Peter Devigne Caldwell, 80, of Washington, D.C., died October 5, 2014, in New York City, surrounded by love, family, and music. He was preceded in death by his beloved boxer, Jenny, a French farm dog. Peter was born March 12, 1934, in Paris, France, to Blanche Campbell Devigne Caldwell and Nelson Forsyth Caldwell. He grew up in Gramercy Park and attended Friends Seminary (’52, co-captain, basketball team), Yale (B.A. ’56), and Yale Law (L.L.B. ’59, law review). Shortly after law school, he studied abroad as a Fulbright Scholar at the College of Europe, in Bruges, Belgium.
His legal and consulting career included work at Coudert Brothers, in Paris; as founding partner of Kevorkian & Caldwell, in Paris and New York; as Of Counsel at Kensington, James & Ressler, in New York; and as co-lead at the Graywell Group, in Washington, D.C. In the 1990s, he served in Washington as Legislative Counsel in the Office of Senator James M. Jeffords (Vt.), a lifelong friend, and was an architect of Jim’s proposed Medicore healthcare legislation.
Peter was sharp, funny, charming, and bedeviling. He loved to sing, play, and provoke, and could make anyone laugh, often without speaking (much like his comic idol, Jacques Tati). He loved to connect with new friends from every corner, country, and walk of life. A root-for-the-underdog guy, he also knew how to put himself in anyone’s shoes (a strength he called on as father, friend, and lawyer). Peter adored a good caper; a favorite had his kids sneaking a blanket-draped Jenny through the lobby of a “no-dogs” hotel, while he distracted the clerk. A working title for his autobiography: “A Life Full of Loopholes.”
A few of Peter’s passions were swimming, salt air, and ocean water; oysters, littlenecks, and langoustes. Another was music, and Peter was happiest when planted in an armchair, singing along plena voce with Billie Holiday, Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf, and Louis Armstrong. He was a hell of a good dancer, too. And a lot of fun. He will be dearly missed.
Peter’s brother, Henri Prescott Caldwell, died one day following Peter, in Boston, Mass. Peter is survived by daughter Juliet Caldwell (Brooklyn, New York); son Nelson, granddaughter Bernadette Caldwell, and daughter-in-law Polly Vanderputten (Burlington, Vt.); son Nathaniel (also of Burlington); nephew Ronald Caldwell and his wife, Susan Lichtensteiger (Essex, Vt.); niece Patricia Bosco and her husband, Ralph (Winthrop, Mass.); close family friend Marti Hobbes (Millers Falls, Mass.); great-niece Sara and great-nephews Joey, Gregory, and Daniel; half-brother Michael Caldwell (Oxford, Miss.); former wife Frances Sherer Caldwell (White Plains, New York); companion-in-arms Elizabeth Niederman (Washington, D.C.); and many more who loved him. The family would especially like to thank Leny Banegas and Amezene Zewdie, wonderful friends to Peter; Capitol Hill Village, in particular Julie Maggioncalda and Deborah Hanlon — Peter was lucky to have you, and knew it; and the hospital staff at NYP-Weill-Cornell who took such good care of him in his final weeks.
A memorial service will be held on Dec. 13, at 2:00 pm, at the 15th St. Meeting House, 15 Rutherford Place, New York, NY 10003. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Peter’s memory to Capitol Hill Village, Box 15126, Washington, D.C. 20003-0126.