Life Story Visitation
Life Story / Obituary
As her family and friends can attest, Carolyn Doornhaag truly understood the secret to a life well lived. She was a constant source of strength, even in the most difficult of times, and she was always supportive to those around her. She guided her family with her selflessness. Carolyn treasured her family and friends, and nothing brought her greater joy than spending time with her loved ones. Carolyn will be forever missed by those who knew her best.
With the end of WWII in 1945, there was dancing in the streets as America and our allies were victorious in the fight for the preservation of the freedom we still enjoy today. Rationing had become a thing of the past, and the baby boom was underway. Amidst this eventful time was a time of great celebration in the lives of Bill and Margery (Buckham) Gibson as they announced the birth of the baby girl they named Carolyn on September 30, 1948, in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Growing up, Carolyn was a typical young girl of her generation in many ways. She was raised on the family farm alongside her siblings, Holly, Shelley, and John. Carolyn discovered her passion for horses and animals at a very young age, and used her 4H money to purchase her first horse. They hauled the horse home in the back of a Ford pickup truck and named him Streak. They couldn’t afford a proper saddle, but that didn’t stop Carolyn. She learned to ride bareback, using baler twine as her bridle. This ignited her lifelong love of horses. She was truly a country girl at heart. She raised livestock and participated in 4H throughout her childhood.
She met John Doornhaag in elementary school, and the two of them later became high school sweethearts. New and exciting changes were on the horizon as Carolyn and John were united in marriage in the presence of family and friends, beginning their future together. Over the years, they welcomed two children into their hearts and home. Carolyn relished her role as a mother and did her best to raise her children, Brett and Jill, into kind and hardworking individuals. Though their marriage eventually ended in divorce, both Carolyn and John were grateful for the wonderful children that they shared, and remained good friends.
All who knew Carolyn can certainly agree that she valued her family above all else. Her children were expected to be responsible for their animals and contribute to household chores. Brett once fell off a horse and broke his arm. Carolyn told him he would be okay and it would probably be better in the morning! She put her sewing skills to good use and made much of her children’s clothing when they were young. To Jill’s dismay, when she grew taller than her jeans, Carolyn extended the length with an eyelet ruffle, and told her they were “good as new.” They truly enjoyed the many Halloween costumes she made.
As Brett and Jill learned to handle the animals, Carolyn taught them to “never let go of the rope, no matter what.” If moving or loading livestock, it was preferable to be run over by a 1500 pound steer rather than face mom if you let it by! Later in life, Carolyn was thrilled to become a grandmother to Joseph and Ginger. She was teased that she would let her own children climb into a high loft or ride double on an unbroke horse without much worry. Yet, with her grandchildren, she was much more careful and kept a more watchful eye.
Carolyn was the matriarch of her family. Most holiday gatherings were held at her home, and she would make countless treats and share the leftovers from dinner. Her homemade cinnamon rolls were legendary. It was discovered that Carolyn would bake and hide extras that she would send home with the grandchildren! They were so delicious they didn’t even need icing. In preparation for Thanksgiving, everyone had their own job and would do their part to help, whether it was catching the turkey from their own farm or plucking feathers. At Christmas, Carolyn made such a vast assortment of homemade cookies, hard candy, and fudge that her home looked more like a candy shop! Carolyn was also famous for her Sunday dinners, which could be just as elaborate as any holiday feast. She loved hosting and spending quality time with her loved ones. She often invited close friends to join the family gatherings. Carolyn was a firm believer in the importance of family values, and she considered herself blessed to watch her family grow.
Carolyn raised and showed Arabian horses. She later went on to raise her own livestock, including Scottish Highland cattle. She brought baby lambs into the house to bottle-feed them and even hatched a goose in the closet. Llamas came into the house for Christmas pictures in front of the tree! Sometimes, Carolyn would meet her children at the bus stop after school on horseback. Throughout her life, Carolyn supported and enjoyed 4H and the County Fair. Jill was concerned she would not see her mom during the birth of Ginger because it was during fair time. Of course, Carolyn was present for Jill the entire time. Along with her family, Carolyn did extensive research for their farming and livestock. As a youth, she proudly set records at 4H auctions and was an example of what members of the 4H community could aspire to be. As an adult, she supported her local 4H group and enjoyed chatting with and educating others about the progress of their livestock. She taught her children how to handle horses and ride bareback, just as she did as a young girl. Carolyn had a natural way with animals, leading with confidence, and never showing fear.
Carolyn pursued many hobbies in her free time. To provide for herself and her loved ones, she tended to her own vegetable garden. She canned many things such as tomatoes and peaches. Carolyn was very resourceful with whatever she had. If the children or grandchildren wanted a snack to eat, there was plenty to pick fresh from the garden. Carolyn had a talent for baking and decorating special and unique cakes for everyone’s birthday, even if it meant researching unfamiliar things, such as Star Wars characters or pop culture.
When reflecting on the life of Carolyn Doornhaag, it is easy to see her unwavering strength and her unconditional love for her family. A proud mother, grandmother and aunt, she always considered herself blessed to be surrounded by so many loved ones. Carolyn was known for her generosity and selflessness. She was always willing to go above and beyond to help those in need. Though she will be deeply missed, Carolyn leaves behind a priceless legacy that her loved ones will be proud to carry on in her footsteps.
Carolyn Doornhaag of Paw Paw, age 73, died on July 4, 2022. Carolyn was born September 30, 1948 in Kalamazoo to Bill and Margery (Buckham) Gibson. Carolyn was preceded in death by her sister, Shelley McCamman; niece, Jenna Gibson; and son-in-law, Greg Woodhams. Surviving are her children: Brett Doornhaag and Jill Woodhams; her niece Megan (Matt) Forrest; grandchildren: Joseph and Ginger, Nora and Gus; siblings: Holly Gibson and John Gibson; and several extended family. Cremation has taken place. Please join us at a Life Story Visitation 5-7pm Friday, July 22, 2022, at Betzler & Thompson Life Story Funeral Homes, 60900 M40 Hwy, Paw Paw (269) 657-3870. Visit Carolyn’s webpage at BetzlerLifeStory.com to archive favorite memories, photos, and sign her guestbook.