Erma L. Carroll

Erma L. Carroll
April 17, 1922 - May 10, 2011

In the early morning hours yesterday, my Grandmother, Erma L. Carroll née Adler, peacefully passed away. She was comfortable, thanks to the wonderful people who cared for her around the clock for nearly the last 2 years of her life. Like her late husband, the Rev. Jack C. Carroll, who preceded her by a little more than 15 months, she was ready to go after a long, fruitful life.

“Mow-Wow” was how I always knew her. The story goes that my brother (who was her first grandchild) invented the moniker for her as a toddler, and it simply stuck. She was a loving, devoted Grandmother to me, who frequently had a mischievous gleam in her eye and was always quick with a remark and a hearty laugh.

But behind the spunky exterior was a quiet strength that was born in her large-family upbringing on a farm in rural Oklahoma. Her German-speaking grandparents left difficult circumstances in Russia and landed in Nebraska. Her parents married and eventually made their way to a new homestead outside of Weatherford, Oklahoma, where they started a family, eventually having 10 children.

The community in Weatherford was a tight-knit, family-oriented one. As it became more & more likely for World War II to impact the United States, she took a job with the War Department in Washington, D.C., which eventually led to her meeting the young Marine who stole her heart. The story goes that she actually dated his friend, but he snagged her. They fell in love and were married in September, 1945, once he returned from the Pacific theater at the end of the war.

They started their life together in Georgia, where he attended college and entered the ministry. She lived the majority of her adult life as a Pastor’s wife, caring for people and contributing her myriad skills to the congregational life and activities in churches across Oklahoma, eventually settling in Denver, Colorado.

Mow-Wow demonstrated a tremendous amount of diligence in her life. Some of my earliest memories of her involve her sitting at the breakfast table in their Littleton, Colorado home, praying for each & every family member by name and poring over the Scriptures. It seemed she was always memorizing passages from her beloved Bible, and if I walked by her, I would frequently hear her “muttering” the Scriptures under her breath. She lived & breathed the Word of God.

She raised 3 incredibly gifted and talented children, one of which thankfully became my Mother. All of her children have tremendous musical abilities, and I’m a grateful beneficiary of the disciplines that were part of her household where music lessons are concerned. Her children are all 3 accomplished pianists and music lovers. We are a very musical family, and I believe in large part we owe it to Mow-Wow’s determination to cultivate those abilities.

I’m grateful for so many experiences with her in my life. As a boy, I learned Scriptures from her and always enjoyed visits to her home. She was a hard-working homemaker, an amazing cook, and a joy to be around… although not without the occasional cantankerous moment. I was so grateful when she & Pa-Po decided to make the move to Florida in 1998 and spend their twilight years here. It has meant that my Mom’s side of the family has spent significant amounts of time together, which I’ve been very blessed to be part of along the way.

Unfortunately, she had a late-night fall 2 years ago, which resulted in a broken femur. The surgery to repair the break was a little hard for her to recover from, and she had a further setback when she had a stroke in the recovery process. My Grandfather had been by her side through her major heart surgery several years prior, and was always strong for her. But after her fall and subsequent stroke, his own health began to decline. He passed away in January, 2010, just a few days shy of his 89th birthday. She lived to reach her own 89th birthday in April of this year, but was tired from her health struggles.

She was greatly loved and will be sorely missed.

A public viewing will be held on Thursday, May 12th, from 6pm-8pm at Brown and Sons Funeral Home, 604 43rd Street West, Bradenton, FL 34209 (map here). A funeral service celebrating the life of Erma L. Carroll will be held on Friday, May 13th at 11am at the same location. She will be interred at the Sarasota National Cemetary at 2:30pm.

Rev. Jack C. Carroll, USMC Ret.

Rev. Jack C. Carroll
January 31, 1921 - January 26, 2010

Yesterday morning, my Grandfather, Rev. Jack C. Carroll, quietly slipped away. He was completely at peace, confident about his eternal future, and having lived a full and complete life. He was in no pain, and from what the folks who were caring for him said, he simply went to sleep.

But far more interesting and important than how his life ended are the many things that filled it. You see, “Pa-Po” (as my brother and the other grandchildren and I knew him) was a man who experienced much and loved much. And through everything, he was a passionately principled and devoted man who set a very high bar for what real manhood is all about.

Many knew him as the preacher who cared for and spoke into the lives of so many people across Oklahoma, Colorado and — long after “retirement” — Florida. Some knew him as the Pearl Harbor survivor who fought for the Freedoms that were so precious and valuable for him. As a U.S. Marine, he continued his service through the end of World War II, fighting for the all-important islands in the South Pacific that were so crucial to the outcome of the Japanese conflict.

I knew him as the fun, thoughtful, generous, and studious Grandfather who impacted my life in more ways than I can count. On visits to their home as a young boy, I watched the habit of morning prayer that he and my Grandmother (“Mow-Wow” — don’t ask me: my brother named them before I was born) engaged in every single day. They read the Scriptures together and prayed for us — their children, grandchildren, and later great-grandchildren — by name.

With Pa-Po, the Word of God and prayer were not merely the accoutrements of his profession. Of all that I received from him, the legacy of his authentic relationship with God is most significant and meaningful to me. I often think of him and I realize that so many of the blessings in my life today are the fruit of his decades-long, consistent daily walk. First ordained under the Christian & Missionary Alliance, he became a Southern Baptist minister and began pastoring in the 1940s. He moved his young family all over the great state of Oklahoma, pastoring churches in cities like Ada, Shawnee, and ultimately: Blackwell. It’s Blackwell that I appreciate so much because it was there that his daughter, Ann, met my father when they were 14.

From Oklahoma, he and Mow-Wow eventually relocated to Denver, Colorado, where they took up residence in Littleton. Some of my fondest memories from childhood are from visits to their house there, where Pa-Po and I laughed and played Uno® together on the porch. On Sundays, we always were in church, where I heard and watched him preach with passion and conviction — always struggling to help people and impact their lives for eternity.

In January, 1986, my parents and my brother and I made the trek from Houston to Denver to surprise Pa-Po as he “retired.” I remember many things from that trip — notably, that I was in the basement of their home watching TV when Dan Rather interrupted to announce the destruction of the Challenger — but what struck me most was the sheer number of people who expressed such genuine heartfelt gratitude to him for his career serving people. What an impact it had on me to see how he had poured his life out for others.

Of course, for him, “retirement” simply meant giving up his comfortable salary at a decent-sized church so he could continue pastoring smaller ones for nearly 2 more decades. Thankfully, in 1998 he and Mow-Wow moved to Bradenton, Florida where he began pastoring yet again. For him, fruitfulness in life was more important than leisure.

There is much to be said about Pa-Po, and I appreciate the opportunity to be a bit indulgent here as I talk about him. His wife, Erma, along with his 3 children — Ann Johnson, Steve Carroll, and Jane York — and their children and grandchildren all miss him sorely.

A funeral service celebrating the life of Jack C. Carroll will be held on Friday, January 29, 2010 at West Bradenton Baptist Church, 1305 43rd Street West, Bradenton, FL 34209. A public viewing will be held at 10am, with the service beginning at 11am. He will be interred at 2pm at Sarasota National Cemetary.

I miss you, Pa-Po.

Special thanks to Grant Jefferies for taking fabulous photos and generously releasing them to the family. Thanks also to Rachel York for Photoshop help.