In Memoriam – Carol Lee Abel

Carol Lee Abel, one of the most wonderful people that I have ever met, died in the home that she shared with the love of her life – John Abel (an equally wonderful person) – on June 22.

Carol was famously camera shy, but attached are some images of her that John sent to me, and one from an arts council Pop-Up Gallery.  (We were so lucky to have Carol and John working with us to found the SCAC.)  John sent these pictures with a note – “They are both, frankly, heartbreaking to me, but they are recent and they are her to the core. It was perhaps a sign of her decline that she let me take them in the first place, because there was no one more camera-shy than Carol. She could smell a camera in the vicinity, and would take off running. I have very few pictures of her, over fifty years, but of course her image is in my head.”

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Perhaps she understood how important it would be to so many of us to have a picture of her lovely, smiling face.  More pictures of her would be welcome, as would any stories that you would like to share.

For John, Carol’s death is like losing a lung.  He can still breathe, but never as fully or easily.  We mourn for both of them – for this indescribable loss and heartbreak.

A Celebration of Carol Lee Abel’s life will be held on July 22 from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Fine Line Creative Arts Center.  All are welcome.

By: Elizabeth Bellaver

Carol’s Obituary:
Carol passed away at home in St. Charles, Illinois, on June 22. Carol was born in Chicago and grew up in Oak Park and Park Ridge, Illinois. Her father was a printing executive and her mother was a homemaker. Carol’s mother’s sister married Carol’s father’s brother, and the two families lived together during WWII, in Rhode Island, and in Oak Park, and, later, across the street from each other in Park Ridge. Carol and her brother grew up with their three cousins in a close, extended family and thus developed an eccentric little society with its own folklore, customs, and language, often to the bafflement of spouses and friends in later life.

Carol graduated from Maine Township High School in Park Ridge. She maintained that she had been a shy and quiet youth, which was open to some debate in later years. She attended Carroll College in Wisconsin and, upon graduating, taught elementary school for two years in nearby Tess Corners. Feeling her life too circumscribed, she joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Morocco to work in community-based programs for women. She spent a year in a small village high in the Middle Atlas Mountains and a further year working at the Institute of Hygiene in Rabat. Toward the end of her tour she was approached by the American School in Rabat, where she remained and taught second, seventh, and eighth grade for the next two years. About this time friends introduced her to a recently arrived Peace Corps Volunteer from California— a surfer, dilettante, and comprehensive oddity, who fell irrevocably in love with her. He would not be dissuaded and he would not go away, and so they remained together the rest of their lives.

Carol and John Abel (for that was his name) were married in chambers in San Francisco. Upon returning to the States, she and her migratory husband lived in San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Iowa city, Iowa, and Evanston, Wilmette, and St. Charles, Illinois. Carol taught elementary school in San Francisco and Washington and was a bank trust officer in San Francisco. She was a faculty secretary in the School of Journalism at the University of Iowa and became a legal secretary upon moving to the Chicago area. The latter led to Carol’s aiding her firm’s clerkship program for recruiting and orienting second-year law students. Carol was a board member of the Friends of the Wilmette Library where she was instrumental in arts acquisition and establishment of the permanent used-book room. She was a perennial board member and social director of her homeowners’ association. She became a member of the St. Charles Fine Art Show Committee and directed artist services for the annual show. She was a board member and past president of the St. Charles Public Library Foundation. She and her husband were art collectors in a small though dedicated way.

Carol’s parents, Marion and Carl White, and her brother, Robert Dean White, predeceased her, and she leaves behind her nephew Todd and several cousins, all of whom she adored, and friends who were equally loved.

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