Carolynn was born September 1, 1919 (the year that the 19th Amendment was adopted – women’s right to vote) in Marshfield (now, Coos Bay), Oregon. Her Father and Mother owned a general store. Her Father was so excited at her birth that he bought a Hupmobile in her honor. She told stories of helping at the store and handing out food on their back porch to those in need during the depression. Her younger brother was an accomplished local musician. From the very beginning, she was interested in fabrics and fashion. Carolynn attended Coos Bay schools through Marshfield High. She could still sing the entire ‘Mighty Pirates fight song’, which she proudly did during a road trip with her granddaughter in her late 90’s.
She graduated from Oregon State College, a Home Economics major, where she was known as a fashion trend setter, member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, and campus personality. Carolynn began her adult life as a high school Home Ec teacher at the Ashland High School. Always ready for an adventure, she took advantage of the need to replace nurses/flight attendants on passenger planes during WWII to join United Airlines as a Stewardess in 1941-43. This cemented a newfound love of flying. In her later years she was known to wave to the airplanes on their approach to the Medford airport over her cottage at the Rogue Valley Manor.
She married Robert (Bob) H. Riechers, an OSC Food Services graduate in 1943. During his service as a Navy pilot, they enjoyed seafaring adventures on the Florida coast before returning to Oregon with two children in tow where Bob was determined to enter medical school.
After completing medical school at OHSU and residency in Sacramento, CA, they moved with 4 children to Yosemite National Park where Bob served as one of two physicians at the valley’s Lewis Memorial Hospital (now a small clinic). Having grown up a coast girl, she found a new love of the mountains, skiing and all things outdoors. They formed lasting friendships with members throughout the Park Service. An avid photographer, her images capture the seasons of Yosemite and the adventures of her growing family. The fifth and final child was born in Yosemite before the family moved to Medford in 1959.
Supporting her active, hungry family and her husband in his growing medical practice did not slow her down from engaging in an active social life, volunteering as a Pink Lady at the soda counter of the Rogue Valley Hospital and scout leader and PEO member and officer. Through the years from poodle skirts to prom dresses, she sewed for her children and friends on her Singer treadle sewing machine and found time to play the family baby grand piano, including with a group for ‘4-hands’ home concerts. Camping at the Oregon coast, she perfected her ability to keep kids, gear and provisions dry while keeping her fashion intact.
She also managed to get her 5 kids to Mt. Shasta and Mt. Ashland complete with skis, boots, poles, hats, mitts, passes, lunch and hot chocolate money without a hitch…..while protesting ‘looks icy from here’ to her brood. Both Carolynn and Bob remained dedicated hikers and formed a group of Medford friends that made annual treks into the Yosemite High Country camps with their mutual growing families.
After retiring from the Family Medical Clinic that Bob had started, they moved to Sun River for a well-deserved retirement. Volunteering in the Nature Center thrift shop, she honed her antique skills and opened a small antique store in Sisters. Family and friends gathered in every season during these years. She enjoyed rich relationships with friends, family and neighbors wherever she was. She photographed Mt. Bachelor, the Sun River meadow and the flowers of the region in every light and every season. She specialized in finding images of ‘cloud angels’ in the sky wherever she went.
Following her husband’s death in Sun River and at age 80 she returned to a small home in Medford, renewing old and making new friendships. She moved to the Rogue Valley Manor in 2000. She continued to volunteer at a local cancer thrift shop and relished the relationships she found with young people through the Fairy Godmother project.
Dubbed ‘Grandma the Great’, she enjoyed any opportunity of a road trip and events celebrating her 4 grandchildren. You never left her home without a sandwich and coke for your travels. She was known for her hugs, and her hallmark thumbs up as you drove away. She enjoyed meeting 5 of her 8 great grandchildren.
At age 90 she requested a birthday hike to the Yosemite High Country making the overnight stay at the tent camp at May Lake (9,270 foot elevation), with several children and grandchildren. She celebrated her 100th birthday at the Manor with a flight over Crater Lake, wearing her United cap. Despite significant loss of vision, she could ‘feel’ the flight and imagine the landscape.
She was treated with care and respect by the staff at Memory Care center of the Rogue Valley Manor and ‘followed her angel cloud’ in peace on Sunday, May 7, 2023 at the age of 103. A long life, well-lived. Carolynn is survived by 4 of her 5 children, 4 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. She will always be ‘Grandma The Great’, and a dear friend who made a rich impact on all who knew her.