Caroline Munari Nicholls departed this earthly realm to dance with the Angels in Heaven on April 9, 2020. Born January 24, 1927, Caroline (93 years young) was the first surviving child of Carlo and Theresa (Dreu) Munari.
POSTMASTER, CITY COUNCIL WOMAN, WOMAN OF THE YEAR, DEVOTED MOTHER AND WIFE, EXCELLENT COOK (even on a campfire), BAKER OF CAKES & CREAM PUFFS , BIG HEARTED, COMMUNITY MINDED, COMMITTED TO EXCELLENCE AND HONESTY, HARD WORKER, and so much more. She loved to tell people “I’m a tough ole Italian, you know.” And “I was so lucky I got to be part of all 3 communities.” And “I was so lucky to have a job I loved.”
Left to remember her with love and gratitude: her children Valerie J Nicholls of Shoreline, WA, T. RaNae Nicholls (Phil Molloy)of Trail, BC, Garth J Nicholls (Jeannie Spring) of Colorado Springs, CO, and “adopted” daughter Jeannine Bramstead of Aberdeen, WA; her grandsons Alex Jacobs-Nicholls, Eric Jacobs-Nicholls, Tim Molloy, Jeff Molloy, John Bramsteadt (Jenny) and Michael Bramsteadt (Satomi); and four great grandchildren; brother Anton “Bits”Munari (Winona); sister Lillian Juvan, Larry Nicholls, many loving and caring nieces and Nephews, great nieces and nephews, and great great nieces and nephews; and she also considered the people of Kemmerer, Diamondville, and Frontier part of her family.
Those she was looking forward to seeing again include (but are not limited to) husband and love of her life, Garth Nicholls; mother in law Mary Ellen (Jones) Nicholls; her parents; older brother “Little Charlie” (1924-1926); younger sisters Jane (Jenny) Koscak (Joe), Josephine Lowham Rudy (Jack, Ron), and Lavina Curry; Bill Bramsteadt; Vickie Nicholls. Caroline was an integral part of Garth’s extended family and often noted she was “the only one left and I’m an in-law”. Henry (Direnda); Ellen (Carl) Kennedy; Levear (Liza); Rich (Ada) will surely be glad to see her and she them.
Caroline’s childhood in Diamondville was during the hard times of the Great Depression. But she shared many memories full of love, joy, generosity, good times, and community connection. She often talked about missing her old friends from Diamondville.
She had to have been very courageous and self-reliant. At a young age (ten she thought) she wanted so badly to help her family she went to the employment office alone and was hired briefly to clean for someone, but it didn’t work. When she was a bit older, she cleaned for the Reeds in Kemmerer, living in a basement room and eating alone. Later she lived/worked at Paterno’s Ranch in Opal assisting Frances with all her chores after she’d had surgery.
Caroline was still in High School when she met the love of her life, Garth, at a dance at Nugget Canyon. “It was love at first sight and it was from the back; that beautiful wavy, red hair!” They courted via letters, phone calls, furlough and a proposal of marriage. At last he was discharged from the Army Air Corp and could come home from Florida.
After high school graduation while Garth was in Florida, Caroline and Rosie Jetkowski trained as telegraphers for the Union Pacific; forever grateful to Rosie’s sister Florence (Woody) Crawford for providing a home for them in Pocatello. She was definitely not faint of heart, working graveyard shift alone in the train station at Opal and standing next to the track hoisting messages up on a pole so the engineer could grab them as the train went by!
Returning to Randolph after the War, Garth drove to Diamondville to see her every chance he got, sometimes sleeping in the car (winter in Wyoming!). Apparently Caroline’s mom told her, “You better marry that man before he goes off the road and dies coming to see you all the time.”
Their 53 ½ year love-filled partnership began December 18, 1945. The couple spent the rest of the winter employed on the JF Ranch and the summer on the Emo Pierce Ranch, both near Randolph, Utah. Garth was offered an apprenticeship as a mechanic thanks to GI bill. They lived with his mom in Randolph during this time. Caroline learned much from her new mother in law: a new style of cooking, how to can and make jam, and even how to get the neighbor’s chicken from the flower bed it was raiding to the soup pot. She also taught Caroline to drive even though she didn’t know how. Caroline hated jokes making fun of mother in laws cause she loved hers so much. Their first child, Valerie was born during this time but Caroline disappointed her mother in law, stood her ground and insisted Valerie would be the first grand child born in a hospital and not her grandmother’s home.
