged to wear "anything Irish," friend Margaret Sebens said.   

  McCarter moved to Haines in 2002, buying a home at Lutak and taking on a regular volunteer shift at KHNS, as well as filling in for others.  "He was passionate about the station," Sebens said, recalling fundraisers when McCarter's wife had to cut him off, as he kept raising his pledge amount. "Mick seemed to really love human connections, and you could hear that when he was on the radio," Sebens said. "He was an extremely warm, kind person, and he believed in doing good and making others happy."

  "Mick always used to say he liked handing out 'audio flowers,' over the radio. He absolutely loved it," Fehlings said.

  Michael McCarter was born Nov. 12, 1948, in Coatesville, Pa. to Samuel and Florence McCarter. The poor, Irish family included 21 children when Mick's brother Jack and his wife took in Mick and seven other young siblings. Jack worked in a steel mill before starting his own decorating business, where Mick learned the trade.  

After high school, McCarter earned an education degree from Millersville State College, though he never pursued teaching except as an occasional substitute. Instead, he joined in the family business as a painter and wallpaper hanger. He was married twice in Pennsylvania and had one child. In the early 1980s, he took an Alaskan road trip that included a visit to Skagway.  "He fell in love with Alaska, and he decided to leave Pennsylvania and his life there," Fehlings said.

  McCarter worked in Dutch Harbor processing fish before making his way back to Skagway and settling there. "He really appreciated the spirit of the town, how many people were there because they wanted to be there. That appealed to him. He was looking for a new identity," Fehlings said.  

He lived in a log cabin at Long Bay with flowering window boxes. "It was the most charming cabin imaginable. He was an amazing decorator and housekeeper," Sebens said.

  McCarter worked at the Skagway Hardware store, for the Streetcar Company, and papered walls at The Skagway Inn, among other jobs, before hiring on with the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system as seaman. He also volunteered for community events and joined the board of KHNS.

McCarter met Michele Fehlings at the Red Onion Saloon in 1988, and they married in 2002 on a visit to Charlotte, N.C., prior to moving to Haines. "Mick said, 'We have got to get married. It's the right thing to do. We are going to own a house together,'" she said. In Haines, he continued volunteering for the radio and community groups.

McCarter suffered from a heart condition and moved south in 2008 to be closer to medical care, settling in Fehling's hometown, where the couple renovated several  downtown Hermann properties that became Grapevine Guest Lodgings and their rural home.

"He was so proud of it," Fehlings said. "Growing up the way he did, Mick never felt that anything was his, and he was always living in someone else's home, so that's why it was important to him to make his home special. He really enjoyed making improvements."

  While in Alaska, McCarter and Fehlings took winter sojourns to Mexico as well as two trips to Ireland. After moving south, they made road trips around the Lower 48. In July, they visited the Mississippi Delta to explore the birthplace of the Blues.  "Mick didn't have much left on his bucket list, but that was one area he always wanted to check out," Fehlings said.

McCarter also volunteered for the Hermann Chamber of Commerce.

  While his death was sudden it was not unexpected, Fehlings said. "We talked about it a lot. He was so content, so happy with where he was and what he was doing with his life, that I don't think he had any regrets.  Because of that, I have an easy heart now."

A celebration of McCarter's life will be held in Hermann on Aug. 26 and a Coatesville memorial is set for Sept.  17. In addition to his wife, McCarter leaves six siblings and many nieces and nephews. His daughter Jennifer preceded him in death.

  Memorial donations may be made to KHNS at P.O. Box 1109, Haines, AK 99827 or HARK at P.O. Box 1533, Haines.


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