Fillmore---Carol E. Smith of 10058 Dutch Hill Road, died Monday, December 15, 2014 in Strong Memorial Hospital, Rochester. She was born on October 26, 1953 in Nunda, a daughter of the late Emmette and Marion Jones Smith. As their caregiver Carol was committed to caring for her parents in their later years.
Carol was a graduate of Fillmore Central School, class of 1971, and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Microbiology from Cornell in 1975. She received her Master’s Degree in 1980 and her PhD in 1984 from UMass Amherst. She was a certification manager for the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas.
She enjoyed gardening, photography, bird watching and traveling. She was also a member of the Wide Awake Club of Fillmore.
Surviving are two brothers, Ken (Janice) Smith of Webster, Lowell (Kathryn) Smith of Buffalo Grove, Ill., and five nieces and nephews, Christopher, Hilary, Jonathan, Zach and Chloe.
A memorial service will be held on Friday, June 19, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. at the Kopler-Williams Funeral Home, 21 N. Genesee Street, Fillmore. Nancy Russell, pastor of the Friends in Christ United Methodist Church, will officiate. Burial will be in Riverside Cemetery, Belfast.
Memorials if desired to: Wide Awake Club Library Building Fund. P.O. Box 199 Fillmore, N.Y. 14735.
Carol wore many different hats. She was a scholar and scientist whose curiosity extended far outside academia. She was a working professional -- a food safety auditor, with a passion for her work and a true desire to help her clients. She was a strong and independent woman who encouraged strong and independent women, and she was an advocate for women's rights. She was proud of her home and community, the farm and Fillmore. And she loved and attended to each member of her immediate and extended families, in personalized ways. She was a gardener, a land steward, and a lover of nature and parks. A voracious reader, a digital photographer, a collector, a baker, and a giver of the most unique Christmas presents.
Education was very important to Carol, and she worked hard to earn degrees in microbiology and food science from Cornell and the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Her chosen career was in the food industry. She worked in product development and manufacturing operations, as a consultant, and as a quality manager and auditor. Her most recent employment was with AIBI Certification Services, where, as a certifications manager, she audited food and beverage quality systems in factories and packaging plants across the country. She drove over 25,000 miles each year. The work was tiring, but rewarding.
Carol's work ethic, born on the farm, was unmatched. Stephanie Lopez, President of AIBI Certification Services, wrote the following: "Carol earned a glowing reputation as one of the best food safety auditors around. She was detail-oriented, tough and fair...I don't think I have ever known anyone as committed to doing the right thing as Carol. Much of the success that our organization has today...is a direct result of Carol's expertise and tenacity."
One client that particularly benefited from that expertise and tenacity was the Abbey of the Genesee, the makers of Monks' Bread. The organization's representative, Kevin Baker, wrote the following, in a note of condolence: "Thank you Carol for challenging us, and patiently training us. Who you are, and your work...these are a part of Monks' bread."
Janice, Carol's sister-in-law, enjoyed listening to Carol's stories about her work in the food industry. Once, Carol challenged our family to identify the contents of a glass jar -- tiny black kernels that someone guessed were "some kind of seeds." Carol said, "Close, but no." Turned out, they were fake banana seeds, made out of gelatin, and used to add a flair of authenticity to prepackaged banana bread mixes. Carol was always full of stories like these. She was the first grocery store label reader we knew. She loved to wander the aisles looking for new combinations of ingredients and flavors.
Her curiosity penetrated all aspects of her life. That curiosity, remembers her nephew Zach, was "contagious." "Every time I spoke with her," says Zach, "I learned something new. Whether it was at the kitchen table playing scrabble or on a walk in the woods, she taught me to truly open my eyes, push known limits, and ask the question, 'Why'?"
Niece Chloe remembers the following. "Whether we were visiting museums, exploring historical sites, discussing college, or other educational pursuits, Carol had such had such a passion for learning and knowledge that I always admired. As Albert Einstein once said, 'Wisdom is not a product of schooling, but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.' Carol's genuine inquisitiveness instilled in me an appreciation for curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge. We shared a love for science, and our conversations often involved these topics. Through her advice and encouragement, I felt driven to pursue my passions in school and in life."
Carol's curiosity manifested itself in playful ways. Zach offers the following story. "I remember the time she took Chloe, Dad and me on a trip to the abandoned railroad tunnel deep in the woods on the farm. After some initial exploration, we realized we would have to wade through waist-deep water to get to the other side. Aunt Carol laughed as she stepped through the water, camera held high above her head, egging us on to follow, and joking about what might live beneath the surface."
