John M. Trask Jr. died peacefully at his beloved home Orange Grove on St. Helena Island on January 4, 2023. He was surrounded by his family who loved him and will miss him dearly, including his wife of 61 years, Caroline Clark Trask. In addition to Caroline, he leaves behind his four children and ten grandchildren: John M. Trask III and Isabelle Trask Toedtman (Zack), Peter Trask, and Josephine Trask; Caroline Trask Wallace (Gordon Wallace/deceased) and Lizzie Wallace and Anna Wallace; S. Clark Trask (Evy Nabers Trask) and Grace Trask and Sam Trask; and Patrick G. Trask (Cathleen Quinn Trask) and Patrick Trask Jr., Lillian Trask, and William Trask. He was preceded in death by his parents, John M. Trask Sr. and Flora Graham Trask, and his siblings, Fred G. Trask and Charles H. Trask.
Born October 12, 1935 in Wilmington, North Carolina, he was raised in a home on the high bluff of the Beaufort River, in the town and community he loved and where he raised his family. He grew up spending summers at Wrightsville Beach with troops of cousins and friends and attended Episcopal High School (class of 1954), Davidson College (class of 1958) and Harvard Business School (class of 1964). In college, he participated in ROTC and served in the US Army from which he was honorably discharged.
He married his devoted and loving wife, Caroline Whitehead Clark of Tarboro, North Carolina, in 1961, whereupon they moved to Beaufort and he worked in the family farming business. He credited a hail storm pulverizing one of the finest crops of tomatoes when the market was at a record high with his decision to go to graduate school in Boston. They again returned to Beaufort where his business career spanned managing the WBEU radio station and then purchasing with his brother the Bank of Yemassee charter to form First Carolina Bank, which he ran until joining the Carter Administration from 1977 to 1979 as Associate Administrator for Finance and Investment in the Small Business Administration. Leaving St. Helena Island was not his wife’s desire, but she dutifully took her family to Washington and made the best of it, which turned into a lifelong love of that city where they made numerous friends and often spent time. In both Washington and Beaufort he was active in real estate endeavors.
Beaufort, and particularly Orange Grove, was always in his heart, though he was a world traveler, journeying with Caroline to the Soviet Union in the early 1970s, taking numerous trips to Europe, particularly the south of France, and further peregrinations to Africa and to India, where they happened upon Mother Theresa in Calcutta who graciously allowed them to pose for a photo. These voyages and sojourns were often accompanied by friends or family and helped to instill a similar love of adventure in his children and grandchildren. He developed friendships across the globe, particularly in England, France, Holland, Germany, Hungary, India and Australia, visiting and hosting what have become multi-generational bonds. For the past 40+ years he spent summers on the Outer Banks at Nags Head and rather late in life took up oil painting, mixing on the canvas, as in life, a bit of impressionism and realism, with pragmatism, entrepreneurism and dollops of anachronism sharing space on his palette. The height of his art career came when a local Nags Head restaurant, displaying several of his paintings, sold one of them for $75.
Never sparing of opinion, always forthright, he loved history and the general pursuit of knowledge, studying French for decades of his adult life, and perhaps in the great beyond he will alas have time to master the nuances and enunciations of what seemed an elusive quest. That spirit of doggedness, intellectual curiosity and aplomb led to a life of tangential pursuits, from French language to horse carriages to book publishing, at times confounding, always approached with shrewd conviction, all trademark traits forever springing forth new ventures. However, it was the return to Orange Grove that he most cherished, where he scripted a vision in the early 1970s with the late landscape architect Robert Marvin and, with Caroline, devoted himself to creating a special sense of place and home. He planted an avenue of Live Oaks in 1973 with his wife and children and never stopped cultivating, landscaping and experimenting with the land and ponds along Wallace Creek. In the past decade, he planted nearly ten acres of citrus which currently supply many restaurants in Charleston with oranges, grapefruit, satsuma, cumquats, yuzu, lemons and limes. Peacocks, tumbling pigeons, guinea fowl, mallards, Canada geese, swans, pheasants, quail, goats, rabbits, sheep, horses, donkeys, countless dogs and sundry other animals have frolicked the grounds of Orange Grove, and it is here that he will be buried in a private ceremony.
The family wishes to thank the many caregivers who have devoted heart and hand in caring for him over the past year, and the many friends who have similarly offered their support during his travails with cancer. In lieu of flowers, they would request donations be made in his name to The Beaufort County Open Land Trust (https://openlandtrust.org/), an organization he helped form with Marguerite Broz and Betty Waskiewicz in 1971 and actively participated in throughout his life.
The family welcomes friends and family to a reception from 3-5pm on Saturday, January 7 at Orange Grove.