Carolyn (“Mrs. C”) Wolcott

Carolyn Wolcott

GUILDERLAND — Carolyn Mae Wolcott loved to laugh and taught her four children to be independent and resourceful — to cook, garden, and appreciate nature, said her daughter Melody Wolcott. Carolyn (née Hallenbeck) Wolcott died on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019. She was 82.

“She was a very strong but caring person. She left a big hole in the family,” said her daughter.

For more than three decades, Mrs. Wolcott worked as a baker for Mike’s Diner on Carman Road in Guilderland, where she was known as “Mrs. C.” Especially famous were her raspberry nut horns and apple pockets, said Melody Wolcott, who added, “They used to have a Muffin Club at Mike’s Diner.” This was, she said, ”a bunch of people who would get together at Mike’s Diner to have breakfast and eat the muffins she made.”

Mrs. Wolcott was always singing and dancing in the house, her daughter said. Mrs. Wolcott’s brother Kenny was a member of a band, Nashville Sounds, and she would sometimes sing country music or gospel with his band while they practiced, her daughter said. She didn’t really perform, except at family functions. “Everybody teased her she sounded like Minnie Pearl or June Carter,” her daughter said.

Mrs. Wolcott, who was raised on County Line Road on the border of Guilderland and Rotterdam, taught herself to play the piano by ear from the radio. She played guitar and was learning to play banjo. “She was always trying something,” her daughter said.

She loved painting and would sometimes work on painting black-and-white photographs so that they became color photographs, her daughter said. She also painted landscapes in acrylics. She was talented at sewing, and made all her children’s Halloween costumes and many of their clothes.

She had two gardens, in the front of the house and in back. “The whole front yard was a flower garden,” her daughter said, with perennials and annuals. Her mother had a particular love for violets and pansies, her daughter said. In back was a shade garden featuring moss, ferns, jack-in-the-pulpit, bleeding heart, and sedum. Watching birds was another favorite pastime, and Mrs. Wolcott had bird feeders and birdhouses that would bring songbirds all around her house. She also worked each early spring at Gade Farm, planting seeds in greenhouses.

She was physically active throughout her life. She particularly liked walking and swimming. Mrs. Wolcott was a member of the Natural Areas Walking Club in Schenectady that would meet to walk in places like the Lisha Kill Preserve. She also enjoyed walking inside Rotterdam Square Mall, her daughter said. Until a few years ago, Mrs. Wolcott would walk around the neighborhood every day, even when she had to use a walker, her daughter said.

When she was younger, Mrs. Wolcott had loved to roller skate and would often go skating with her brother Donny, who was known in the family as a great dancer. She and Donny spent a lot of time at Ken’s Roller Rink, near Dutcher’s Ice Cream on Route 158.

It was there, when she was 14, that she first met Lawrence Wolcott, also 14, whom she would later marry. “I thought Donny was her boyfriend,” Lawrence Wolcott said, “so I was trying to figure out how to get rid of him.”

The two got engaged in 1954, the year she graduated from Draper High School. They married in 1956.

It was a remarkable echo of family history: Mrs. Wolcott’s own parents had met while ice skating, Melody Wolcott said, literally bumping into one another in Schenectady’s Central Park. “They fell over on top of each other,” she said.  

After graduating from high school, Mrs. Wolcott worked for several years as a stenographer with the New York State Education Department in Albany. The couple spent a few years in Florida early in their marriage. On their return to this area, Mr. Wolcott said, he worked for Cornelia English in French’s Hollow on a Black Angus farm; Mrs. English let the Wolcotts have the milkhouse to convert to a home while they built a home on Spawn Road in Guilderland, where they raised their children — two daughters and two sons.

After her children were in middle school, Mrs. Wolcott began her work as a baker at Mike’s Diner. She also worked for a time at Sheldon House Restaurant in Altamont.

Mrs. Wolcott belonged to several churches: primarily Saint Madeleine Sophie in Guilderland, where she and her husband married, but also, near the end of her life, Saint Matthew’s in Voorheesville. She also attended Saint Lucy’s in Altamont for many years.

“She was religious, but also very spiritual,” Melody Wolcott said. “She believed in God and Jesus and Mother Mary and the angels, but the woods was her church too.”

The family had a camp in Gallupville that Mr. Wolcott built. They would go there on weekends all summer long, Melody Wolcott said. Sometimes when her father was away on fishing trips with his buddies, her mother would come in and wake up the children in the middle of the night, with the car already all packed, and say, “Come on! We’re going to camp!”

Once, Mrs. Wolcott woke them up at the crack of dawn to go see the sun rise at Thacher Park, her daughter recalled. “That was the kind of person she was — every day was like the first time she saw it. That’s how she treated life.” Likewise, Melody Wolcott said, every spring when the first flowers came up, she would take her children out to show them “the tiny little flowers poking up out of the snow.”

She would also have her children make May baskets filled with flowers to give to elderly or homebound people in the neighborhood.

Mrs. Wolcott served for several years as a Brownie and Girl Scout troop leader, her daughter said. She would take the Girl Scout troop on canoe trips or backpacking trips and “taught us how to cook eggs on hot rocks,” Melody Wolcott said. “There were so many things she taught us. We each made our own quilt.”

Mrs. Wolcott cut all her children’s hair and also cut hair for relatives and a number of people in the neighborhood, said Melody Wolcott. “A lot of people had fond memories of haircuts with her,” she said.

The home where she raised her children was always open to anyone who needed a place to stay, including relatives who were going through a divorce or other transition, said Mrs. Wolcott’s daughter Barbara Davis.

“She loved unconditionally,” said Melody Wolcott of their mother. “That was a huge part of her heart.”

Mrs. Wolcott took care of her mother-in-law near the end of her life, Melody Wolcott said. Mrs. Wolcott’s mother-in-law had been born with polio, and had used a wheelchair or crutches for many years. Mrs. Wolcott got her swimming at the YMCA, which helped her to walk without assistance and to use her arm better, Melody Wolcott said. Mrs. Wolcott also had her own mother come to live with her and cared for her in her last years.

She died of complications from dementia, said Melody Wolcott. She died peacefully at home surrounded by people she loved and the family dog, Socks.

“She’s got some big shoes to fill,” Melody Wolcott said. “She was larger than life.”

****

Carolyn Mae (née Hallenbeck) Wolcott is survived by her husband, Lawrence Oakley Wolcott, and by her children, Barbara Davis and her husband, Paul; Melody Wolcott and her partner, Doug Schmid; and James Wolcott and his wife, Lisa.

She is also survived by her brother, Kenneth Hallenbeck, and his wife, Olive, and by the widow of her late brother, Donald Hallenbeck, Carol.  

Also surviving are her grandchildren, Joshua and Rebecca Wolcott; Brendon, Cory, and Ryan Andres; and Erin and Katherine Wolcott; as well as a great-grandchild, Cheyanne Rose Andres.

Her parents, Stanley Henry Hallenbeck and Marie Barbara (née Millett) Hallenbeck, died before her, as did her eldest son, Marine Corporal Robert Wolcott, and her brother Donald Hallenbeck.

The family is planning a funeral Mass for her on Friday, March 15, at 11 a.m. at St. Matthew’s Church at 25 Mountainview Street in Voorheesville. The Mass will be followed by a celebration of her life at the church social hall, catered by Mike’s Diner. Friends and family are welcome.

Mourners may leave condolence online at www.newcomeralbany.com.

Memorial contributions may be made to Community Hospice, 445 New Karner Road, Albany, New York 12205 or to St. Matthew’s Church, 25 Mountainview Street, Voorheesville 12186.

— Elizabeth Floyd Mair

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