On Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, Carol Gilson Aitken completed her life’s passage. She died at home, surrounded by her family and with their love, at the age of 76.
Many difficult and different health issues finally took their toll on this beautiful, courageous, loving lady. She faced each with faith, courage and humor. Perhaps the best example of these traits was on Friday, Oct. 23, 1987, at St. Mary’s Hospital, Rochester, Minn. That morning, as she was being wheeled down the corridor for surgery to remove her first brain tumor, she twisted around on the gurney and hollered back to her family, “Wake me up for ‘Dallas’!” (her favorite TV program at the time).
Carol was born July 11, 1943, in Erie, Pa. She attended Erie public schools, and in the eighth grade she went on a hayride with her future husband, Doug Aitken. Because Doug’s parents moved to a different school district, it was not until the 11th grade that she and Doug connected again. They remained connected for the next 60-plus years.
High school sweethearts, they were married on Aug. 7, 1965, and immediately began their married life adventures in the United States Air Force. God blessed them with two wonderful children, son Darren and daughter Danielle. During their Air Force years, they moved their household goods 18 times, and Carol would jokingly tell friends, “Doug just can’t hold a job!” She was recognized to be only the second woman ever inducted as an honorary member of the Strategic Air Command’s B-52 Tail Gunner Association. These were special years, as they raised their children, and developed many wonderful, lifelong friendships.
Carol had no advanced formal degree after high school, but all who knew her would agree she had a Master of Arts degree in humor and wit. If you were at a social function, and you needed to find her, you would simply go to the sound of laughter. She taught Doug and the children compassion, and how you could get more with sugar than you could with vinegar. She was loving, gentle and kind, treating everyone with respect. She lived what she preached, welcoming a Cambodian refugee family of five into our small home in Texas. Her friends all have “Carol stories” relating to her humor and her ability to laugh at difficult situations. Several times during her more than 25 hospitalizations, she had the ER attendees laughing at her comments, including identifying one handsome young MD as “Dr. Buns,” and the ER neurosurgeon after her stroke as “Dr. Hunk.”
Growing up, she loved being part of a large extended family of aunts, uncles and many cousins. Their times together during those summers along the shores of Lake Erie helped develop her fierce loyalty to family. As a mother and a grandmother, nothing was more important to her than her loved ones. That devotion was returned many times over during the last several years of declining health. On her 75th birthday, her family found the perfect T-shirt for her as a gift: “Sassy, Classy, and a bit Smart-assy!”
Her mother, Jean Offner Rawa, her father, George Devon Gilson, and infant brother, David, predeceased her. She is survived by her husband of 54 years, Doug, and her devoted children: son, Darren Aitken, of Wesley Chapel, Fla., and his children, Emily Aitken-Inks, Oliver Aitken-Inks and Elizabeth Aitken; daughter, Danielle Reichard, of Clayton, her husband, Scott Reichard, and their children, Benjamin Reichard, Anna Reichard and Leah Reichard; her dear sister, Bonnie Santos and her husband, Richard Santos, of Fairview, Pa.; sister-in-law Joanne Yaple and her husband, Reid Yaple, of Rio Vista, Calif.; brother-in-law David Aitken and his wife, Ellie Aitken, of La Mesa, Calif.; and many cousins, nieces, nephews and a multitude of friends.
The family extends sincere thanks to the physicians and nurses at WakeMed Hospital for their dedicated care and compassion, and to Dr. Michael Soboeiro of WakeMed Garner for the warmth and professional care he provided Carol. Griswold Home Care has been a wonderful caregiver for Carol, and Transitions Life Care has been a Godsend during this difficult time.
A memorial service will be held on Sunday, Sept. 8, at Holy Cross Lutheran Church, at 3 p.m., followed by a reception celebrating her life at 4:30 p.m., at Brick and Mortar, in Clayton.
In lieu of flowers, please remember Carol’s beautiful smile and spirit by donating in her memory to Transitions Life Care, Philanthropy Department, 250 Hospice Circle, Raleigh, NC 27607; or to the Building Fund, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, 2920 N.C. 42, Clayton, NC 27520. Online condolences may be made to the Aitken family at www.mclaurinatpinecrest.com.
Arrangements are with McLaurin Funeral Home, Clayton.