RIP, Aunt Carolee

Aunt Carolee had perfect pitch in a dissonant world.

My aunt was a masterful musician. “No one ever really appreciated how brilliant she was,” my father said. “Everyone jokes that I am the smart one, but the things she could do…She was a genius.” She could play any music you put in front of her, on the piano or organ. She sang beautifully. She was a conductor and ran numerous church choirs. As a teen, she stepped into the lead role in a school production with only hours notice, and was flawless. She made a living with her music, which is a miracle in itself.

Carolee had the classic artist’s temperament. Sensitive, passionate, mercurial, her feelings ran deep and strong. She had an intense love for her family. I saw it often in her respect for her parents, her faith in her husband, the joy she had in her sons and grandson, and the pride she showed in the accomplishments of her siblings and nieces and nephews. The few times a year I saw her (usually on her way to or from a reunion at her beloved Westminster Choir College), I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with her, one creative spirit to another.

For someone with her sensitive soul, the dissonances of the past few years grew heavy. She and her husband battled COVID in January 2021, a battle her husband lost, and which exacerbated her own health issues. Losing her sister only a few months after her husband was a crushing blow, and sparked an unstoppable decline. After months of struggle, Carolee slipped peacefully away in her sleep.

As sad as we all are to lose her, we take comfort in knowing she is reunited with her parents, siblings, and the love of her life. Although we will miss her here on Earth, I am sure she is already singing with the Heavenly Choir, and her ears are joyfully hearing only harmony.


  1. Thank you for sharing this. It was a beautiful testimony to your aunt. 🎈💖🦋

  2. Clare Bright says

    Kerry, Thank you for this thoughtful and eloquent tribute to Carolee. She was my dear cousin that I had the benefit of knowing for al her 76 years, and you’ve described her strengths, virtues and challenges quite well. I always felt protective of her; we had a close bond which stayed in place over the years despite the many miles between us. I will miss that lifelong connection.
    As you’ve mentioned, music was the centerpiece of Carolee’s life, the area where she shone the brightest. She was gifted with almost supernatural talent. I still have a memory of her as a little one, struggling to get up on the bench to reach the piano and then playing incredibly masterfully for her age. In addition to singing, playing and conducting, she also composed beautiful music. It seemed clear to me – and others – that she was the true heir of our grandmother Clara’s prodigious musicianship; and there was definitely a special bond between Clara and Carolee. Perhaps, then, it was fitting that on Clara’s 131st birthday, Carolee joined her in heaven. Rest in peace with your angelic loved ones, sweet cousin.

  3. Erich Pastorius says

    Thank you for this, cousin. Well said.

  4. Barbara Hollinshead says

    I’m so sorry to have just learned this news! Carolee studied voice with me for many years, mostly to have an outside ear find the VERY small technical changes which would help her keep singing for as long as she could. I loved our lessons together. Dear, self-effacing Carolee always sounded better than SHE thought she sounded! I will miss her indomitable spirit. May you rest in peace, and rise (singing!!) in glory Carolee!

    • Kerry Gans says

      Thank you for the kind words. As you say, she was her own worst critic. She brought joy to many, and I am sure she is continuing to sing in that heavenly choir.

  5. Susan Appel says

    Beautiful testimony to your dear Aunt Carolee!!

    First, let me say how profoundly sorry I am for your loss. I just learned of her passing, today, Aug 5, her birthday, while I began writing a birthday message. When I saw that she had no other messages on her FB page and since she hasn’t posted for quite awhile, I “googled” her name and found this. I was shocked and heartbroken, to say the least!
    I knew Carolee from singing in church choir for several years at St Catherine’s in Virginia. She was a wonderful person with a beautiful voice and huge talent. She was extremely supportive of me and other singers, always.

    God bless all of you and may Carolee rest in Jesus’ loving embrace. 🙏🙏

    • Kerry Gans says

      Thank you for sharing your memories. I am certain she is still looking down and encouraging all those who sing and bring music into the world!

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