Carol Voss Blazek
A few years back, a waitress approached John Blazek while he was sitting in a diner near his parents' home in Hilton Head, South Carolina. “You have the most wonderful mom,” she told him. She explained that she was living in the United States without documents and had not been able to get medical care for her pregnancy. She had confided in Carol Voss Blazek and one day looked up to see Carol walking into the diner with a bassinet full of things needed to care for a newborn baby. Carol then proceeded to give the waitress a rundown of the “ins and outs” of motherhood.
Like many other acts of service in Carol’s life, it was “done without a lot of fanfare,” John says. He never would have known, if not for the grateful waitress.
Carol Ann Voss was born Dec. 29, 1935 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the third of four children. Her parents, William Francis Voss and Mildred Fitzgerald Voss, were German and Irish respectively and good Catholics. They gave Carol a foundation in faith that never left her. The family was poor and their house was on an alley, behind the nicer houses that fronted the street. But Carol always found the joy in life. One of her earliest memories was running down the alley banging on pots and pans with wooden spoons to celebrate the end of World War II.
After graduating from parochial schools, Carol got a degree in education from Marquette University in Milwaukee, working at Leimann’s Fabric Store and Schusters Department Store to pay her way. She always loved music and dance and performed in Marquette's variety shows. For one performance, she appeared on a poster that drew the attention of medical student William Vincent Blazek. He found out that she was the sister of his fraternity brother Bill Voss. He asked for an introduction at a party, and a great romance began. They married on July 20, 1957.
For Bill's residency at the University of Illinois, the young couple moved to the Old Town area of Chicago. Carol taught first and second grade – including at a school in the infamous housing project Cabrini Green. She also took classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music where Joan Baez was teaching. After his residency, Bill became a captain in the Army, and the couple moved to Fort Bragg, N.C. until 1965. They then settled in the Chicago suburb of Northbrook, Illinois, where they raised four children -- Mary, Ann, William Jr. and John. Bill eventually became chief of cardiology
at Lutheran General Hospital in nearby Park Ridge. Carol helped manage his practice.
“She was an amazing mom,” John says. She was den mother for the Cub Scouts, scout leader for the Girl Scouts, president of the PTA, the “picture lady” who brought art into classrooms, the maker of costumes for the school play and a Sunday school teacher. She also became a docent at the Chicago Historical Society and loved listening to jazz and playing golf and tennis, all the while attending daily mass with her husband.
Carol and Bill had a doting relationship, John recalls. Bill called her “Carlo” and sometimes in the morning they would sing to each other the words of “People Will Say We’re in Love’’ from the musical Oklahoma! Bill’s toughest job as a spouse might have been getting Carol out of a party, John says. She was always the last to leave. “She really lived in the moment,” he says.
John laughs remembering one time about 20 years ago he was at a rest stop with his mom and found her deep in conversation with another woman. It couldn’t have been more than a few minutes since they had stopped, yet there was his mom giving the stranger a big hug and saying, “Congratulations on your son’s graduation and good luck on the surgery!”
“She was so outgoing, she really engaged people and loved people – always throughout her whole life, very quickly,” he says. “That really was who she was.”
In 1997, Carol and Bill retired to Hilton Head, where they had long had a vacation home. Carol loved to walk on the beach. She also kept up her life of service, volunteering in the church and in an office that provided medical care to those without insurance. And she loved being grandma to her six grandchildren, Joey, Bridget and Mary Edgeworth; and Bill, Danny and Carolyn Buckingham. Faith and family were always the most important things to her. After Bill’s death in 2015, her family moved Carol to Ann Arbor, where she passed away last night at age 82.
“She was fulfilled,” John said hours before his mother's death. “She’s not leaving this world thinking I wanted to be this or that. She was a mom first and foremost, and a grandma. She is living and has lived a great life.”