Carlton D. Leaf of Chilmark died Jan. 21 at his home with family by his side. He was 93 and was the husband of Audrey Morgan Leaf, who died in April 2020.

Carl went by many names. He was called Carly by his first family, Carlton when his wife Audrey was perturbed, Dad by his adoring children, Sir by his son in law, Pops by the grandchildren, Mr. Leaf by friend’s children who couldn’t bring themselves to call him Carl, and Cleaf by everyone who felt his affection.

He was born March 25, 1928, the youngest of seven children born to Swedish immigrants. The tenets of his life were fidelity, bravery and integrity. They were formed early on, long before he joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and carried through the rest of his life.

His bravery became evident in March 1945. He lied to his parents — the only time he did so — in order to enlist with the Army to fight in World War II. The Leafs had three sons in the service and his parents refused to sign the papers. They compromised and he served in the Merchant Marine, traveling to Europe with supplies for the rebuilding of war-torn cities. He would tell stories of walls of water coming over the bow of his ship.

His children thought he had a pretty cool job; he met with high-value Soviet citizens both in the U.S. and overseas who risked their lives by providing information to the Americans. Sometimes the bravery included trying to keep up with the vodka required at meetings. He received 12 commendations including many incentive awards from three directors and an acting director.

In 1953 he married Audrey and his devotion to her was absolute, supporting her in all endeavors, especially her cooking. They were married for 67 years before Audrey died and still danced in the kitchen, making their own music. Audrey and the children were the source of all joy.

You always hear of a dog’s loyalty to his owner, but for Carl it was reciprocated. When he was about 75 years old, he walked down to the frozen pond and heard a faint bark. Stranded on ice was Rocky, the adopted lab. Carl waded up to his waist in the frozen water to grab and bring the dog into shore. There is a fine line between bravery and recklessness but for Carl, there was no question what had to be done.

His word was his bond. He gave careful and deliberate consideration to every job he undertook. Sometimes it was a one-cigar consideration; other times it took several to reach a plan of attack. If you were the beneficiary of a house rehab with Carl and Kirby, you know it was built with pride. There have been stories of miscountings with the Rowans in front of the cribbage board on dark and stormy nights at the Gadget, but they remain unproven.

He is survived by his older brother Eliot; daughters Karen, Kirstin Labby and her husband Peter; sons Eric and his wife Tracy, and Nils (Gus) and his companion Jill; nine grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews. His family also acknowledges affection for Audrey and Carl’s devoted caregiver, Efuah.

The world is a sadder place since Cleaf left. His family knows he is in good hands with God and Audrey leading him home.

A funeral will be held at 11 a.m. on Jan. 27 at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven. He will be interred at Abel’s Hill Cemetery in Chilmark.

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