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The Boston Globe

Obituaries

Peter Temple, 91; business consultant, actor, sheep farmer

PETER TEMPLE

PETER TEMPLE

In a voice loud and theatrical, Peter Temple often broke the soft chatter of cocktail parties and dinners by quoting from Shakespeare’s plays.

In the late 1940s, he spent a few years acting with the Brattle Theater company in Cambridge. Thanks to that background, Mr. Temple could rattle off passages from plays, but his talents were not confined to the performing arts. A respected business consultant, he also was a tenacious advocate for land preservation and a proud sheep farmer.

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“He was very good at a lot of different things,” said his son Peter, of Aquinnah. “And the people who knew him in one world didn’t really know about the others.”

Mr. Temple, a former executive with Harbridge House consulting firm and a founder of Temple, Barker, and Sloane, management consultants, died of prostate cancer Oct. 19 in his home on Bogastow Farm in Millis. He was 91.

After graduating from Harvard College in 1947 with a bachelor’s degree in English and finishing Harvard Business School two years later, Mr. Temple and some business school classmates purchased the Brattle Theater in Cambridge.

Timothy Foote of Washington, D.C., had sat next to Mr. Temple in a modern drama class, and also acted in Brattle Theater productions.

“He had this extraordinary mix of taste and understanding in the theater,” Foote said. “He was an incredible actor. He had unshakable and correct judgment.”

For four years, Mr. Temple simultaneously was the theater’s general manager and a director and actor.

“From 1948 to 1952 we produced sixty-odd plays in classical repertory in Cambridge and New York, and dabbled in filmmaking for that seductive new medium, television,” Mr. Temple wrote for the 25th anniversary report of his Harvard class. “A great life — but no livelihood. And with a burgeoning family, livelihood became a bit urgent.”

Beginning in 1952, he spent 18 years with Harbridge House, rising to become executive vice president.

“Consulting, let me add, I found matchless for variety, intellectual stimulation, and the caliber of personal associations,” Mr. Temple wrote for the class report.

With the economy booming after World War II, Mr. Temple did strategic planning with corporations and government agencies.

“It’s a different thing than being on stage and having the audience applaud,” his son said, “but if the people you’re serving are corporate America and are happy with the service you’re providing, then you feel good about yourself.”

In 1977, Mr. Temple cofounded Temple, Barker, and Sloane, and advised corporations including John Deere, International Telephone and Telegraph, and Sun Chemical. The firm was acquired in the 1980s and now is part of Marsh & McLennan Companies. Mr. Temple was chairman emeritus of Temple, Barker, and Sloane, and remained an executive after the merger.

For a while, Peter worked for his father, who, he said, could be a “very demanding and a tough taskmaster. Even some of the best guys in the business world would find their stuff torn up.”

Such high standards, he added, encouraged employees to do their best.

“There’s the type of leader who just tells people what to do and there’s the type of leader who leads by example,” his son said. “He was willing to show those of us who knew him how to lead and how to be strong.”

Carl Sloane, a partner at Temple, Barker, and Sloane, said Mr. Temple drew from his multifaceted background to bring a unique and powerful perspective to his work.

“He was brilliant intellectually, absolute dogged in pursuit of the truth and detail,” said Sloane, who lives in Boston and Highland Beach, Fla. “When Peter said something, you knew it was based on an extraordinary level of research. He was not one to shoot from the hip.”

Born Herbert Mortimer Temple 3d in St. Paul, Mr. Temple was always known as Peter.

As a child actor, he played the role of All-American Boy Jack Armstrong in the pilot of a radio show.

In 1941, Mr. Temple married Betty LaBlant, who was known as Parian. Their marriage ended in divorce. He married Beverly Malatesta in 1988.

Mr. Temple was a public relations officer in the Navy and attended Columbia and Colgate universities while in the service.

In 1954, he bought a dilapidated farm house on a few acres in Millis. The home had a hand pump in the kitchen for water, and a kerosene stove. “It really was a mess,” his son said.

With a vision for what the property could be, Mr. Temple kept busy putting up fences, and redoing the wallpaper and carpeting.

“As a young child, the only side of him I saw was him doing work around the house,” his son said. “I didn’t understand what he did in the business world.”

While at Harbridge House, Mr. Temple also was director of the Boston Arts Festival in the Public Garden, expanding the annual exhibition of paintings and sculptures to include performances of dance, theater, music, and poetry.

Throughout his business career, Mr. Temple drew on his experiences in theater and literature to understand the human condition, Sloane said, and he also was influenced by his work on his farm.

“The theater, consulting, and the farm: that’s a unique combination of qualities,” Sloane said. “Very few people knew him in a fully rounded 360-degree sense.”

After buying the Millis property, Mr. Temple kept his eye out for nearby land that went up for sale. Little by little, he accumulated 85 acres of farmland and forest that runs along the Bogastow Brook. He also bought 100 acres in Westport to grow hay for the sheep in Millis.

Mr. Temple was a corporate trustee for the Trustees of Reservations conservation organization and “became pretty well known on the Town Meeting floor for fighting for open space,” his son said. Mr. Temple’s passion, he added, was driven by “an attachment to the land and a love of working the land, and the satisfaction that comes from that.”

A service has been held for Mr. Temple, who in addition to his wife and son leaves another son, Paul, of Longmont, Colo.; his former wife; and five grandchildren.

As Mr. Temple got older, he kept working on his farm and loved getting up early on winter mornings to see if any lambs had been born overnight.

Even in the cold and snow of midwinter, friends knew “he would be out in the barn helping the ewes have lambs,” Foote said. “He seemed to thrive on it.”

Melissa M. Werthmann can be reached at melissa.werthmann@globe.com.

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