Deceased October 29, 2017
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Nathaniel “Nat” Restcome Potter Jr. passed away peacefully at his home in Honolulu on Sunday, Oct. 29, 2017, his wife and their three children at his side. He was 93 years old.
Nat is remembered fondly for his commitment to family, church, community and his profession as well as for his wit, sense of humor and genial, generous and fair-spirited nature.
Born and raised in Rochester, N.Y.., he attended Phillips Academy at Andover, graduating in the class of 1943. He was accepted at Amherst College but, as did so many members of his generation, took a break from academics to participate in the war effort, committing two years to getting his wings with the Army Air Force and serving as a flight instructor in Texas and California. He officially commenced his collegiate studies at Amherst in 1945, participating also in summer sessions, majoring in English and minoring in Architecture and graduating in the class of 1948 with a B.A. Nat elected to affiliate himself with the class of 1949. While in college, he met “the love of his life” Gail Caricof, a Hawaii girl attending Bennington College in Vermont, and they wed in September of 1948. Gail was able to convince Nat to move to Hawaii where together they started a family, built a house overlooking Honolulu on Mount Tantalus and where he also built a life based on service to the things he held most dear and important. Upon moving to Hawaii, Nat also served two years in the Hawaii Air National Guard.
Nat was ever faithful to his dear Amherst (and Psi Upsilon), and for many years he served as a Honolulu point person for Amherst, recommending the school to many a Hawaii student and recommending those students to the school. He was also active in helping to coordinate alumni affairs, and he and Gail attended several reunions.
Nat had a long career associated with the construction industry in Hawaii. From 1952 through 1959 he got his feet wet working for Honolulu Tile, co-founded American Tile and worked for Grace Brothers. Then in 1960 he joined the newly formed Hawaiian Cement Corporation and devoted himself to his work there until his retirement in 1986, serving in the capacity of Vice President in charge of Sales and Marketing. The ’60s, ’70s and ’80s were a rollercoaster time for cement production in Hawaii that saw two competing cement manufacturing plants built in the small state. Not to be dissuaded by competition, Nat was a believer in the adage that a rising tide floats all ships, so in addition to his capacity marketing and selling Hawaiian Cement for use in buildings and roads, Nat was involved in the founding, functioning and leadership of trade groups including the Cement and Concrete Products Industry association (CCPI), Hawaii Manufacturer’s Association (HMA), and the Construction Industry Legislative Organization (CILO). He was roundly recognized, respected and lauded for his contributions to the industry and for having helped to bring the virtues, values and versatility of building with concrete into the public eye.
Commencing with his arrival in Hawaii in 1950, Nat began an association with the Cathedral of St. Andrew and became a faithful servant to his church, where, related here in rambling chronological order, he was confirmed by Bishop Kennedy in 1950, “licensed” as a Lay Reader early in his involvement and served in that capacity into the late 1990s, was a founder in 1988 of the Cathedral Foundation and served on its board, served as the Senior Warden for 15 years, served as the Cathedral treasurer from 1990-1994 and served on the Heritage Campaign Steering Committee, one focus of which at that time was the restoration of the Great West Window of the Cathedral. He served alongside Bishops Kennedy, Hanchett, Browning, Hart, Chang and Fitzpatrick and numerous Deans and other clergy. The regard of the Cathedral community for Nat was such that when a successor was sought to take the place of the late Rt. Reverend E. Lani Hanchett, Nat—who was a layman—was nominated for that position. It was an honor he was proud of, though clergyman Ed Browning was eventually selected.
The Pacific Club, a venerable business club on the edge of downtown Honolulu, provided a good way of melding business with a tennis workout, hot showers in the dry seasons when the water ran out in the catchment system of the Tantalus house and a place where the kids could have swimming lessons. Nat served on the board of the Pacific Club as well as the Membership Committee for many years. During his 1981-82 tenure as President, the Club took up the debate of whether to admit women, and Nat sided with those in favor. Before the policy was clarified to open the doors to women, he argued that the inclusion of women would add vitality, balance and depth to the membership, and once women were admitted and began to swell the ranks of the membership, Nat liked to note that the Club was thriving as a result of their involvement. Nat also helped initiate the tradition of an annual dinner honoring past presidents of the Club and for many years relished the task of introducing the incoming Presidents at that dinner.
Nat had a personal history with scouting and, believing scouting to impart civic responsibility, personal preparedness and the virtues of fraternity, Nat led Honolulu Cub Scout Pack 1 from about 1957 through 1961. Nat also had an appreciation for aesthetics and a love of the Hawaii environment, and upon his retirement from Hawaiian Cement, he served on the boards of the Historic Hawaii Foundation, the Hawaii Nature Center and the Tantalus Community Association, doing stints as President or leader of each. His feeling for community volunteerism was that “The community nurtures and supports us all. The degree of support you derive from the community is directly proportional to the degree of support you put into it.”
Nat delighted in telling the family how his own father’s dictionary bristled with inserted notes of correction or comment, so it could be argued that it was from his father that Nat inherited a passion for conscious, cultivated and creative deployment of the English language to express thoughts both abstract and mundane in a manner both rich and concise. And of course, majoring in English at Amherst helped to broaden his love for and command of the language. He was a voracious reader, a formidable Scrabble opponent and a dedicated crossword puzzler.
Nat also was a consistent supporter of arts and social causes he deemed deserving, and he had a great love for music, both classical and popular.
Nat and Gail, having indulged in a three-month European honeymoon, believed that travel broadened one’s mind and created rich common experience, and while their children were young, they orchestrated family trips to redwood country, the great parks of the North American west, to Europe and to Alaska. Throughout his life, Nat was an avid and inveterate photo and video chronicler of the family, creating and organizing a worthy documentary archive.
Nat is survived by his wife of 69 years, Gail; by their three children, Barton (Bibiana) of Honolulu, Abby Eaton (Michael) of Honolulu, Johnny (Lori) of Monterey, Calif., and by nine grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Words that Nat wished to be remembered by: “Thank you, Lord, for my wonderful life!”
A celebration of Nat’s life will be held Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018, at the Cathedral of St. Andrew in Honolulu, with visitation at 10 a.m., service at 10:30 and onsite fellowship to follow.
Submitted by Bart Potter