Wall Of Life - Carolyn - Fifty Lives

Tissue Donor

Carolyn was a daughter, sister, wife, grandmother, aunt, sister-in-law, cousin, friend, athlete, housekeeper, cook, secretary, caregiver and devout Catholic.

She was the oldest of two children born to Gilbert and Mary in the coal country of central Pennsylvania, a coal miner's daughter who with her family, migrated to Ohio at the age of four. As the coal mines began to slow down, her parents sought more steady work. Factories in the Midwest were expanding as our country entered World War II.

Growing up in a working class neighborhood in East Toledo and both parents working, Carolyn became her little brother's protector. She became involved in sports, playing basketball for her school Good Shepherd, for four years and another four on her CYO team. Upon graduating from Central Catholic with consistency on the Honor Roll, she attended Davis Business College and then was hired as a secretary at Owens Illinois.

I met Carolyn shortly after returning to civilian life from a three year enlistment during the Korean conflict. Two long years later, we were married in her beloved Good Shepherd Church. As a wife of a Toledo Firefighter, Carolyn soon adjusted to being alone much of the time as her husband juggled two jobs. Children began to occupy much of her day. First Mike, then Joe, then Marie between May 1959 and May 1961. Carolyn's primary job was at home. During that third pregnancy, she developed what was termed "Migraine of Pregnancy", a severe 24 hour long headache that lasted 18 months until a local chiropractor was somehow able to relieve pressure on a nerve and the pain stopped. During that awful nightmare, she was blessed with a few neighbors who would do anything for her along with a sister-in-law who though not much more than a kid herself would come over to do laundry, cook, make beds, and entertain the little ones while Carolyn tried to rest. About six years later, Carolyn was back in the maternity ward delivering our fourth angel, we named her Angela.

Sometime later, Carolyn went back to work and also back to school, graduating from Owens Community College. Her cheering section was there as she accepted her degree. We were all very proud of her, our wife and mother.

Upon retirement Carolyn returned to her love of running her home, shopping for her family, watching her children achieve their goals, marry and then came the grandchildren, 16 in all, and everyone, her special pride and joy.

One of Carolyn's goals was to visit the countries of her heritage, Ireland and Hungary. Unfortunately some physical maladies began to take a toll. She had the left knee replaced and therapy did not work to her advantage due mostly to a severe back problem, spinal stenosis. She lost vision in her left eye caused by a hole in the macula, a series of procedures failed to close the hole. Her back pain then began to slow her down; she used a cane, then a walker, and then made a decision to have a go at surgery.

Carolyn was one of those rare individuals who do not complain by letting other know how much pain a person is experiencing. She would say "It's hard to feel another's pain" through it all she had her faith. I was fortunate to have known that woman and blessed to have shared 53 years with her. I was with her on her last day; we did not know that would be her last day. She was excited about starting rehab the following morning. She was anticipating company that evening (company she never got to see). She had seen a priest in the morning, she was at peace and she was happy. I helped her with her supper, she wanted me to have her coffee, as I turned to get the cup I heard her gasp, turned to her, she smiled, reached for my hand, took a last breath, closed her eyes, she was gone. Her company was just entering her room as I was hurrying to summon help. There were nurses running to her room, I stopped our friends at the door, they waited with me as the critical incident response team tried their utmost to change the inevitable, it was not to be. I was so thankful to not be alone, our friends helped me summon the family and extended family, she was loved by so many, and that was so evident that night.

This Christmas we celebrated her life here at home. The children and their spouses along with her 16 grandchildren were there (one in spirit). Much was the same, we said a family prayer, ate, cleared the table, opened and exchanged gifts, many of her extended family joined us as we recalled favorite stories and celebrations past and reflected on another's celebration, that of our Savior's birth. One thing was not the same, our dear Carolyn in a physical sense was not with us. However we know she was, in spirit.

Carolyn always tried to help someone in need. She was a giving, caring person. It is her families' hope that even in death, she has been able to help someone in need through her gift to Community Tissue Services. Indeed, this has become reality. We were made aware recently that some 41 people Carolyn never got to meet have been helped through her generosity.

We love you Carolyn.

Until we meet again,
The Robert Schwanzl Family