Mary Carolyn Wieland


On Friday, October 1, 2021, Mary Carolyn Wieland, a dignified, generous and deeply loved wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother passed away at home with family by her side.

Carolyn was born on May 5, 1938, in the Township of Lower Hominy in Buncombe County, North Carolina to William H. Large and Mary Jane (Otto) Large. She was the second of six children raised in the Smokey Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee and graduated from Spring Creek High School in 1956. She enlisted in the US Airforce October 8, 1956, and was stationed at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in the 66th Air Wing where she met her husband of 62 years, Leo. They were married January 23, 1959, at the Old Post Chapel in Fort Sill in a dress she sewed by herself in the barracks on a borrowed sewing machine. After getting married, she was honorably discharged from the Air Force February 9, 1959, because that is what women did back in those days.

While raising her three daughters, sewing all their clothes and keeping an immaculate home, Carol attended college wherever the US Air Force sent her family. She achieved her degree in Art from the University of Hawaii and a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science in Education from Bemidji State University, earning the distinction of Magna Cum Laude with each degree. She then earned her School Administration Licensure from the University of St. Thomas in 1993. Her passion in life was teaching and impacting children’s lives. Carol taught elementary school in Bemidji, Minnesota, for 25 years. She earned the distinction of Teacher of the Year and cherished the many letters of recommendation for the honor submitted by students and peers. She also penned many letters of advice and redress to the Bemidji Pioneer newspaper, Local, State and Federal Officials, especially on the topic of education. Arne Duncan, former U.S. Secretary of Education, probably still feels the sting.

She was a force to be reckoned with, highly motivated and driven for the causes she loved.  She was an avid supporter of the Paul Bunyan Playhouse, she masterminded the “Founders’ Dinner and Auction of the Elements” for the Headwaters Science Center in downtown Bemidji as a Founder and the Fundraising Chair, she authored, produced and directed the musical, “The Life and Times of Horace May”, and served as the Program Coordinator for the Statue of Liberty’s restoration, earning a plaque made of materials from the original Statue of Liberty, along with many other accomplishments we are discovering as we go through the boxes and boxes marked “Keepsakes”.

She was a fierce defender of loved ones and a tender-hearted softie all rolled into one. Every spring she hosted her students to an outing at her beloved farm where they rode horses and tractors, picnicked and got to taste her famous potato salad. The secret ingredient she would whisper was pickle juice. She loved to fish with her grandkids and could tell tall tales with the best of them. She made chokecherry wine, loved strawberry margaritas, dancing, and devising innovative ways to sneak zucchini into every meal.

After her retirement in 2001, she and Leo bought a travel van which they used to explore the continent and became snow birds, traveling between Florida and Minnesota. After her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, she and Leo sold their beloved Minnesota lake home and moved full time to Pinellas Park, Florida. While in Florida, Carol enjoyed many years of active retirement with Leo. They spent time at Busch Gardens, visited the Kennedy Space Center and talked with astronauts, and took daily walks. They rarely missed a Friday night of dancing together and meeting friends at the VFW. She enjoyed her free time revisiting her hobbies such as writing her life story, creating quilts, upholstering furniture and a new passion of alligator hunting, which was considered a very successful outing if she sighted one. She continued to be the most wonderful, dedicated and loving wife, mother and grandmother that anyone could ask for. 

Carolyn was preceded in death by her parents, a sister Shirley Waldo and a brother Robert “Billy” Large. She is survived by her husband, Leo Wieland, her three daughters Renee (Don) Wille, Minnetonka, Minnesota, Susan (Rhett) Jackson, Tampa, Florida, Paula James, Knoxville, Tennessee, and her three grandchildren Christopher (Jennifer), Colin and Emma and one great-grandchild. She is also survived by three siblings, John Large, Joseph (Jerry) Large, and Judith “Jane” Otto. 

 Condolences may be sent to 8024 Bay Dr. Tampa, Florida, 33635.

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