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Carole Calkins Colie ’54

Someone who knew her once called Carole “a warrior, a soldier for justice.” She was an indefatigable champion of any animal or person being mistreated.

Growing up in the lumber town of Shelton, Washington, Carole idolized her older brother and had a trusted canine companion in Bingo. The family moved to Chehalis, Washington, where Carole attended high school. High school students planning to go on to college were invited to attend admission seminars conducted by visiting colleges and universities. During one assembly, the principal announced the colleges that would be presenting that day, including Reed College. “But we don’t have any Jews in this school,” he added, “so I doubt any of you will go to that one.”

Carole was offended by the remark. She spent most of the afternoon with Reed’s director of admission. While initially her parents were amenable to her desire to go to Reed, they changed their mind after talking to what Carole termed “the wrong people” and discovered the college had “a reputation.”

Carole refused to apply to another four-year program and began attending community college in Centralia, working nights in a bakery with the hope of earning enough money to attend Reed the following year. By her sophomore year, her parents relented and she began at Reed. But by the time she returned home for summer vacation, rumblings about Reed’s communist reputation had reached her parents, and they had misgivings about her returning.

That summer (1951), the film Goodbye, My Fancy was released, starring Joan Crawford as a U.S. senator who returns to her small liberal arts college and finds a diminishing regard for academic freedom. As the college president cracks down on liberal professors, Joan fights tooth and nail for academic freedom. Carole and her parents attended a Saturday matinee of the movie. As they exited the theater, Carole asked, “Daddy, can I go back to Reed?” He answered, “I guess so, Cookie,” and her life was changed.

The next semester, she was introduced to Christopher Colie ’56 and was told, “He’s weird, even by Reed standards.” Initially Carole shared that opinion of Chris, but they were in the same creative writing class. When Prof. Ruth Collier [English 1933­–52] commented in class that Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath was not realistic because no lactating mother would have nursed the old man in the boxcar, much less someone else’s baby, Carole said, “I would. And I would nurse an old man too.” Chris mumbled his approval. Later, she ran into him at an off-campus party, and when Chris suggested to someone else that they ditch the party and head to Hung Far Low in Chinatown, Carole asked if she could join them. It wasn’t until later that Chris learned it was her party they were ditching. They talked for three hours, and Chris asked Carole to marry him. “I said yes, because I knew I could get out of it later,” she remembered. But she didn’t get out of it. After taking their final exams they drove to Lewiston, Idaho, and got married. By the time they got back from their honeymoon to Mexico, there was a draft notice waiting for Chris. He was stationed in Fort Knox, Kentucky, where Carole got a job doing payroll in a dustpan factory.

They returned to Portland after Chris was discharged, and from 1958 to 1962, Carole worked as public occasions secretary in the public affairs office at Reed. She then began a career that perfectly suited her spirit, fiercely advocating for the rights of tenants in subsidized housing at the Housing Authority of Portland. Then for 20 years at Legal Aid of Oregon she fought long and hard to ensure the rights of renters, prevailing again and again in her fight to keep people in their homes. Finally, she returned to the Housing Authority as a hearings officer and was renowned for doing all she could do to make sure everyone had a fair chance.

Carole feared no adversary and had a keen sense of right and wrong. She barged into a house filled with strangers to take away a cat she’d been told was being mistreated. She took her daughter’s wagon up the street to serve as a Welcome Wagon to the first black family to move into Eastmoreland as her neighbors where threatening to put their houses up for sale. When she moved to Irvington in 1969, she hired an arborist to examine the tree a local builder said he was cutting down because it was diseased. The arborist found nothing wrong with the tree and the building was constructed around it. She cared deeply, and yet Carole was fun to be around. Eternally curious and enthusiastic, she had a passion for art, jazz, books, people’s stories, entertaining, cooking, and her family.

Carole is survived by her husband of 65 years, Christopher Colie, and her six children, Christopher Colie Jr., Melissa Lilly, Tanya McGee, Elizabeth Gadberry, Amanda Colie, and Nora Colie.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2018

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