The year 1948 saw the family moving to Paris Idaho to live behind the service station they managed. Being there only 1 ½ years and working long hours the stories still included many new friends.
Diamondville was their home when RaNae was born. Caroline managed a toddler, pregnancy, and a new born in this tiny home in which the only plumbing was a cold water tap. Garth worked as a section hand for UP until being hired as a mechanic helper at MK (Morrison Knudson). They were now able to buy their first house in Kemmerer at 320 Pine Ave and soon son Garth J arrived. Caroline often handed sandwiches through a slightly open door when hobo’s came from the highway or tracks.
Caroline and Garth then decided he would become a barber. Caroline stayed alone with the kids. She fed the girls dinner after school, then left for work at the Pioneer Cafe; leaving 10 year old Valerie caring for RaNae (6) and toddler Garth J. She gave strict instructions and a reminder to call on her dear friend Mrs. Somers next door if needed. Coming home from a busy shift somewhere between 1 and 3 in the morning, Caroline was up feeding and seeing the girls off to school. Little Garth J kept her busy until time to do it all again. Garth came home weekends not showing his exhaustion from working swing shift at the Delmonte Cannery (Ogden) and barber training in Salt Lake during the day. Caroline and Garth made each weekend a fun family time.
After being apart, they decided to stay together, moving to an apartment in Rock Springs so Garth could apprentice. Caroline was challenged to keep the kids entertained and keep the family fed on meager earnings. After 6 months the family returned to Pine Ave. Luckily a better apprenticeship surfaced and Caroline was again alone with the kids. She never complained when on Saturday nights, the kids called her to the window over and over to tell them if the lights on the road from Big Piney were Garth’s.
As soon as school ended, Caroline, Garth and family were together again, and Caroline was making new friends in Big Piney, WY. Soon she had a circle of friends who became life-long and dear. One, Bernie Gosar, still comes to visit from Pinedale and made the cakes for Caroline’s 80th and 90th birthday parties plus much more. Caroline enjoyed participating in community, school, and church events, loving all the new experiences there. She was surprised and proud when her canned peaches won 1st at Sublette County Fair. As president of the Altar Society at St Anne’s she organized many events the biggest of which was a family and all community dance complete with orchestra. These and homemaking/parenting kept her very busy but not too busy to bring Garth’s mother from Randolph to live with the family until eventually, over a period of 3 months, Caroline drove to Kemmerer Hospital to feed and care for her beloved mother in law, sleep at the home of sister, Lillian & Bill and family, return to the hospital, then drive to Big Piney for a night only to turn around and drive back the next day.
Oil boom over, they moved back to Kemmerer. Caroline was very proud that Garth’s Barbershop was on the triangle in Kemmerer for nearly 40 years from 1962 till his death at age 82.
The family thrived and continued to enjoy their previous loved activities of camping, fishing, church, and community. Caroline and Garth encouraged their children to participate in numerous activities, and Caroline provided the practical support they needed to do so and to do well in school. They also committed that each one (even the girls) would have a college education.
Caroline enthusiastically supported the care and enjoyment of numerous farm animals and traditional pets. The lone remaining bantam rooster, Buttercup, was brought in during the nights (in a box). Caroline got a kick out of how Buttercup reacted to dogs barking on TV. She laughed about people calling him the “watch-rooster” because he attacked anyone who tried to come to the door. She loved almost all creatures great and small. The thrill of seeing wild life was a part of her always. In her last years she talked about her “pet” deer, bunny rabbits and birds. Watching them through the window gave her great pleasure.
The family had outgrown the Pine Avenue house so built a brick home in Lincoln Heights Subdivision. Caroline delighted in the new home, and enjoyed hosting her Canasta Club as well as sledding parties and “Old fashioned” tree decorating parties for the kids, cousins and friends as well as dinners for holidays or just for fun. She went to a lot of work to make any event fun and well fed. The motto she taught her kids: “If someone comes to visit, welcome them and be sure to offer them something to eat and or drink.”
