The community said goodbye to John Michael “Mike” Carter with a memorial service Friday, Dec. 9, in Family Funeral Home’s Harvey Young Chapel in Crawfordville.

Carter, 80, of Crawfordville, died Nov. 16, after a stroke.

His wife, Andrea Faza Carter, delivered his eulogy.

She traced some of her husband’s life experiences that led him down a career path that included working as an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, and Crawfordville, Florida, for more than 40 years and serving 12 years as a Wakulla County Judge.

Growing up, Mrs. Carter said her husband was always athletic, from pitching in little league to being a competitive diver. In high school he played football and expected to be able to play in college as well.

A motorcycle accident changed the trajectory of his life. He went through five surgeries to repair his crushed ankle, and though he started classes at the University of Florida, she said the wind had been knocked out of his sails and he left after a semester.

He went to New York City and earned his seaman’s license. Mrs. Carter said sailing from New York to France on a freighter gave him more time to think and to read. This was in the 1960s, when the U.S. and Europe were still in many ways recovering from World War II, the Cold War was ongoing, and independence movements were brewing in Africa and South America.

His time abroad had a big impact on him: “He wanted to become a citizen of the world,” she said.

This goal inspired and motivated him for the rest of his life.

Back in the U.S., he enrolled at UF again, earning a degree in Latin American studies. He bought a motorcycle that belonged to one of his professors and took off on a 13-month adventure traveling through Central and South America. Mrs. Carter said along the way, he spent time visiting with all kinds of people, from studying the countries he planned to visit by reading up on them in U.S. embassy libraries to enjoying the hospitality of missionaries and indigenous tribes.

After returning to the U.S. and teaching seventh-grade U.S. history for seven months, Carter enrolled at Cumberland Law School of Samford University in Alabama. He graduated in 1970.

His law career led him to become an Assistant District Attorney in Atlanta, and to become legal house counsel for a Georgia insurance company.

In 1973, he took off on his next adventure: Backpacking through Africa, Asia, India and Europe on $3 a day.

Mrs. Carter said this involved camping out and getting to know the locals.

“I think it describes his life more than anything else,” she said.

In 1975, the Tallahassee native opened his own private law practice in Crawfordville. He was no stranger to the county because his family had owned property on Lake Ellen for many years.

Mike Carter met Andrea at a Wakulla Optimist Club when she was the guest speaker.

At an Optimist gathering over the summer, he told the group, “For three years I pursued her with all the vigor I could muster.”

After they married in 1982 and started a family, those adventures included his wife and daughters.

“He was our family ambassador,” Mrs. Carter said, and his willingness to reach out to people, whether or not they spoke the same language, led to some “amazing experiences.”

Once on a trip to Europe when they were in Stockholm, Sweden, Mrs. Carter said her husband struck up a conversation with strangers where no one really spoke the same language, but still resulted in an invitation to a wonderful reindeer dinner, where they had the opportunity to become acquainted with their hosts and admire the beautiful Scandinavian furniture in their home.

The Carters made friends in Northern Ireland and heard their accounts of the troubles there.

They also toured the U.S., tent-camping in national parks or staying in youth hostels.

“It really was marvelous,” she said.

As a father, she said he encouraged his five daughters to read widely, cultivate friendships, keep an open mind and “document, document, document.”

He also believed everything could be repaired with super glue and duct tape.

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