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Caroline Creech

From the mid-1950s into the ‘60s, Caroline Creech lived a kind of double life. A woman ahead of her time, the hardworking young road warrior behind the wheel of her white Chevy Impala relished her career as a cosmetics representative for John Robert Powers, a prestigious brand in its day. On the job, she was known as Carol Desmond and enjoyed touting the virtues of eye shadows and face powders to high-end department stores up and down the East Coast. Sometimes she even travelled by helicopter to keep up with her demanding schedule. Offering impromptu makeovers to appreciative women shoppers was a favorite part of the job. Selling beauty products came naturally to Carol, and she was good at it.

As a stylish, single career woman, Caroline was a trend-setter whose devotion to her work was matched by her dedication to family members back home in Hershey, Pa., where she was still known as Caroline DiDomenico, the youngest daughter of Aldorino and Nicoletta DiDomenico. Her parents had come to Pennsylvania from Italy as children and found their slice of the American dream in Hershey. Nicoletta was a caring but strict mom, while Carol’s hardworking dad held various positions in the cocoa department at the Hershey chocolate plant. The home they bought included two apartments where Caroline’s sister and brother lived with their families well into adulthood.

Caroline, a high school cheerleader who was also active in the drama club, became a secretary for one of the Hershey employee unions after graduation. But after a few years, her desire to experience life beyond the company town and her parents’ home led her to Philadelphia, where she landed a job in the cosmetics department of Wanamaker’s, one of the first department stores opened in the country. When the opportunity arose to work for John Robert Powers, she eagerly relocated to the Washington, D.C., area.

Whenever she came back to Hershey for visits, Caroline loved to give her family members distinctive gifts. Her niece Phyllis Jennine says that until a few years ago, she held onto a treasured a Red Skelton doll that Caroline bought her as child. Caroline happily bestowed her old clothes, shoes, hats and jewelry on her niece, who hosted elaborate dress-up parties in the basement with her friends. Phyllis Jennine appreciated Caroline’s calm and supportive nature during those hair-raising months when the teenager was learning to drive. “To this day, I think of her every time I pass a truck on a highway. She gave me the confidence to do what I was scared to do.”

Caroline dated a variety of accomplished men during her working years, including members of the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins football squads. But it was a meeting in the early 1960s arranged by her doorman with a neighbor at her Arlington, Va., apartment building that would change the course of her life. The neighborly setup was with a high-ranking U.S. Air Force pilot who would go on to become a four-star general and top business management expert. In 1969, Caroline married Gen. Wilbur Lyman Creech, who was known to his friends as Bill, and seamlessly embraced her new role as a military spouse.

Doting on her husband became her joy through their 34-year marriage, along with checking on the well-being of other military wives. In one memorable trip to Holloman Air Force base in New Mexico, in the early 1980s, she and other Air Force wives toured the facility housing chimpanzees from the NASA space program. Several of the chimps responded by pelting the general’s wife with feces. True to form, Caroline stayed calm and literally “brushed off” the incident without a fuss.

Though as a general’s spouse, Caroline seldom needed to shoulder traditional wifely duties of cooking and housekeeping, she lit up at the chance to decorate her homes and help design the landscaping of the houses they occupied through postings in such places as Ramstein, Germany, and Langley, Va., where her husband ran the Tactical Air Command from 1978 until his retirement in 1984. Her flair for presenting floral arrangements was evident in every home they had.

When the general retired, the Creeches built a gracious home outside Las Vegas, near a base where he had served before their marriage. Tactical and technological innovations that he had introduced to the Air Force were given credit for the U.S. success in the first Persian Gulf War. As a business consultant, he developed the “Total Quality Management” approach to leadership, and his 1994 book, “The Five Pillars of TQM,” became a best-seller. Caroline served as an unofficial editor and proofreader.

Caroline had her own devotion to quality management of their residence, and few things made her happier than rolling up her sleeves and helping out in the garden. Given her lifelong love of creating beauty, Caroline found her bliss in making their last home together home an idyllic sanctuary for the two of them until the general died in 2003 at the age of 76. She sold the house in 2004, near the high-water mark for Las Vegas real estate, and returned to the Washington area to live at Falcons Landing — amidst her cherished military kin.