Obituary: Carolyn Beeker, 85, of Ludington.

April 19, 2021

Carolyn Beeker

Obituary: Carolyn Beeker, 85, of Ludington.

Carolyn Beeker, 85, died on Monday, April 19, 2021 at her home after a lengthy illness. Born in Mancelona to Clyde and Louise (Michaels) Gibson, she moved at the age of 4 to Ludington when her father accepted a position as a pharmacist at Lewis Drug Store. After graduation from Ludington High School, class of 1954, she expressed to Dad a desire to become a pharmacist. In as much as Dad controlled the purse strings and believed that girls should be teachers or nurses, she headed instead to Western Michigan College for a degree in elementary education with additional studies in special education for the mentally handicapped.

Not ready to settle down, she moved to Grand Rapids and enrolled at Davenport Institute with a major in secretarial studies, quickly making history as the fastest typist in the school. During this time she lived and worked in a large Grand Rapids funeral home. While not in class, she cared for the owner’s 8-year-old son and cooked, cleaned and laundered for the family while learning more than she ever wanted to know about the mortuary business.

In 1956 Carolyn married her high school sweetheart, Gary Woodworth, and welcomed two sons to the family. During the next 15 years she worked part-time as a substitute teacher in the Ludington school system.

In 1972 she accepted a position as full-time director of the new Multi-Purpose Senior Center then being established in what was known as “the old band building”. This involved entering that unfinished space daily, pulling up a card table and folding chair, finding an empty box for a file and setting up her ancient typewriter for use. With no experience or training, she went to work creating programs for the elderly. For much of this time there was no money for additional staff other than a part-time janitor. Even then there were times when she was left to shovel snow, mow the back lawn or clean the bathrooms. It was not unusual to come to work early, do these things, and then change clothes for the rest of the day. Eventually a part-time staff person did become available, but none of the office equipment known today was provided. For example, if copies of material were needed, staff-member Christy would have to ride her bike across town to the school offices and use their machines.

As years went by, several hundred hours of work-related training did become available through the Area Agency on Aging in Grand Rapids, including graduate work in gerontology. Among the multiple programs developed by Carolyn for local seniors was a county-wide pre-retirement series offered biannually for 18 years, a yearly workshop for widows and women alone, and a weekly recreation program for stroke afflicted seniors and the visually impaired conducted for 16 years. With the help of the Mason County Sheriff’s Office, the center organized and sponsored the annual Older Drivers’ Refresher Course, still available today.

In 1973, Carolyn and Don Beeker met as the two participated in 50 hours of empathy training in preparation for the new Lifeline crisis phone service. A year of working together to man the Sunday shift lead to a deep friendship and, in 1976, a marriage lasting 40 years until Don’s death. Their first challenge was to work for degrees in human services at Ferris State College in Big Rapids, continuing their daytime jobs and driving to the school evenings and weekends.

In 1976 the Ludington Area Jaycees selected Carolyn as “Woman of the Year”, insisting that she serve as Grand Marshall of the Fourth of July parade, a truly embarrassing experience for her but a delight for her mother. In 1977 she was voted one of Michigan’s “Five Outstanding Young Women” by the Michigan Jaycee Auxiliary.

Upon retirement from 20 years at the senior center, she continued her love of work with people by accepting a position with Hospice. An additional five years were spent in employment with Weight Watchers as a lecturer and food advisor. Having lost more than 80 pounds herself and keeping them off for as many as 40 years, she often joked that her tombstone would read: “she maintained her ideal weight.”

Carolyn is survived by her two sons, David (Lynn) Woodworth of Grand Rapids and Dan Woodworth of Ludington; her two grandchildren, Michael and Kelsey; her four great-grandchildren; her sister, Marilyn Parr of Lansing; and her beloved Kitty.

She was preceded in death by husband Don and parents Clyde Gibson and Louise (Gibson) Loomis.

Cremation has taken place with services planned for a future date.

Memorial contributions in Carolyn’s name may be directed to Hospice of Michigan.

Arrangements have been entrusted to Oak Grove Funeral Home of Ludington, www.oakgroveludington.com

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