On November 8th, 2022, after 85 full, rich, remarkable years, Carol Cochran Townsend stepped from her mortal life and into immortality with God. Her three-year journey with Multiple Myeloma came to an end in her home, surrounded by family and friends. All who knew her will remember her bright spirit, her strong will, and her deep love, especially for her family:
Her husband of 64 years, Ed Townsend
her children and families:
Ken and Annabelle Townsend
Abigail, Henson, Eva, Fayron, and Jane Adams
Caleb, Chloe, and Corah Townsend
Kathryn and Kyle Lobley
Ivy Lobley and fiancé Matthew Frappier
Sarah and Joby Higinbotham
Carol Lee Cochran was born to Pearl and Ira Cochran in 1937 in rural West Virginia. She was the third of nine children growing up on a small subsistence farm where she learned hard work, frugality, generosity, and resilience—character traits that she embodied all her life.
Carol and her four sisters and four brothers all shared one bicycle. It had no brakes. The young girl who rode that bike through the hills of West Virginia grew into a resourceful, spirited, competitive woman who held her family close while maintaining an independent spirit.
Carol worked for a year after graduating from Parkersburg High School, then earned an associate’s degree from Freed Hardeman University: the first in her family to graduate from college. A few days after turning 21, Carol married Ed in New England, WV and they spent the next half century nurturing a family, their community, and each other. Carol and Ed began their married life in a small college-town basement apartment, with Carol getting her bachelor’s degree in Education from West Virginia University while Ed worked in the University Computer Center and earned his master’s in Dairy Husbandry. Ken, their first child, was born during these years.
When they moved to Ithaca, New York for Ed to pursue his PhD at Cornell University, Carol taught elementary school to support them. At Cornell, they formed close friendships with five other graduate student couples that flourished for over fifty years—all the couples and their children met regularly at state parks, beaches, and in each other’s homes. In New York, Carol and Ed had a second child, Kathryn, then moved to Morgantown where Ed began teaching at West Virginia University and they had their third child, Sarah. Carol stayed home with her children until Sarah started kindergarten, then she resumed her teaching career that would last for twenty-three more years, including earning a master’s degree at night while teaching full-time.
As a teacher at North Elementary School, Carol not only taught fifth grade, she also wrote multiple grants to introduce technology into the school. Her first grant awarded a computer to her students, one of the first in a WV elementary school classroom. Later she was awarded several grants to help students learn to use internet technology. Carol spent hours teaching herself computer skills; then, in her late fifties, she reinvented her career and became the school’s first full-time technology director. Carol envisioned a digital future for elementary students many years before most schools adopted technology.
As influential as she was in the public school system, Carol touched as many people through her service at church. She was well-known for hosting home-cooked meals every Sunday at noon (sometimes more than ten people came at a time): pot roast, beef stroganoff, or chili—with side dishes and homemade pies or cakes. Carol and Ed hosted parties, showers, tailgates, Bible studies, and holiday celebrations of every kind. Many remember how their garage transformed into an elaborate haunted house on Halloween. The Townsend family “adopted” many college students who were away from home for the first time, and those students found a loving, safe, second home with the Townsends. But perhaps most remarkable is that six different people moved into an extra bedroom in the Townsends’ house and lived with them for indefinite periods of time—sometimes more than a year—sharing the family’s resources and private space. Carol agreed to open her home again and again, showing her remarkable faith and hospitality.
Even amid her career, her service, and motherhood, Carol still found the time to pursue her own hobbies and interests. While her children were young and she worked full-time, Carol also had an extensive garden, played tennis every week, decorated cakes (and taught cake-decorating to other WVU faculty wives), quilted, sewed, played bridge, rode bikes, cross-country skied, and read. Carol was very competitive. She had many trophies from tennis tournaments and enjoyed card and domino games with the same competitive spirit. Carol had a “green thumb” like her mother: in addition to many house plants, she continually designed, re-designed, and tended the home landscapes, and many people have flourishing plants that she started for them from cuttings of her own.
After retiring and moving to Atlanta, Ed and Carol travelled extensively: Scotland, England, Ireland, the Isle of Guernsey, Nova Scotia, St. Petersburg, cities throughout the Mediterranean, Croatia, Prince Edward Island, Copenhagen, and throughout the United States, often with their Cornell graduate school friends. They dropped everything to see their grandchildren and attended innumerable school events, piano recitals, plays, soccer matches, and cross country meets—while also hosting grandchild sleepovers that inevitably included baking cookies together. Carol and Ed cooked for people, cared for people, and enjoyed their retirement years. They continued their life of adventure, hospitality, and service.
Each member of her family has far too many more stories to recount here: how one year Carol made a beautiful Easter tree with delicate hand-blown eggs, how she took her children camping (even though she didn’t enjoy it), how she dearly loved her grandchildren and great-granddaughters, was proud and supportive of her children, kind to her sons- and daughter-in-law, loved by her brothers, sisters, nieces, and nephews, and a pillar of support in the seniors class at North Atlanta Church of Christ and in her small groups.
In October, 2019, Carol was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. Throughout three years of chemotherapy, surgeries, and other treatments, all her doctors and nurses commented on Carol’s strength and Ed’s caregiving. Ed and Carol were partners in good times and bad, in sickness and health, in graduate school poverty and in the comfort of retirement. They made a great team. Their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren rise up and call them blessed.
Carol’s days were full of goodness and her life was well-spent. As we grieve the great loss that is her death, we find ourselves immensely thankful for each day we shared with her.
If you wish to make a donation in honor of Carol, Ed thanks you for considering Common Good Atlanta, a college-in-prison program co-founded by Sarah and supported by the family, or North Atlanta Church of Christ for their transformative work in the lives of children, students, people in recovery, and other benevolent missions.
The family gives special thanks to Carol’s oncologist, Dr. Kelly May, and her hospice nurse, Anna Marie Wood.