Carolyn Cole Gage B. May 13, 1939; D. September 20, 2002
Carolyn Cole Gage was my older sister. Growing up in her shadow was not easy….she had a lot of the talents I wanted—she was smart in school (she started at Iowa State in 1957 with the intent of becoming a civil engineer) she was quick with her wit and she was an unending source of energy. She also had a myriad of talents that I could never achieve. She was exceptionally talented in sewing and embroidery—and the backside of her work was as precise and beautiful as the front side. She was a wonderful and creative cook (the best apple pie in the western hemisphere and the patience to dig out black walnuts to make the famous but sickening sweet black walnut pie). She read books faster than anyone I have ever met. And she could carry on multiple conversations at once—a feat that continues to be a family legend.
Carolyn had the ability to take what life gave her and make it work. A “city” girl at heart she moved with her husband Gary Harter to the small town of Villisca to live on a farm. This would never have been her choice but it did not take her long to figure out that it was her duty to buy the local newspaper and then a second newspaper in Stanton, Iowa next door. Maybe she took some journalism classes before she graduated from Iowa State but it was not her major. Totally undaunted by the prospect of putting herself in the line of fire she worked hard to make the newspaper visible in the town the county and the state. She was named Master Editor by the Iowa Press Association and went on to become their first woman president. With her second husband Kenneth Gage they became the leaders of their community of Villisca.
Carolyn squared off against the breast cancer that appeared when she was 51. In the following 12 years she went through chemotherapy and radiation more than once. She took drugs but her strongest drugs were her positive attitude and her continued sense of humor. And through it all she never stopped working. To the end she thought about what was best for her papers and her community.
As her little sister (and her much younger one) I wish to honor Carolyn for her courage her grace and her spirit. And I wish to let her daughters Leslie and Anne and her grandchildren Chase Adrianna George Gilman Gus and Grace know that Carolyn Cole Harter Gage was a phenomenal woman who blazed a trail of words and deeds that we all can follow.