Adler family patriarch beloved as businessman and farmer

Adler family patriarch beloved as businessman and farmer

SMITHFIELD - Carl R. Adler, 82, a businessman and farmer whose fulfillments were raising eight sons, tending his 100-acre spread in Greenville, and engaging in quiet public service, died Oct. 2 at Clear Acres Farm, his home since 1954.

The husband for 60 years of Barbara A. (Carney) Adler, Mr. Adler for more than half a century owned Adler Photo in downtown Providence, but sold the store in 1996 and turned his full attention to the hayfields and woodlots of his pond-dotted farm on Mapleville Road.

Mr. Adler was remembered this week by townspeople as a paternal role model whose legacy was family solidarity and respect for hard work.

While Mr. Adler's farm did not compare in size to the mythical Ben Cartwright's Ponderosa, in progeny he far outdid the patriarch of TV's 'Bonanza," whose three sons remained on family land into adulthood.

In fact, five of Mr. Adler's sons and four of his 14 grandchildren - soon to be joined by a fifth - have established homes at Clear Acres Farm.

Two of his sons, Scott and Kenneth, in 1982 founded Adler Brothers Construction, whose vehicles and equipment are common sights throughout Northern Rhode Island and which in time expanded to include real estate development and management.

Six Adler brothers are now associated with the business, whose roots they trace to early days when they gained experience working with their father in cutting and splitting firewood for resale, plowing snow, and haying.

Gary Tikoian, now a 52-year-old excavating contractor, remembers working on Mr. Adler's farm as a teenager, cutting wood and baling hay, often from morning until darkness fell.

"This is what he taught me - a work ethic; how to work hard, play hard, and eat good. There was always a big pot of soup on the stove and cold cut sandwiches."

He also recalled Mr. Adler as one of the supporters behind construction of the veterans' memorial in Deerfield Park.

Tikoian's brother, State Police Maj. David Tikoian, 45, said he began helping out on farm at age 12 and that Mr. Adler "taught me to do it right or don't do it at all."

Others remembered how Mr. Adler, whose immigrant and penniless German father was once cared for by the Salvation Army, would in return ring the agency's familiar bell on Providence street corners at Christmas.

One admirer said by way of eulogy that because of Mr. Adler's generosity, "I have never been able to walk by a tin cup without putting money into it."

Another recalled Mr. Adler's neighborly ways: "If a horse died he'd be over to bury it for you - you didn't have to ask."

Barbara Adler, a native of Georgia who was introduced to her future husband by a cousin while visiting family in Rhode Island, said he eventually proposed to her on a Florida beach while he was stationed in that state with the Marines and her family had temporarily moved there.

They wed at a Marine Corps base in 1953, when she was 19 and attracted to his confident manner and droll sense of humor. His idea of a date, she said, was to squire her to any location where he could show her the latest in trucks and farm machinery.

After a first year living in Lincoln, they bought Clear Acres with its 1910 farmhouse.

This past June 10 the couple observed their 60th anniversary, celebrating shortly afterward with a party - naturally, at Clear Acres.

"He always wanted a farm," said Mrs. Adler, 79, recalling that as a youth from Pawtucket he had worked on a farm in Lincoln.

For years Mr. Adler drove to the camera store - founded by his father, Walter - and then came home to tackle farm chores with characteristic persistence, said son Scott. The store, in fact, was a tribute to family tenacity - it was rebuilt twice after being destroyed in both the 1938 and 1954 hurricanes.

On the farm, Mr. Adler at one time ran a firewood-cuting operation that supplied some 2,000 cords a year to New England outlets, at first cutting his own wood with help from a chainsaw and his sons.

Later he installed more powerful equipment and began buying 18-foot logs, cleared from construction sites, that were cut to fireplace length, split, and stacked building-high on the property

Scott Adler characterized his father as "an awesome mentor who taught by example that respect isn't something that just comes naturally - it has to be earned. And he taught us that if we wanted something, we had to work for it."

In addition to being a family father, Adler was a town father - he served as president of the Town Council in the late 1960s and early '70s. During the Blizzard of '78, Mr. Adler slid behind the wheel of a truck and plowed roads.

A conservationist, he planted trees in addition to cutting wood, and in 1983 was cited with an award for his conservation efforts. His companion interest in historical conservation resulted in the meticulous restoration of a 19th-century barn on his property.

Intent on maintaining family ties, when his son Ralph moved to New Hampshire, Mr. Adler sent the family 100 fir tree seedlings so they would have something of Clear Acres Farm always with them.

Walter Kane, a former state senator and one-time business partner of Mr. Adler's who convinced him to run for Town Council, said his old associate had a talent for persuading people to see things his way.

He described Mr. Adler as "a plain, good person who raised a true American family."

Those who paid respects at Saturday's funeral found Mr. Adler dressed as usual, in a plaid flannel shirt and wide red suspenders. With him were a John Deere cap, a veterans' cap, and an American flag folded into a crisp military triangle.

Barbara Adler said that in accordance with his wishes, her husband's ashes were to be interred in a grove of evergreens on the farm he loved, in one final act of family bonding: Also abiding there are the ashes of his effervescent granddaughter Caitlyn, who in 2011 died in a motorcycle accident, at age 19.


Scott, With deepest sorrow in your time of need, please extend my condolences to your family. Mike D'Orsi