Jo Carney, 74, Singer and Poet

Nov. 14, 1943 - Sept. 27, 2018
Jo Carney, Nov. 14, 1943 - Sept. 27, 2018

Jo Carney of East Hampton, whose talents as a writer and performer enriched the culture of the East End for more than four decades, died on Sept. 27 at the Kanas Center for Hospice Care in Quiogue. She was 74 and had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May. 

Ms. Carney, who relished living near the ocean and the woods, frequently took walks along the beaches and bays and went kayaking near her house in Northwest Woods. Her favorite spots included Sammy’s Beach, Gerard Drive, and Two Holes of Water. An animal lover, she frequently helped dogs that needed homes or turtles that needed to reach the other side of the road.

Born on Nov. 14, 1943, in Centerville, Iowa, to Virginia Yant Carney and Clyde Carney, she grew up there and also spent several of her formative years in Japan, where she lived with her family as part of the post-World War II occupation. When she returned to Iowa, she took up golf, winning several local championships.

She studied English literature at Drake University, going on to pursue a successful acting and singing career that took her around the country. A protégée of Dick Haymes, one of the most popular singers of the 1940s, she toured for years as the lead singer of the Cal Bezemer Trio. After living in Los Angeles, Manhattan, and the Black Hills of South Dakota, she settled in East Hampton, drawn to the natural beauty and the thriving community of artists and writers. 

Ms. Carney practiced real estate, most recently with Corcoran, while participating in the theater scene here, giving poetry readings, and performing as a jazz singer. Having studied with Lee Strasburg, she acted in Off Broadway productions and worked as a radio voice-over artist for Warner Brothers before moving to East Hampton. Here she appeared in numerous theatrical productions at Guild Hall, Kate in “Kiss Me, Kate” being one of her most memorable roles.

As a poet, Ms. Carney wrote a chapbook, “Konkon’s Granddaughter,” and her work appeared in numerous anthologies, including “Montauk” from the Montauk Press, “Out of Season” from the Amagansett Press, and the Saltwater Press’s “Poems for the Shore.” She read her work at Canio’s Books in Sag Harbor, the East Hampton Library, and the East Hampton Town Marine Museum in Amagansett. At the time of her death, she was working on several projects, including a trilogy of historical novels and a memoir detailing her adventures across Alaska. 

Ms. Carney would often visit her daughter, Samantha Jo, in Phila­delphia, Boston, or Chicago, and regularly cheered on her son, Christopher, from the sidelines of a rugby field or at the finish line of a Soldier Ride bicycling event.

“She traveled often and thoroughly, and loved meeting people from all corners of the world,” her family said. “While she was happy with simple pleasures, like a good book and a full cup of coffee, she never settled for anything less than finding the best in life.”

Her children, Samantha Jo Carney of Chicago and Christopher Carney of East Hampton, survive her, as do three grandchildren. Two brothers, Michael Carney of Centerville and James Carney of Des Moines, also survive.