To help with college educations, Caroline worked as a child care provider until she became a checker for Quality Food Store in 1969 working there until it closed. She took great pride in everything she did but especially providing customer care which was her favorite part.
Caroline and Garth enjoyed life as empty nesters. They loved the sled dog races and meeting the mushers, Oyster Ridge Music Festival, and so much more. They still attended many Kemmerer High School events, often invited by their younger friends. Caroline said she and Garth took turns choosing the activities for their precious weekends.
Wanting to give back to the community that had provided so much for her and her family, Caroline ran for City Council and was elected more than once. She served with integrity and commitment. She also participated in local Democratic organizing. RaNae was very impressed when she heard her speak eloquently at a meeting. (Caroline barely home from Colon Ca Surgery—she was strong!) Having known Pete Gosar ‘ parents in Piney, Caroline campaigned tirelessly for his candidacy.
Jeannine Bramsteadt delighted Caroline and Garth with many photos, letters, phone calls, gifts flowers, and visits, never missing a birthday or grandparents’ day. John and Michael always called Caroline Grandma and came to visit after they were grown as well.
Alex Jacobs-Nicholls was born in 1983. Heading for Spokane as soon as able, they thoroughly enjoyed every minute they could with him. Singing and dancing him around in their arms may be why he is so into music. When he visited Kemmerer a few months later with his mom, Caroline insisted on visiting everyone whose house she had ever been inside to show them her precious grandson.
Eric Jacobs-Nicholls arrived by emergency caesarian, in 1986 late in the day. Caroline and Garth somehow got to Children’s Hospital in Seattle by the next evening. After seeing that Eric was okay, they headed to Wenatchee to help with Alex and visit RaNae in hospital, staying 2 weeks helping after Eric returned to the Wenatchee hospital and RaNae was recuperating at home. Hating to leave RaNae, they offered to pay for a nanny service. When visiting Kemmerer the first time, Eric got the same tour that Alex had.
Alex and Eric loved their Grandma and Grandpa Nicholls’ visits to Wenatchee and the times they spent in Kemmerer. Grandma always treated them like little princes and smothered them with lots of love and chocolate cake. Even as young men she insisted on taking them to visit her friends. She loved that one friend told her she didn’t need body guards with them around.
Caroline made Post Master at Frontier, WY. and was very grateful to Margie Ferrarini who hired her as her substitute and encouraged her to advance. With great enthusiasm she attended trainings as well as union gatherings. With trepidation she learned to complete computer tasks. Many young people in the community remember loving and begging to go to the post office to see Caroline and get a hug. She loved her job and customers, delivering mail to shut ins and the ill who “were alone” on her way home. She even returned to work asap after surgery for colon cancer and worked all through her chemo therapy. Caroline was very proud of the numerous Pride and Performance Awards she received and the excellent service she provided; as well as the POSTMASTER PLAQUE given her after retiring at the age of 82. She often talked about how much she missed “being with the people”
Caroline’s huge heart called her to try to help whenever she saw suffering. Throughout her life time Caroline (with Garth or not) visited and/or assisted numerous aging or ill relatives, friends, and even acquaintances. Many received a cake and whole roasted ham after a death in the family; later it was flowers. She also advocated for those she thought were being treated unfairly, usually with success. Caroline’s sister Lavina lived with them briefly in the 70’s. After Garth’s death, Caroline brought her dear sister home with her for hospice, paying care givers so she could continue with the job she loved. This extended to honoring those who’d passed and she never missed “Decoration Day” assisted by Larry Nicholls for that family and Joette & Kurt Katzer with Lillian Juvan for local graves.
Wanting to give back to the community which gave so much to her and her family, Caroline was elected and re-elected to Kemmerer City Council and was dedicated to doing the best possible job for her constituents. She later ran for mayor just because she thought one candidate only was not acceptable.
Caroline was chosen Business and Professional Woman of the Year in 1998; An honor by which she was overwhelmed and humbled. The award ceremony and luncheon had so many in attendance that some were not able to squeeze into the hall. Caroline modestly told her children it was because she knew so many people due to being post master and former checker. She also thought many came to show their respect for Garth.
