A Toast To Olde Tymes – Anna Curry and E. Kemper Carter
When Anna Curry and E. Kemper Carter – the E. stood for Evlane – were wed on Washington’s Birthday in 1936, they no doubt hoped to be together for the rest of their lives. They got their wish. Alas, some lifetimes are shorter than others.
Kemper, who was sometimes known as Kemp, hailed from Saint Joseph, Missouri. He attended William Jewell College before transferring to the University of Missouri (now the University of Missouri – Columbia), where he was the first president of the student body in 1911. His career in civil engineering was disrupted by World War I. As a captain in the Army Engineer Corps, Kemper spent a year in France. With Albert R. Waters, a friend from Mizzou, Kemper founded Carter-Waters in 1922. The firm, which specializes in construction materials, is still in business a century later.
Anna was the daughter of Susan Maud Matchette Curry, (known as Maud), and William A. “Bill” Curry of Our Town. Her father was a newspaperman and also had served as city clerk. From 1919 until 1956, he was the courthouse reporter for the Kansas City Star. Bill was elected an honorary member of the Kansas City Bar Association in 1923, despite the fact that he was not a lawyer. His obituary described him as an “amateur student of law.” He was not the only studious one in the family. Anna earned a bachelor of arts degree in education from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree from Columbia University. She also took courses at Oxford University in England. Anna taught speech and drama at Southwest High School.
Kemper was 42 and living at The Walnuts when they married in February 1936. Anna was – oh, let’s just say she had celebrated more than 30 cakedates. On the marriage license, she listed her parents’ address, 132 West 69th Terrace, as her home. Their wedding was held at Wornall Road Baptist Church, with a reception for 400 guests at Mission Hills Country Club. After a trip to Hawaii, they made their home at the Riviera, an apartment building on the Plaza.
The couple’s son, Evlane Kemper Carter, Jr. was born the following February. The Carters were living at 6625 Brookside Boulevard in September 1942 when the unthinkable happened: their child died of sarcoma at the age of five.
People deal with tragedy in their own ways. Perhaps Anna and Kemper found it best to stay busy. Both of them were active in community affairs and philanthropy. Kemper served as a trustee of William Jewell College. In addition to being a member of the Society of American Military Engineers and local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, Kemper was in charge of the military affairs committee of the Chamber of Commerce. His memberships included the University Club, the Mercury Club, the Rotary Club, and the Ararat Shrine. He was also a Mason. Much of Anna’s time was occupied with meetings for a variety of organizations: the Community Children’s Theater of Kansas City (of which she was a charter member), the Kansas City Museum, the Kansas City Art Institute, the Alpha Phi alumnae chapter, the University Women’s Club, the Women’s City Club, the Women’s Committee of the Kansas City Philharmonic Orchestra Association, the Melrose Fortnightly Club, the Kansas City Musical Club, the Kansas City Rose Society, the Women’s Committee of the Conservatory of the University of Missouri, the General Assembly of Presidents and Past Presidents, and the English Speaking Union. She also taught speech classes and gave talks and readings. Anna was sometimes invited to speak on the radio. She enjoyed playing bridge and often hosted bridge luncheons.
Kemper suffered strokes in November and December of 1951. He died on December 23rd. He was 67 years old. The Kansas City Times estimated that 400 people attended his funeral service at the Wornall Road Baptist Church. Dr. Walter Pope Binns, president of William Jewell College, gave the eulogy. He emphasized both Kemper’s sense of responsibility and the warmhearted nature that led him to have many friends and see the good in all of them.
Anna remained active for many years. When Kemper was alive, the Carters were members of Mission Hills Country Club and the Kansas City Club, as well as The River Club, then in its infancy. Anna expanded that list to include The Carriage Club, the University Club, and the Rockhill Tennis Club. She hosted numerous parties, often in honor of friends or featuring themes, such as an English Hunt Lunch, a Hats of Yesteryear Eastertide Luncheon, a Heritage Dinner, Americana, a Gala of the Golden West, and a Bicentennial Costume Dinner Party in the Manner of Mount Vernon. Her name was listed as a co-host of many charity benefits. Anna and Kemper had been among the Missourians who headed to Washington, D.C. for President Harry S Truman’s inauguration in 1949, but by 1976, she was a Republican.
Anna served as the honorary chairman for Le Bal de Mardi Gras, a benefit for the Kansas City Ballet, in February 1978. At that point, her years in the society pages were drawing to a close. She died in 1992. Her obituary noted that she had served as a trustee of the Kansas City Museum, an honorary director of the Kansas City Art Institute, and an advisory board member of the Children’s Community Theater. In the decades since her death, many organizations have benefited from funding provided by the E. Kemper and Anna Curry Carter Memorial Trust, notably the Kansas City Art Institute and Penn Valley Community College.
Featured in the March 5, 2022 issue of The Independent.
By Heather N. Paxton
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