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Colin Carpi, businessman who founded two firms

Colin Caton Carpi, 84, of Penn Valley, a veteran, businessman and entrepreneur, died Thursday, Dec. 10, of progressive heart failure.

Colin Caton Carpi.
Colin Caton Carpi.Read more

Colin Caton Carpi, 84, of Penn Valley, a veteran, businessman and entrepreneur, died Thursday, Dec. 10, of progressive heart failure.

Born and raised in the Philadelphia suburbs, he was a devoted father and grandfather who maintained lifelong curiosity, a love of learning, and optimism.

"He was such an engaging human being. He always had a warm smile for everybody," said Jennifer Moller, his oldest child. "You saw him, he smiled, regardless of who the person was."

An honors graduate of the Haverford School, Princeton University, and Harvard Business School, Mr. Carpi was a voracious reader who delved into history, philosophy, physical sciences, religion, music and more, according to his family.

"He had interest in almost all realms of knowledge," Moller said.

Railroads were an abiding object of his attention. His father, Fred, was an Italian immigrant who started as a ticket-taker on the Pennsylvania Railroad and worked his way up to become a vice president.

Mr. Carpi spent one summer riding the rails in Canada, seeking employment on oil drilling sites in Saskatchewan and Alberta.

He later also became a private pilot.

At Princeton, where he studied engineering, "his entrepreneurial impulses" came out, according to his family. Mr. Carpi and several classmates designed an automated seeding machine for farms, and obtained a U.S. patent.

After business school at Harvard he enlisted in the Navy, completed Officer Candidate School, and was assigned to the staff of the chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics in Washington.

Mr. Carpi, after leaving the Navy, joined the New York management consulting firm Booz Allen & Hamilton and later became a partner.

In his 30s, he went on to found a furniture business, General Interiors Corp., after seeing that attractive furniture was out of reach for many average people, Moller said. The company grew, purchasing other furniture sellers, until it was acquired by the home furnishings division of General Mills.

"I think he was able to achieve the vision, which was to redefine the furniture market at the time," Moller said.

He then launched a new business, Chartwell, that used detailed stock performance charts and trends to provide investment advice.

His family remembered Mr. Carpi as a man who pushed others - family and others alike - to reach their potential. He encouraged Moller, for example, to graduate from high school early so she could pursue her interest in architecture.

"He pushed people, but in a very kind way, to achieve more than they though they could achieve," she said.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Carpi is survived by his wife of 39 years, Ruth Anne Dirkes; daughter Lisa Gorsch; sons Colin Jr., David, James, and Peter; and eight grandchildren. He was previously married to Laura Pleasants Miller.

A funeral service and burial are to be at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 27, at St. Christopher's Church, 226 Righters Mill Rd., Gladwyne, Pa. 19035, to which memorial donations may be made.