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Carol Draper knew it took a village to raise a child right—so she created one.
With one marriage, nine children, and dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Carol built a family on the foundations of God, kindness, and hospitality. Surrounded by many of her villagers, Carol passed away peacefully in Ellensburg on May 9. Her children serenaded her into the afterlife with “Amazing Grace” and Tom Jones’ 1967 “Green Green Grass of Home.”
Carol was born on August 6, 1934, to Frank and Ida Kerr in Edmonds. She was the third of the couple’s four children, following brother Frank and sister Barb, and preceding brother John. The family lived in their uncle's house, situated on a few wooded acres with a cow, chickens, and other animals. Barb said their favorites were stick “horses,” which they named Trigger and Champion, after the horses of celebrities Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.
It sounds idyllic, but things were never easy for Carol and her family. Everyone in the household came down with a series of childhood diseases (measles, chickenpox, and possibly others) in the late 1930s, and became very ill. The kids missed so much school they had to repeat the grade, Barb recalled.
It was also the era of the Great Depression.
“It was very hard on all families. We did without a lot,” said Barb, who now lives in West Seattle. “But we never did without love. We were very typical siblings: We argued and disagreed a lot, but we did love each other and our mom very much.”
Father Frank died in 1943, and the rest of the family moved to Ellensburg. They stayed briefly with another uncle and aunt, who had nine kids. Carol may not have known it then, but the family mirrored her own future clan.
Mother Ida soon bought a 100-year-old house for $1,800 on Eighth Street. “It wasn’t much, but it was a home, and we’d never had one,” Barb said.
There, Carol began to collect the building blocks for her village. Carol and her siblings became fast friends with the Draper family, who lived across the alley. One of the sons, Roy “Bud” Draper, would one day become her husband. But at the time, they were just kids who played at the horse stables by the railroad tracks.
“Carol loved horses,” Barb said. “In the summer, when she was 12 or so, Carol would get up early and leave home without permission to be with the horses. Mom and I tried to outsmart her a few times, but she was still able to get up earlier and get away.”
Their mom solved the issue and bought a horse. Trixie—as they called her—didn’t want anyone but Carol to ride her, and would cut the trip short whenever Carol’s siblings hopped on.
“Trixie went a short way, turned around, and went back to Carol. She thought she was pretty smart having that horse just for herself,” Barb joked.
Ida married Jack Kirkendahl in 1949, and the family moved to Yakima. At 15, Carol was the eldest child still in the house. Her younger siblings Linda and Steve were born in 1950 and 1952, respectively. Carol stayed in touch with Bud as he continued life in Ellensburg and eventually enlisted in the Army and then the Marine Corps.
At St. Joseph Academy, an all-girls Catholic school in Yakima, Carol found her best friend and future sister-in-law, Frieda Muoth.
“They were best friends who became family,” said Frieda Holloway, the daughter who Carol named for her friend. “Aunt Frieda didn’t have any daughters, so mom would always say she would share her six.”
The two remained best friends for life, and died less than a week apart. “They even took the same train to heaven,” daughter Frieda Holloway of Ellensburg said.
Carol was the only one of her siblings to graduate from high school, and she did so with high marks—especially in her religious courses. She immediately started nursing school, where she attended for a couple of years.
But it wasn’t long before she was getting gussied up to meet her childhood sweetheart, Bud, at the ports as he returned from military service abroad. It was March 1955, and they began dating in earnest.
When Bud started to take Carol out, he didn’t have much more than a treasured silver 50-cent coin—the equivalent of $5.68 today. He didn’t want to give it away, so he’d trade it to his mom for other cash, take Carol out, and then buy it back when he could.
It wasn’t much, but it worked. The couple wed on September 17, 1955, and welcomed their first child Roy Patrick Draper in Seattle the following year. They moved to Ellensburg and had a total of nine kids in 13 years. Carol gave birth to twins Sandra and Susan—her final children—in October of 1968, shortly after moving into the house she’d call home for the rest of her days.
Carol’s proudest accomplishment was raising a group of kind, loving people. She did it by setting an example. Though they had a full house, she’d welcome anyone into their home in times of hardship, and she’d always help anyone in need.
The family was poor, but was wealthy with love. When Carol’s kids reminisce on their childhood, they remember their mom let them run free, then used her nurse training when they returned with injuries and illnesses.
Though they didn’t have a horse, Carol managed to share her love of them with her children. She displayed a portrait of Trixie in their home, where it remains to this day. And she would take her kids to her their aunt Frieda’s house to ride her two horses out in the pasture.
Motherhood turned into grandmotherhood in 1974, then into great-grandmotherhood in 1996. Amid all the child-rearing, she found time to get her driver’s license and a job at McDonald’s in her 50s. She worked there for more than 20 years, including for a few after her husband’s death in 2004.
Carol was a writer and a poet, a hard worker and a jokester. She was a devout Catholic and claimed a back pew at St. Andrew’s until she had to start watching Masses at home. Her descendents called upon their early religious education to pray the rosary (to the best of their ability) at her hospital bedside prior to her death.
Carol’s son Luke Draper of Mountlake Terrace described the scene: “I was witnessing the end of a truly extraordinary and successful life, surrounded by more loving souls than any person could hope to have. They all held vigil for her and with her in her final hours of life on this earth—singing songs, saying prayers, laughing, telling stories, and whispering their goodbyes in her ear as she lay there quietly, eyes closed, not able to talk. But we could tell she could hear and feel what was happening around her.”
Carol is survived by many; the exact count varies depending on whom you ask. They include sisters Barb Britton and Linda (Chuck) Hoskinson; brother Steve (Jane) Kirkendahl; sons Roy Patrick Draper, Luke (April Williams) Draper, and Bartholomew (Jo Deno) Draper; daughters Carol Weltz, Ann (Keith Kleinfelder) Draper, Mary (Wayne) Marshall, Frieda (Rodney) Holloway, Sandra (Tom) Scherich, and Susan Buckman; a bunch of grandchildren, even more great-grandchildren, and other grands and greats. The village grows nearly every year, and continues to pass on Carol’s love and wisdom.
Viewing for family and friends will be from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, 2023 at Johnston & Williams in Ellensburg. The Rosary will be prayed at 7:00 p.m. Thursday evening at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Ellensburg. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, May 19, 2023 also at St. Andrew’s with burial to follow at Holy Cross Cemetery.
Memorial contributions in Mrs. Draper’s honor are suggested to St. Andrew’s Catholic Church in Ellensburg.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Johnston & Williams – Ellensburg. Online condolences may be left for the family at www.johnston-williams.com