Carl Hartman had big ideas before he joined The Associated Press in 1944 and became a foreign correspondent.
"I realized pretty early that I was not going to write the Great American Novel," Hartman said shortly after his retirement in 2006. "So the next best thing, the biggest audience you can say for whatever you have to say, is The Associated Press."
Hartman, who died Sunday, spent more than half of his 62-career moving around Europe. He led the AP bureaus in Madrid, Paris, Budapest, Brussels and Frankfurt.
Hartman and his wife, Martha, lived in Europe in the wake of the destruction wrought by World War II. They were in Berlin in 1961 when the East Germans tried to shield their communist experiment from the flourishing West Germans by using a concrete fence. He would take his daughter, Jessica, to the fence site to watch the spectacle.
"We used to enjoy walking along the area as they worked," she recalled this week after arriving from her home in France for her father's funeral.
The Morristown, N.J., native died in his Washington residence a month after his 95th birthday, said Nancy Thompson, a friend.
Thompson said she worried that Hartman, a widower since 2005, was not answering his telephone, and she opened his residence on Wednesday to police, who found his body. There was no evidence of foul play, and Thompson said a basket of groceries with a cash-register receipt dated Sunday afternoon was inside the apartment next to the front door.
"Carl's interests were wide and deep. He reported from world capitals and the halls of the World Bank," said Kathleen Carroll, AP vice president and executive editor. "He also wrote with descriptive grace about the fine arts, joyfully introducing millions of readers to the luminous domestic scenes of Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. He was a delightful and charming storyteller all his life."
Hartman graduated from Princeton University in 1936 with a degree in English. After working for a Broadway publicist, he entered journalism and reported for the New York Daily News, a newspaper in Puerto Rico, and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency before joining the AP.
In 1978, Hartman returned to the United States, to the Washington bureau's foreign desk, and concentrated on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, both headquartered in the U.S. capital. On the side, he started writing about the city's museums and other cultural pursuits, eventually establishing a new beat for himself.
Hartman's 62 years rank him among the longest-serving employees of the AP since it began in 1847.
"I could have retired at 65, but the idea of retiring at all has always been something I dreaded," he told the Princeton Alumni Weekly for a profile published in 2005. "It seems to me, given the longevity of people these days, that to retire at 65 is a dead-end deal."
He officially retired in 2006 after spending 28 years in the AP's Washington bureau, but he continued to write book reviews for agency. His last review, published Monday, was for "Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone," by Eric Klinenberg.
Hartman never escaped the allure of being a foreign correspondent.
Larry Heinzerling, now retired, was leading the AP's foreign service when he came to Washington to preside over Hartman's retirement. Reminiscing on Friday, Heinzerling said, "He pulled me aside and said, `Listen, if you ever have a freelance assignment to send me on, please let me know.'"