A head injury Carol suffered in a fall at home on Feb. 28 was thought at first to be a minor cerebral event and be treatable. But following some days in a hospital in Bakersfield, the condition worsened; although she underwent brain surgery to improve it, she lost the fight while resting at home under hospice care in late March.
Born in the tiny village of Lima Center, Wis. (population about 110), Carol and her 10 siblings were separated (she was 5) and taken in to be raised by family members when her parents had to be moved to a tuberculosis sanitarium. An aunt and uncle, a nurse and physician in Minneapolis, took her in, and she grew up with them, entering nursing school in Duluth, graduating in 1956.
Carol had a long and successful career as a registered nurse, earning a further degree from California State University, Los Angeles in 1979. She led surgical nursing at Santa Fe hospital and later served home-bound patients as a visiting nurse in the Glendale vicinity. An early marriage had not worked out, and she found herself responsible for two kids. These were difficult years, sometimes working two jobs as a single mother, but she persevered nobly.
While on one of her rounds, caring for his elderly father, Carol met Norm. Though he was an older guy, she may have thought he had some potential, for they married exactly three years after their first date and moved to Tehachapi a year later, in 1989.
Here, she was employed at Tehachapi Hospital and then served as Kern County's local nurse at her office on F Street downtown. Patients over a wide Kern County area came to appreciate her kindness and help and learned to love her personally. She also had plenty of spirit. Redheads have a reputation for being feisty, and Carol lived up to it, not taking much guff from her admiring but sometimes unwieldy husband. After retirement, she volunteered for years with the Tehachapi Hospital Guild and ran its blood pressure clinic.
Carol and Norm started building their own home from the ground up, on 20 acres just west of town that they acquired in 1987. Before and after they finished that job (moving into the house on Carol's birthday in 1991), they spent many of their spare hours away from construction raising apple, cherries, and peaches as novice orchardists.
The two of them did manage to have some getaway fun, taking trips to Ireland, Norway, New Orleans, New York and Wisconsin. After growing first-rate fruits for a decade or so (losing money every year, but staying pretty fit), Carol suggested that the acreage be returned to its natural state (weeds and oaks), which would be a lot less work. So they got matching lawn tractors for weed-mowing.
Everyone who Carol knew or worked with realized how kind and loyal and caring she was, brightening the world everywhere she went. She is survived by her husband, Norm, two adult children, Cynthia and Steven, grandchildren Ty, Jordan, and Titan, and her brothers Jim and Mike Coleman and bothers-in-law Fred McCann and Marv Gjertsen, all still in Wisconsin. Carol was the only one who got away from the upper Midwest's snow to come to California's sunshine, only to settle in snowy Tehachapi, where we hope she found that the ever-changing mountain beauty and her work, family and friends had made it worthwhile.
Carol's presence and influence will be sorely missed by everyone whose life she touched. Those who choose to do something in her memory may want to contribute to one of our local charities. She would have liked that.