Goddammit, but we were lucky to have had Carol Walter.

imagesI was leaving my job earlier this year, and Carol Walter, the fiery, funny, profane and profound executive director of Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, pulled me aside and asked if I wanted to become a board member.

I think I hesitated answering, and Carol — who had little patience for hesitating — said, “Don’t be a fucking idiot.” So I joined CCEH’s board because I didn’t want to be a fucking idiot.

Carol died this afternoon after an incredibly short bout of lung cancer. She’d quit smoking two decades ago. She was active and healthy and maybe the liveliest person I know. Knew. It will take some time to get used to the was of her. At a board retreat in November, she was pacing the room because she couldn’t sit still and at one point, I turned and whispered to her that she needed to find a place to light, she was making me nervous. She winced and whispered back, “Don’t be a fucking idiot.”

Maybe you knew Carol. If you ever volunteered or worked around people who are homeless in Connecticut, she would have been hard to miss, though if she cleared 5 feet, I’d be surprised. She loved the New York Mets, and her Family of Friends — a group of long-time buddies who grew up and planned on growing old together. She was a smart ass, and if you were going to verbally spar with her, you’d better bring your A-game. She knew policy and she knew practical, and she moved mountains while she left every one of us a funny Carol story.

Connecticut has set as its goal ending homelessness as we know it — all of it, veterans, children, everyone — by 2020. I believe we will do that, but the process won’t be nearly as much fun without Carol.

Last night, when she was hovering between here and there, a friend let us know that we should light a candle, say a prayer, and send strength her way. I loaded up the following song, sat in my comfy chair, and cried, hard. I was not alone. Carol? I am trying not to be a fucking idiot here, but I love you now and I’ll love you forever.



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18 Responses to Goddammit, but we were lucky to have had Carol Walter.

  1. Sherry says:

    I am so sorry for your loss and for the loss of such a warrior for the homeless. I will keep all of her friends and family in my prayers.

  2. Beth Bellavance-Grace says:

    rest in peace carol

  3. Sandi Martinik says:

    Perfect Ending to this earth! Now lives on in Memory!!!

  4. Deborah says:

    Hello Susan
    Although I did not know Carol, having
    only met a few times at best, I do know some
    of her long time closest buddies who have cherished
    their relationship with her and admired her noble ways
    and compassionate dedication to helping others.
    My heartfelt sympathy to you this morning Susan, and to
    all who grieve her loss. Connecticut feels even smaller now.

  5. Scott Wilderman says:

    What an incredible woman! She we always be ten feet tall in my eyes.

  6. Mercedes Soto says:

    Thank you so much for these beautifully written words. I left the CCEH Board of Directors when I moved to MA in July/August, but was very glad when you came on board. Carol was “unica” and I am so glad I got to walk with her and learn from her. I saw her in October but never imagined it would be the last time. We were sitting on hill at a wedding in NH chatting about CCEH and the new office and watching my four year old roll down and climb back up over and over again. Tenacity! Carol she inspired us all to keep climbing and reaching and fighting! Crying with you!

    • Susan Campbell says:

      Ah, Mercedes. I think we’re all crying today. But what a wonderful legacy she leaves, so many friends, so much good work. And yes: Tenacity.

  7. Carol Jones says:

    A true warrior…An example of good and grace and conviction in a world that does not make sense….Too young to go…too special to forget…too hard to make sense of…You will be missed by so many….Farewell…..

  8. Tom Breen says:

    Very sorry for your loss. This was a beautiful tribute.

  9. Mo Cacace says:

    Carol was small in stature but big in heart and compassion. One of the icons in the field. She will be watching over the rest of us now!
    Mo Cacace

  10. Jim Condren says:

    Thanks for the tribute and the tune.

  11. Robin Koskey says:

    Thank you for a fitting tribute to an inspirational advocate and wonderful person.

  12. Colleen says:

    I loved Carol fr over 30 years, she was a wonderful friend. Lovely song, lovely blog.

  13. Patty Connelly says:

    So sudden, so fast, so sad. A life well lived, so selfless and in service to others for so long, so much good given. Beautiful tribute Susan. Godspeed to Carol.

  14. Dawn says:

    Thanks for that wonderful piece. I went to college with Carol and had the opportunity to see her at a reunion a few years back. She was one of the best people I have ever known and I too am having difficulty with the ‘was’ of her.

  15. Ken Frederick says:

    Thanks for this great story about Carol. What a great loss way too soon. We attended Antioch College together where she served as editor of the college newspaper and was a reliable ally for many causes we championed as students. From your article, it appears that Carol maintained a great deal of her social activism, spending her time and energy on the very noble cause of helping the homeless. We have lost a great soldier indeed, but her example and legacy will serve to give us strength and clarity that we must continue to concern ourselves with lot of the less fortunate in our society.

  16. Jane Dauphinais says:

    A terrible loss for all of us. She was a tiny little giant.