A high school gymnasium seems an unlikely place for a funeral.
For Joseph David Carter, it was perfect.
He followed his children to gyms and fields and tracks all over the state when they were growing up. If they were practicing, he was loading them up in his pickup and taking them. If they were playing, he was going.
The Carters became a legacy at Millwood High School and the first family of Oklahoma City sports.
Joe Carter Jr. was the household name, spending almost two decades in Major League Baseball and hitting that memorable walk-off home run to clinch the 1993 World Series for Toronto, but many of his brothers and sisters were standouts, too. They won state titles. They set high standards.
The legacy began with the man known as Mr. Carter.
He died Thursday at the age of 82.
“Your dad set the example,” Millwood girls basketball coach Arnelia Spears told the family Monday inside the school's gym.
Truth be told, Mr. Carter should be an example to all.
He grew up in a time of segregation, but he refused to let anything hold him back. He became a three-sport standout at Booker T. Washington High in El Reno, then became one of the first blacks to own his own Conoco service station.
He was a self-made man.
The thing is, Mr. Carter was quick to help others, too.
“He was always trying to do for somebody,” his son Fred said.
He'd give a couple extra bucks to the pastor for gas money. He'd leave an envelope for special offerings at church.
But the ones he did for the most were his children.
Mr. Carter and his wife, Athelene, had a dozen children. Clarence. Charles. Charlette. Darlene. Patricia. Lenise. Carolyn. Joe Jr. Larry. Fred. Teresa. And one baby who was stillborn.
Charlie Greene has known the family since the 60s. He was a coach and PE teacher at Moon Junior High when the oldest boys, Clarence and Charles, were in school there.
Six or eight years later, Greene moved to Millwood as an assistant principal.
“Then,” he said, “I would really meet the Carters.”
He remembered that shortly after Millwood built its football stadium, Mr. Carter approached him about a concrete slab near the field. Mr. Carter worried about kids running into it and injuring themselves. He thought something needed to be done.
Within the week, padding covered the concrete.
“And it was because of Mr. Carter,” Greene said.
Mr. Carter refused to take no for an answer.
“I only saw Mr. Carter back down one time,” Greene said, “and that was on the Kiss Cam at the Thunder game.”
Spears witnessed Mr. Carter's involvement, too. As the girls basketball coach at Millwood for more than 40 years, she saw the Carters at every game. They were supportive. They were encouraging. They were there.
“This is what we call ‘old school' today,” Spears said. “This is what we need to come back to.”
Hard to argue with the results. The Carters raised a brood of children who became successful not only in sports but also in life. They are mothers and fathers. They are hard working and church going. They are contributing members of society.
And now, the lessons that Mr. Carter taught are being passed along to his 46 grandchildren, 35 great grandchildren and 10 great great grandchildren.
His life may have ended, but his legacy will continue.
“I know that when my father got to heaven,” his son Fred said, “God said, ‘Well done, thy good and faithful servant.'”
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.