Carol's playfulness found a new outlet with the onset of digital photography. Favorite images to shoot included flowers, vistas, our mother, and casual shots of family and friends. Winning shots found their way into Carol's annual calendars, which she hung on the kitchen wall of the house in Fillmore and gave to friends and family. She had a unique way of composing her shots, zooming in on details the average person would only glance over. Sometimes the process was more important than the picture. She would capture a scene, then use the camera or her computer to zoom around and "explore" it, honing in on hidden squirrels or the looks on the faces of people in the background. Photography was a love that she shared with her nieces and nephews – Nephew Christopher remembers that Aunt Carol gave him and his siblings their first, one-megapixel digital cameras.
She had a way of investing in people, of learning and caring about their specific interests, then fostering them. Carol's oldest niece and nephew, Chris and Hilary, remember Aunt Carol taking them as high school students to tour her alma mater, Cornell University, which they eventually attended as well. "We spent the day walking around the whole campus, eating ice cream at the dairy bar, seeing her old classroom buildings, and gazing out onto the falls," remembers Chris. "I remember how much she enjoyed just standing on one of the bridges on North Campus, looking out at Beebe Lake. Getting a first-hand, personalized tour of Cornell made the transition to college less daunting," he says.
When nephew Jonathan was living in upper Manhattan, he told Aunt Carol about his budding interest in container gardens. She mailed him a package of seeds from the farm. She nurtured in a way that only aunts can -- with personalized attention, and whimsy.
Carol demonstrated that personalized attention in her selection of birthday and Christmas gifts. The kids, when they were young, received a succession of one-of-a-kind presents--wind-up toys, marionettes, a sock puppet kit, spinning holographic discs, and perhaps most memorable of all -- nose flutes. Small bits of colored plastic that you could play like kazoos -- by blowing through them with your nostrils.
To the grown-ups, Carol gifted books, household tools, handy and interesting knickknacks. Plug-in water boilers and octopus surge protectors come to mind. She put tremendous thought into her gifts and considered not just what she knew the recipients would like -- but also what she thought they might need, or one-day need, or which might simply make their lives a little easier. And because she put so much thought into every gift, she assumed that other people did the same. For this reason, she would never get rid of something that she received as a gift.
Carol's most profligate gift-recipient was our mother, Marion. Since mom loved unwrapping presents, Carol would purchase many small Christmas gifts for her, which they would open slowly throughout the day. Eventually, the tally approached 100 presents. Someone asked Carol if she really wrapped individual lifesavers candies to get to that total. She just smiled and said, "No," though I bet she had liked the idea.
Carol played primary caregiving roles in the lives of both our parents. She worked closely with Mom when Dad's dementia required that he enter a nursing home, and she helped to oversee his care there. A decade later, Mom's health became enough of a challenge that assisted living seemed like it would be the only option. Carol was away at work during one of the challenging times. I remember the telephone conversation with Carol as she said, “I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. I am moving to the farm. Be sure to tell Mom I’M MOVING TO THE FARM." It was a role reversal, notes family friend Janice Wolfer. Our mom had been at Carol's side during some serious illnesses, and now Carol poured herself into taking care of our Mom. She demanded that Mom perform as much of her own self-care as she could. Her help ensured that our mother had a much better quality of life in her last years. Mom died in Carol's arms, at home, and Carol considered that such an honor that we included her experience in Mom’s obituary.
Carol's dedication to her family was an inspiration to all of us. Her sister-in-law Kathryn says: "Nothing meant more to Carol than the true bond that she had with family and friends. She was always interested, concerned, and happy to engage in a conversation. I admired her sincere devotion to her parents and the other people she loved, and the land on which she grew up."
Carol was keenly interested in family history. She had compiled many photos, stories, and recipes from family archives and notes. Whenever a genealogy question came up, family members looked at each other for a minute until someone said, “Carol would know.”
Her love for family extended to the farm and the Fillmore community. She had recently become involved with the local Wide-Awake club, and she had been working hard on the group's new library project. I'm sure Carol will be watching as the project moves forward.
When you think of the places Carol lived -- Michigan, Chicago, New Jersey, Ithaca, Massachusetts -- it seems surprising she would want to return to the country and to a small community with no nearby airport. But even before she moved back to take care of Mom, she loved to return here. She loved the dark night sky, the big horizons, the rolling fields, the wildlife, and the ability to enjoy both solitude and community. "Her home was her sanctuary," remembers Kathryn. "A place to read a book, try a new recipe, water the flowers, sit and watch the birds flock to the feeders, or just take a nap."
