I 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.