Carol Ann Belanger was born in Rockford, Illinois on December 22, 1937 to Arthur and Elsie Brown. Her maternal grandmother, Anna Louisa Anderson came from Lagan Sweden in 1904, (her brothers inherited the farm, and instead of having to marry a local farm boy, she went to America) . She lived in Chicago, working as a maid for a Senator, and applied through an agency to become what was called a “Mail Order Brides”. She replied to one Oscar Nelson, which took her to Belvidere, Illinois. She had several children, among Harry, father of Gary, and Elsie, who later married Arthur.
Throughout her young life, Carol was steeped in Swedish tradition and was known as the Christmas baby. Christmas was her favorite time of the year. When she could, she celebrated it year-round. Her childhood was spent in town and on farms in Belvedere and Rockford, gardening, tending to animals, gathering vegetables and wild dandelions to make salads. During the war, as a little girl, she and other children would sit on the hills overlooking the prisoner of war camp in Rockford and watch the comings and goings of German prisoners. Many of which work on local farms.
In high school, she was a ‘charmer’ who looked like Doris Day as she was becoming famous at that time. Her cousin, Gary, said she loved to dance and could jitter bug like no one else. The boys would flock around her, seeking her attention. Her high school years were disrupted as her father, an auto mechanic sought work in St. Petersburg, Florida. They moved several times back and forth from Illinois to Florida. When in Florida she attended St. Petersburg High School and she went onto graduate East Rockford high school in 1955. She played softball in high school, but suffered a broken right knee. "I hit a home run, and as I crossed home plate, someone called out my name, and I turned to look...from the knee up!! Ouch..." This caused her so much trouble that in the mid 1980s, she became the recipient of one of the earliest knee replacements in Pinellas.
After high school her father again moved the family back to St. Petersburg, where she attended and graduated St. Petersburg Junior College earning her associates degree in 1957. After that she moved to Chicago where she worked as secretary for insurance company. This time, she moves back to Florida, living in her mother’s house on Madeira Beach, in 1960. While ironing clothes one day, a knock on the door by a suave gentleman, who we shall call Larry, with a shiny black Mercedes, who asked to use the telephone. In what must have been awkward for her, he used the phone to call a woman that he had a date with, who decided to change her plans...a headache, wash her hair...oh well. He thanked her, got to the door, then turned and asked her if she was free that evening, it turns out she was.
On their first official date, was a double date with Larry's friend, Richard and his date, Margaret, who she actually knew from SPJC. On their second date, coming out of the State Theater on Central, they encountered Larry's parents, Euriel and Jessie, at a social club. She was taken in by all, and they married on 30 June, 1961.
She had four children, Michael, Mark, Michelle and Elisa. Carol was a consummate homemaker, and member of several local women's organizations in St Petersburg in the 60s and 70s. Among her hobbies were photography, sewing, swimming, craft-making, gardening, and of course, cooking. She loved foods from around the world, Greek, Swedish, Italian and French...as long as they had no peppers! She was a longtime shopper at Fonte's Finer Foods in St Pete. She could spend days preparing Swedish foods for holiday meals.
The children's friends could be found in the family home or pool at any time. All the kids loved her, as she always had something to nibble on, kind words, or a laugh to share. As kids did in the days before cell phones and other electronics, they rode bikes and ranged across the Jungle Prada neighborhoods and the bay. However, when it was time to come home, Carol had a piercing whistle, taught her by her father Arthur, that could be heard for blocks, and off the kids would go, home to wash up for dinner. Dinners were a center to their family life, time to talk of the day, pray, and be together. Meals bound the family. Every holiday meant family gathering. The family was her greatest source of pride.
She and Larry loved to travel, and when the children were young, they traveled around the southeast, east and mid-west in the station wagon. Many trips were in conjunction with Larry's dental conventions. The travels were not luxury events, as Carol and Larry taught the children how folks live across this land and that no one is better than another. As children began to leave the nest, their travels ranged farther, to Europe, Central/South America, and Japan. Another trip, which was of great importance to Carol, was the trip to Sweden each year, originally with her mother and sister, they later included daughters, nieces and daughter-in-laws. She would visit relatives and seek out graves and Rune stones across the country, and always in early December. Then home for weeks of Christmas celebration.
Christmas, as earlier noted, was a capstone of each year. The house was filled with decorations, often of Swedish origin, and overflowed with light. The trees were tall enough to fill a two story living room, and were once featured in the St Petersburg Times, in the 1960s. It was her passion, which she passed on to her children.
Vacations continued, but with the passing of her mother, she began to focus on family travels, overseas at times, and to New Hampshire, Larry's home, always in October. Those became special trips, taking children and grandchildren. She was very proud of the accomplishments of her grandchildren's accomplishments. Her last of her treasured trips was in 2019. Illness and reduced mobility began taking its toll on this vibrant woman, but despite the pain, she strongly spoke out if someone interfered in her family or tasks. She happily took on the moniker "Mean and Nasty!" A small sign hanging at the entry to the family room in her home, with a crustacean clinging to it proclaims, "The Crab is in."
Complications from surgery took her from us on the morning of 13 May, 2023. She had transferred from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility, where she was able to be in the same room with Larry, who had been fighting his own pain issues for the last month. All his children were able to support him in this painful period of loss. As with the crippled man at the pool at Bethesda, Christ came to Carol and bade her to stand, which she could now do, free of pain, as he took her home.