Carol's bird feeders were the site of a healthy competition between her and her cousin, Pat Jones. The two jostled to see who could attract the most unusual birds to their feeders. Last summer, Pat trumped all the bird sightings when she spotted an indigo bunting on her feeder. Carol conceded that the bunting sighting was even better than the Rose Breasted Grosbeaks she herself was feeding, and she decided that she wasn't going to play anymore. Carol was much more than a cousin to Pat -- she was a companion and friend.
In addition to perpetuating her birdwatching, the farm served as a canvas for Carol's lifelong love of gardening. She was happy to return her hands (and often, her bare feet) to the dirt. She had an epic green thumb, and her hard work yielded a bounty of vegetables throughout the season. After she installed a new patio, Carol designed and planted the floral landscaping that surrounded it. She said that for her, gardening took priority over cleaning the kitchen floor. The first was necessary, the second optional. She had a tendency to punctuate every open expanse of lawn with a new tree or berry bush---a modest act of rebellion that thankfully her lawn mowing service tolerated.
When mom died, Carol was firm in her decision -- she wanted to stay at the farm, indefinitely.
Another place that meant the world to Carol was Letchworth Park. "It was her place to go to put things into perspective," remembers our brother Lowell. "She found comfort exploring its greenery, the falls area and the soaring turkey vultures at Big Bend. Carol learned and shared much about the park and its history. She uncovered the mystery of the natural fountain at the Glen Iris Inn and delighted in the fact that the answer was a physics problem. The summer trips were made even sweeter by soft-serve cones picked up at the park entrance in Portageville. Carol often prodded the family into a visit at about 4pm, the golden hour when animals become more active and the sun begins to set." She also attended frequent lectures at the park, remembers Janice Wolfer.
Carol's favorite time of year was Christmas. As a child, she would sometimes sleep underneath the Christmas tree, and on Christmas morning, she would shake every gift and guess what was inside. She loved all the classic Christmas albums, like Burl Ives and Bing Crosby. One of her favorite parts of Christmas -- as well as the few months preceding -- was the baking. Every Christmas, Carol baked hundreds of cookies and candies. This is no exaggeration. Every household, every niece and nephew away at college, received a shirt box of his or her own, filled with six to eight varieties of Carol Classics. There were the white and pink candy cane twists, the fruitcake bars, the sugar cookies, the divinity candy. Every year, a new recipe or two found their way into the mix.
One of the family's favorite memories had to do with Carol's efforts to spread Christmas cheer during her road trips for work. She would bring with her six or eight bags of extra cookies, and then would hand them out, one by one, to toll booth fee collectors. She didn't want anyone to be forgotten around the holidays.
That was Carol. Creative, selfless, love-abounding Carol. Quick with a smile or a story. A woman, sister, friend, aunt, daughter, and coworker who delighted in making the world a better place, through small and sometimes random acts of kindness.
"She taught us to take time to enjoy life and do things that are important to us," says Lowell. "From this garden on earth, she took the seeds to plant the beautiful memories in our hearts and souls. We will miss her very much," says Kathryn.
"Carol was remarkable in her unending care and devotion. She truly earned a star in her crown," says Janice Wolfer.
Nephew Zach says: "I will miss her warm smile greeting us as we arrived on Dutch Hill Road, and the wonderful meals and desserts awaiting us in the kitchen. May we all learn from her selfless nature and dedication to family, friends, and community. Thank you, Aunt Carol."
Niece Chloe says, "She had a loving presence about her, which touched not only the lives of the ones related to her, but also her friends, neighbors, and countless others. I smile, as I remember her laughter, as we sat discussing stories around the table with family and friends, and her warm hugs, her famous Christmas cookies, her beautiful plantings, and the overall incredible person I was lucky enough to call my Aunt Carol."
We were, all, lucky.
We invite you to honor Carol, her life, and her memory, by living her example. Indulge in small pleasures. Honor quietude, and hold space in your lives for simple, important rituals -- like a mindful cup of tea or coffee. Read widely, and don't be afraid to give a twenty-five-cent library-castoff a chance. Love your family, love your land, and learn and share the history of your place and your people. Bake something, and then share it with someone unsuspecting. Love Christmas. Step outside, perhaps at the golden hour, and take a picture of what you see. Be curious. And let the kitchen floor stay dirty for a while. Mess around a bit in the garden, instead.