Funeral Thursday for Carlton D. Leaf


Carlton D. Leaf, 93, of Chilmark, passed away on Jan. 21, 2022, at his home, with his family by his side. He was the husband of Audrey (Morgan) Leaf, who passed away in April 2020. 

Fidelity, bravery, integrity: These three tenets had been the foundation of Carl’s life from long before he joined the Bureau, and carried through the rest of his life.

Fidelity to family began as the youngest of seven children, born to Swedish immigrants. He was usually a quiet man; perhaps his older brother would say there wasn’t much left to tell, and no time to tell it. He never forgot the lesson of making sure the grass was cut to half an inch, pushing the rotary lawn mower for the rich people on the Cape. In 1953 he married Audrey, and his devotion to her was absolute, supporting her in all endeavors, especially her cooking. She was his life, and he hers. Married 67 years before Audrey passed, they still danced in the kitchen, making their own music. Audrey and the children were the source of all joy.

His bravery became evident in March 1945 when he turned 17. The only time he lied to his parents, he enlisted in the Army to fight in WWII. The Leafs had three sons in service, two in Europe, and his folks refused to sign the papers. They compromised, and he served in the Merchant Marine, traveling to Europe with supplies for the rebuilding of war-torn cities. He would tell stories of walls of water coming over the bow of his ship.

His children thought he had a pretty cool job — he met with high-value Soviet citizens, both in the U.S. and overseas, who risked their lives by providing information to the U.S. Sometimes the bravery included trying to keep up with the vodka that was required at meetings, and trying to remember the details for the reports that needed to be filed. He received 12 commendations, including many incentive awards from three directors and an acting director.

You always hear of a dog’s loyalty to his owner, but for Carl it was reciprocated. When he was about 75 years old, we walked down to the frozen pond. He heard a faint bark. Stranded on ice was Rocky, the adopted Lab. Carl waded up to his waist in the frozen water to grab and bring the dog in to shore. There is a fine line between bravery and recklessness, but for Carl, there was no question what had to be done.

Carl’s word was his bond. He gave careful and deliberate consideration to every job he undertook. Sometimes it was a one-cigar consideration, other times it took several to reach a plan of attack. If you were the beneficiary of a house rehab with Carl and Kirby, you know it was built with pride. There have been stories of miscountings with the Rowans in front of the cribbage board on Dark and Stormy nights at the Gadget, but those remain unproven.

Carl responded to many names. Carly by his first family, Carlton when Audrey was perturbed, Dad by his adoring children, Sir by his son-in-law, Pops by the grandchildren, Mr. Leaf by friends’ children who couldn’t bring themselves to call him Carl, Cleaf by everyone who felt his affection.

Carl is survived by his older brother Eliot; his daughters Karen and Kirstin Labby (and son-in-law Peter); his sons Eric (and daughter-in-law Tracy) and Nils (“Gus,” and companion Jill); nine grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren. He also left numerous nieces and nephews. We would also acknowledge his affection for Audrey and Carl’s devoted caregiver, Efuah.

The world is a sadder place since Cleaf left us. But we know he is in good hands with God and Audrey leading him home.

A funeral service will be held on Thursday, Jan. 27, 11 am, at Grace Episcopal Church in Vineyard Haven. Burial will follow at Abel’s Hill Cemetery in Chilmark.

Arrangements are under the care of Chapman Funerals & Cremations, Oak Bluffs. Visit for online guestbook and more information.




  1. When I was on the Vestry of Grace Church, Carl and his lovely wife, Audrey, hosted a Vestry Retreat at their lovely home in Chilmark. They were wonderful hosts and the event was a great success.

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