Caroline was famous for her cakes (especially chocolate), fried chicken, potato salad, cream puffs and much more. She could wrangle a huge cast iron fry pan full of chicken with one hand !! Whether using gas, electric, coal stove, or camp fire she was a wonderful cook and baker. On day trips Caroline packed up abundant meals centered around roast leg of lamb sandwiches.
Caroline loved any excuse for creativity and celebration and went all out for Birthdays, Holidays, and special occasions of any kind. Her kids especially loved preparing Halloween Costumes with her help and the fact that she allowed them to go trick or treating with abandon. She also loved acknowledging others especially with flowers. “Decoration Day” was a priority for as long as her kids can remember.
After Garth’s death, Lillian and Bill invited her for dinner every night, welcoming her to stay till bedtime. Caroline never spent a holiday alone thanks to Lillian, Bill and their children.
Caroline decided to get a dog for company. Many remember her little shiatzu, Sunshine, her constant companion. She enjoyed his company and loved him with all her heart as he did her. After his death in 2017, Caroline decided to stop driving –to the relief of many.
Dancing and music was always a big part of life with Caroline. Many remember Garth and Caroline dancing at every chance and being the last to leave. When widowed she continued to seek and take advantage of every music or dance opportunity. Many will remember her dancing up a storm at her 90th Birthday Party. Oyster Ridge Music Festival 2019 was the first time she refused to dance with RaNae and Garth J, even though she insisted on being at the park for the complete schedule. She said she remembered her mother singing while she worked. Caroline always wished she knew how to play the accordion like her father and did try to learn as an adult. All her children played musical instruments and she taught them to feel the rhythm while they were babes in arms and to dance the polka as soon as they could learn. Singing was always part of a drive out of town. Valerie and RaNae both were allowed the privilege of singing with her in the “ladies” choir at St Anne’s in Big Piney and were often included in other social events with her lady friends. (Of course she had taught them to be “seen and not heard” unless addressed directly.) Caroline purchased Community Concert tickets in the early 60’s and continuously for many years. And she also listened to K O M A Oklahoma City on long drives back to Big Piney.
Caroline’s later life was greatly enriched by the Kemmerer Senior Center. She loved the company, games, and activities. Trips to the Polka Fest, casino, and Pickleville she anticipated for months. Up until January 2020 Caroline attended almost daily. For several years the Senior Center was her lifeline, and her kids were reassured because they knew if Caroline did not show up, the Center staff and friends would be checking on her well-being.
It was at the Senior Center, Caroline met her dear friend Granny Gilliam. She loved Granny and shared much fun and laughter with Granny and her daughter and son in law Vernona and Larry Shoemaker. The Shoemakers often took Caroline to medical appointments in and out of town. Vernona began to track medications and appointment schedules. When Granny passed Caroline was there with Vernona. It seemed that Caroline lost a lot of her passion for life after that.
Friend Rosa Kemp was a volunteer at the Senior Center, and Caroline spent time with her when she first arrived in Kemmerer. Rosa loved her and provided excellent care for Caroline, enabling her to stay in her home as long as possible. Caroline trusted and loved her as do Caroline’s children.
Although they are deeply sad to lose their dear mother, Caroline’s children are greatly comforted by feeling that it was meant to be her time and by being able to be with her for a day and a half. Though she was too weak to talk, she reacted to their memories, singing, teasing, and love. She was able to receive love over the phone from her grandsons, daughters, and other family. Her sister, caregiver, and a CNA/dear friend also visited and offered her their love. With Garth J on one side and RaNae on the other, she passed the night peacefully. After RaNae and Garth J told her about the beautiful sunrise she simply slowed then stopped breathing. They were able to cry and stay with her as long as needed.
None of this would have been possible without the caring and commitment of Jesse Wilcox, director of S. Lincoln Nursing Center. She went above and beyond and located a private area where Caroline and her children could be together. Sadie Dutra assisted, and the two of them gave Caroline the best last times possible while providing care to her children as well.
Caroline would never want anyone to become ill with COVID 19 because of her, so her family has decided to postpone her Rosary, Funeral Mass, and Community Gathering until it is safe. A notice in the Kemmerer Gazette will be posted at a later time.
Do not be surprised when you come to your time, to find Caroline as the Official Greeter and Hug-Giver at the Pearly Gates.