A few years ago, we were meeting with Mom and discussing her funeral and burial wishes. She was asked if there was anything special that she would like to be spoken at her funeral ceremony. She thought for a moment and said that the best thing that someone could say would be “Look…She is moving!!!”
Mom was a funny, tough, Irish/Dutch farm girl, raised during the Depression. She lived her long life to the fullest, and was finally brought down by the combination of Parkinson’s and Covid-19. A lifelong Democrat, she was an avid news follower, and was looking forward to the next election.
She had an incredible life. She grew up in Wykoff, a small town in southern Minnesota which was settled by German immigrants. As the Lead Clarinet in the high school band, she was upset that the band was required to play the German national anthem at community events while the US was at war with Germany. With a twinkle in her blue eyes she said, “I just couldn’t take it anymore. I refused to play my clarinet and the German anthem was played no more!” But her most fowl memory was of taking her mother’s advice for getting that little bit of extra Sparkling White plumage on her County Fair-bound and soon-to-be prize-winning chickens, which had Mom wash them down with a dash of Dandy Andy’s laundry bluing. The dash was more like a dollop and turned her chickens a vivid and new shade of blue previously unseen in Minnesota’s Fowl Pageant circles. It’s no wonder she felt that she had to leave that town and attend Winona Teachers College.
After graduating, she moved to Byron, Minnesota to teach elementary school and to see-duce Gordon Close, who never really had a chance against her. Gordon attended the U of M Forestry School and became a ranger with the US Forest Service. They moved to Ely, Minnesota, had both a girl and boy babies. Gordon discovered a creek and named it after Carol; the henceforth named Carol Creek. Being in the Forest Service meant moving frequently, so next was Eagle River, Wisconsin, where Carol taught grades 1-6 in a one room schoolhouse. Then to the Dora Lake Ranger Station, 25 miles east of Blackduck, MN, where she perfected the art of being the Rangers Wife, the epitome of the jackpine frontier cultural hierarchy. And, while rangering around out in the woods, her Gordon discovered the virgin stand of white pine timber that is now protected as The Lost 40. Their next move was to the Ranger Station in Winona MO, (also known as BoogerCounty), in the heart of Deliverance style hillbilly country, where some of the in-bred locals could not tell the difference between a US Forest Ranger, and a US Bureau of Alcohol Agent. They didn’t mind trying to run the Revenooer’s little lady off’n the road with all the kids in her car, neither. The next, and last, move was to Bemidji, MN, driving into town on a dark December evening in 1962. The four kids in the back seat wanted to know what all those tiny houses were doing in that big snow covered field out in front of the town. She told them that was where the Lumberjacks stayed after their wives kicked them out.
Carol received her Master’s Degree from BSU, and began teaching 3rd grade at Northern School, where she inspired hundreds of lucky kids. She was active in the teacher’s union, Delta Kappa Gamma Society, the Presbyterian Church, quilting guild, bridge circuit and the food shelf. Carol and Gordon had a series of campers, each one bigger than the last, and visited nearly every state in the US, stopping at the homes of their relatives and their many Forest Service friends.
Gordon passed in 1999 and Carol continued unabated: golfing, mushroom hunting, blueberry picking, fishing, card parties, quilting, gardening, trips on cruise ships to Ireland and the Caribbean.
She was always up to something, like standing on her head for her 65th birthday, making dinner out of the rabbit that ate her flowers, making sock monkeys for the grandkids, playing bocce ball in the woods, canning suckers and getting her friends to eat them by claiming they were salmon, picking 4 leaf clovers, or learning to play the baritone in the community band. With 4 kids, 11 grandkids, and 2 great grandkids, she was a busy grandma. Her brother John lived in Texas, so she organized biannual family reunions. These big and rowdy get-togethers with her brother John’s family were some of her favorite times. All of the clan gathered, and enjoyed go-kart racing, horse riding, margaritas, golf, chili cook-offs, talent shows, snipe hunts, walleye fish fries, Texas BBQ clod, card games, slide shows of Texas cows and Minnesota fish, and lots of Shiner Bock and Coors silver bullets.
The last few years of her life were spent, with her faithful guard dog Hildee, at Windsong in Bemidji, where she truly enjoyed the camaraderie and card-sharking of her gang of lifelong friends and fellow retired teachers. She then moved to a senior home in St. Paul, near her kids and grandkids, where she became a favorite of the staff. Fiercely independent until the very last, she passed peacefully and with grace. Unfortunately, while we can’t say Carol Close is moving, we can definitely say that she lives on. We will miss you, Mom, you taught us everything we needed to know, and then some. You were the best.
--Julie, Mike, Dan, David