I first remember visiting Carolyn and her husband Phil at their home in eastern Vermont during the summer of 1995. While many teenagers may have found a vacation to a rather remote area to visit adults boring there was nothing boring about visiting Carolyn and Phil, and my siblings and I looked forward to what would become our annual summer vacation to Vermont to visit Carolyn and Phil. Whether we were camping with them along the shores of Lake Champlain, visiting them at their then home in Taftsville or at their more recent home in Burlington each visit was memorable. A gracious host, Carolyn was always more than willing to open their home to us and was an amazing chef be it in the kitchen or preparing something over the grill. While our days were full of relaxation, exploration of the local area and just hanging out there were always many laughs to be had throughout the day and into the evenings.
When I decided I was going to bike across the country with the Illini 4000 in the summer of 2007, Carolyn and Phil jumped to support me and the cause for which I was riding. Additionally they then had the patience to sit and look through my hundreds of photographs listening and asking questions about my summer when my family visited them shortly after I completed the ride. When I decided to ride again in the summer of 2008 they showed the same support.
A week ago, my mother received an message stating that Carolyn had passed away and today my family traveled to Vermont to pay our respects to Carolyn and support Phil and their family. A four-hour car ride each way left me with plenty of time to think and reflect. Looking back I find many parallels between my time with the Illini 4000 and my visits with Carolyn and Phil each summer. During my two summers with the Illini 4000 we were constantly meet with open arms by complete strangers willing to open their homes and lives to us. Carolyn was very much this kind of person, going out of her way to show hospitality toward others. I have no doubt that had I4K ever rode through her neck of the woods she would have been one of the first people to try and invite the entire team into her home regardless of the teams size.
One of the first hosts the Illini 4000 team ever had was a woman from Hawley, Pennsylvania named Florence Brown in the summer of 2007. In just our second day on the road our plans for the night fell through and we were left without a place to stay. While out looking for other possible options Jon met Florance, who after hearing what we were doing offered to cook us dinner and let us camp in her backyard. Carolyn's compassion for others very much reminds me of Florance and the many others I meet each day through I4K.
Carolyn was a women with many talents, a great sense of humor and the ability to make everyone that surrounded her feel like they were important and appreciated. While she may no longer be here physically she will never be forgotten as the memories that those that knew her have will live on in them for years to come. Rest in Peace Carolyn.