American Veteran 04

Robert Rhett Austell Jr.

May 7, 1925 ~ August 15, 2021 (age 96)


Robert Rhett Austell Jr. died Aug. 15, 2021, age 96, peacefully at home at Sentry Hill in York, ME.

Raised in the Hudson Valley, he was born May 7, 1925, in Middletown, NY, to Mary Van Etten Stivers and Robert Rhett Austell. From birth he was known by his middle name and was proud to be the oldest grandchild on both sides of his family.

His wife of 34 years, Carol Holly Austell, survives him, as do two daughters, Elizabeth Straight of Briarcliff Manor, NY, and Sarah Cart of Key Largo, FL, and daughter-in-law, Barbara Austell of Haverford, PA.

He also leaves three stepsons, Michael McCarty of Malibu, CA, and New York City, Peter McCarty of Northridge, CA, and Justin McCarty of Peninsula, OH, plus the widow of his oldest stepson, John Thomas McCarty, Julie McCarty of La Crescenta, CA, sister-in-law Anne Austell of Albuquerque, NM, eight grandchildren, eight great grandchildren, eight step-grands and two step-great-grandsons.

His first wife, Madeleine (Lynn) Pohlmann Austell (with whom he shared his first dance and whom he married in 1947), died in 1986. He was also predeceased by brothers Stivers in 1991 and Jan in 2017, and his son, Robert Rhett Austell III, in 2018.

A 1943 graduate of the Hotchkiss School, he was inducted into the Army shortly after entering Williams College and served with the 84th Division in Europe as a BAR gunner. Taken prisoner of war in November 1944, he used his eight weeks of college freshman German to become a translator for fellow prisoners. Upon returning home, he graduated from Williams where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and entered Harvard Business School, from which he graduated with distinction in 1950 as a Baker Scholar. He began his career at TIME Inc. where he held a variety of managerial positions including general manager of Time magazine and publisher of TIME/LIFE Books. In 1976 he joined American Heritage as president and publisher, and he spent the last decade of his working career as a partner of the New York executive search firm Ward Howell International.

He and Lynn lived in Williamstown, MA, then Cambridge, MA, and finally New York City before moving to Briarcliff Manor, NY, in 1952. He and Carol married in 1987 and initially made their homes in Briarcliff Manor and New York City, before moving to Portsmouth, NH, in 1992, and later, to Kittery, ME, and later still, York .

In addition to his business career and family life, he was dedicated to community service, including tours of duty as a trustee and as president of the alumni society for Hotchkiss; president of the alumni society of Williams and of the Williams Club of New York; and a trustee of the New York Public Library. This tradition continued upon moving to northern New England, where among other roles he served as a trustee of Portsmouth’s Strawbery Banke and the Portsmouth Athenaeum.

One of his lifelong delights, for both business and pleasure, was traveling the world. With his wives, he visited all seven continents, journeying from Patagonia to Namibia to Tibet to Antarctica, and also to the North Pole, as well as the major cities of Europe, Africa and Asia.

Above all, his major love was his family. He will be remembered as a warm, generous, thoughtful and caring husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather and friend.

In keeping with his wishes, a small private memorial service will be held at a later date.

To honor his memory, gifts may be made to the R. Rhett Austell Jr. 1948 Scholarship fund at Williams College, Williamstown, MA 01267.

To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Robert Rhett, please visit our floral store.

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Graveside Service to be held privately

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