Editor’s note: We often hear about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in numbers of cases and deaths. But each data point represents a human life whose loss is felt by countless other people. We are chronicling some of them in an obituary series called Lives Remembered. If someone special to you has died of COVID-19, please tell us about them by emailing email@example.com with the subject line “Lives Remembered,” or by filling out the form at the bottom of this page.
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Throughout her life, Carole Rae Woodmansee was known for putting others first. In her final days, speaking to her children by telephone from her Mount Vernon hospital bed, she reassured them, telling them she wasn’t afraid and that she was praying for them all. She quoted her favorite hymn, “Blessed Assurance”: “This is my story, this is my song / Praising my Savior, all the day long.”
“That so was my mom,” said her son, Joe Woodmansee. “That’s who she was.”
A woman for whom family, faith and music were the touchstones of her life, Mrs. Woodmansee died on the morning of March 27 — her 81st birthday — from complications of COVID-19. She contracted the virus, her family believes, from a March 10 rehearsal of the Skagit Valley Chorale, after which several dozen singers became ill. She had been a longtime member of the group.
“I think singing was life, music was life to her,” said her youngest daughter, Wendy Jensen. “It’s what soothed her, it’s what made her happy, it encouraged her.”
Her son concurred, saying that his mother believed that music “could draw people closer to God, and help them through hard times.”
An alto whose voice harmonized beautifully with others’, Mrs. Woodmansee began singing in a trio with friends in high school. It was the first note in a life filled with music: playing and teaching piano, singing, leading choirs (at one point, while living in California, she directed four different choirs at her church), directing children’s music camps, and other forms of music ministry. “She loved every aspect of it,” said Jensen. “In fact, the last Bible study that she taught was on hymns, the old hymns.”
Carole Rae Dean was born in Centralia, and married her high school sweetheart, Elmo James (Jim) Woodmansee, in 1957. The couple, who settled in Mount Vernon in 1977, raised an ever-growing family: four children, 16 grandchildren and 25 great-grandchildren. She “absolutely glowed” around her grandchildren, said her son, and loved family gatherings. All of her children and grandchildren live within 30 minutes of each other in the Skagit Valley, and she was able to see them often.
In recent years, she was employed by two of her grandchildren, Paul and Tim Woodmansee, proudly doing part-time office work for their construction company. “For Mom, that was fun to be part of the family business,” her son said.
Widowed since 2003, she led a busy life, filled with family, church (she was an active member of Radius Church in Mount Vernon), service and song.
“She was a go-getter,” said her daughter Bonnie Dawson. “I wrote a whole post on Facebook on how her chair is empty now but it doesn’t matter because she never really sat in it before.”
Dawson remembered, with a smile evident in her voice, that on the evening she was taken to the hospital, her mother took time to empty the dishwasher. “That’s the kind of lady she was.”
Mrs. Woodmansee enjoyed travel (her children fondly remember recent trips to the Grand Canyon, and to Phoenix for a NASCAR race), gardening and spending time with those she loved. “Basically,” said her son, “she was a friend to anyone she ever met.”
Her grandson Paul wrote in an email that while the family was heartbroken that she apparently contracted the virus at her beloved chorale, he was nonetheless finding comfort in “imagining my Grandma singing even till the moment she was destined to leave this earth. I believe there is some beauty in doing the things we love to do until the day we pass away.”