Carol Mackey died Friday night February 5, 2021 at Sombrillo Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Los Alamos, New Mexico. She was 85 years old, in late-stage Alzheimer’s, with a broken hip that wouldn’t heal, and had Covid. Her illness was very mild, and she faded away over two weeks with no pain and little fanfare. Her beloved husband of 57 years, Bill Mackey, has been gone for eight years and she longed for nothing more than to be with him again.
A lifelong Presbyterian with an ecumenical heart and an inquiring mind, Carol believed in a kind and benevolent God who offered love to all and judgment to none. Carol met Bill at a lakeside keg party near Denton, Texas in 1953 when she was barely 18. Bill was an older BMOC (big man on campus) involved in student government, a returning veteran, and a hard partier. Upon discovering that night that he also was Presbyterian, she arranged to meet Bill at church the next morning. He did not show up. She forgave him, but when he eventually brought up the topic of marriage, she wasn’t sure.
In the summer of 1955, Bill wrote Carol a letter asking what kind of car she would buy if she were buying a car. She answered that she would get a turquoise and white Crown Victoria. He showed up in Pampa, Texas a few weeks later driving a turquoise and white Crown Victoria. They were married at the Presbyterian Church in Denton December 30.
The story of how they met and how they decided to marry is vital to understanding who Carol was and who Bill and Carol were together. Carol was not defined by her husband, but her story is inextricably entwined with him, just as their story is blended with their children and friends in Pampa, at Ghost Ranch, and with the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad and St Jerome’s Episcopal Church in Chama. Bill called her the Lone Arranger, because she always had a plan and it was always an interesting one. As a couple, they were a powerful force for all things good and kind, but were also pragmatic and capable. They had tremendous fun sitting around a campfire or a living room swapping stories with family and their many friends.
Although Carol left this world quietly, she did not live a quiet life. Laughter, music, and storytelling are part of the legacy she left with us. Mother believed in eating dessert first. She loved a good pun, wrote perfectly metered doggerel, and made friends into family with an ease that defied her internal fears. Her ability to connect was even more extraordinary because of those fears. Hundreds of people call her their friend or mentor. Dozens of people with no blood ties consider her another mother or sister or grandmother. She always found a meal or a bed for anyone we brought home.
Carol chose to be a teacher, with not much encouragement from her parents. She chose to be a feminist, along with her husband. She chose to work on behalf of social justice. She chose to be Bill’s partner in adventure and adversity. She chose to raise her offspring into adults who work hard and value a spirit of giving. She chose to “earn her keep” and was a vibrant and creative force in the First Presbyterian Church of Pampa and in the teaching community of Pampa and at Ghost Ranch. She and Bill volunteered for the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad in Chama after retiring from teaching and re-retiring from leading the Service Corps and Elderhostels at Ghost Ranch. She was a loving and generous mother, a fun and active grandmother, a sweet great-grandmother, and a faithful and loving wife to Bill. She was an inspirational Girl Scout leader to at least two generations of women, a devoted educator, a bold performer, a clever writer, a tireless volunteer, and a friend to everyone she met.
We will miss her forever. Her deepest fear was realized when it was clear that Alzheimer’s was taking her as it had taken her mother and brother. For all the family and friends who love her, she would want us to dim the lights in the room of the last six years and brightly illuminate the much larger room holding the love and joy and laughter that truly define Carol’s life.
Carol Lee McCune was born in Staten Island, New York September 13, 1935. The small family of Jimmie and Hazel McCune and Carol’s older brother Richard (b.1928-d.1996) moved to Pampa, Texas in 1939. Carol graduated from high school, married Bill Mackey, and got a BA and MA in Education from what was then North Texas State College in Denton, Texas. They lived in Puerto Rico from 1958 to 1962, then moved to Pampa to raise their two, soon to be three children. Carol taught 3rd grade, then 6th grade in Pampa till she and Bill both retired from teaching in 1991. They moved to Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, New Mexico in 1993, and re-retired to Chama, New Mexico in 2009, where Carol stayed after Bill’s death until she and her three cats (Buddy, Prince, and Apollonia) moved closer to youngest daughter Melissa in White Rock, New Mexico in 2017.
Bill and Carol had three children, three grandsons, and two great-grandchildren. Oldest daughter Cindi Wallace, a retired teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico is married to Mark, the son-in-law Carol enjoyed singing with. Cindi is the mother of Jason Cox (wife Shelly) of Pagosa Springs, Colorado and Jeff Cox (children Evanie, 8 and Kayson, 6) of Fritch, Texas. Middle son James Keith Mackey, a retired Navy veteran, lives in Lake Charles, Louisiana with his forever-love, wife Donna. With Nita Mackey of Amarillo, Texas, James is the father of Josh Mackey (wife Kate) of Portland, Oregon. Younger daughter Melissa Mackey is a youth librarian in Los Alamos, New Mexico married to Matt Pierce, adored by Carol for his wit and his hugs.
If anyone would like to honor Carol Mackey and her volunteer spirit, the last organization she volunteered for (other than St Jerome’s Episcopal Church) was the Chama Valley Humane Society. Daddy was gone, her eyesight was poor, her hearing was imperfect, and her memory problems had begun, but she fostered litters of kittens at her home and helped with the annual craft fair to raise money. Family and friends will have a gathering at Ghost Ranch when it’s safe to do so.