Dr. Carolyn Wedin: Good Friend and Writing Teacher (Oct 2,1939-July 28,2021)

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My good friend and writing teacher passed away last night. Carolyn was still teaching on Tuesday when she did not feel well and I took her home early from class. Carolyn had been in a major car accident a few years ago and never quite recovered from the injuries and subsequent medical problems. Nevertheless, she was able to return to what she loved best and started teaching her Write Right Now! class again for Frederic Community Education this past winter and was not teaching a summer session. Seldom has there be an educator as beloved as Dr. Wedin. I am enclosing some comments from her students and a few pictures of Carolyn from bygone years.  – John

Comments from friends and students:

Jodi McLain 

Ohhh, rest in peace. It was an honor to know and write alongside Carolyn. – Jodi

Kathleen Melin 

Rest in peace, Carolyn.

I was honored to know Carolyn in a generational way.  Growing up, she was the little kid next door to my father’s family in Trade Lake.  I’d heard many stories over the years about her and her brilliant family. When she moved back to the area, I felt like a star lived among us.  I was honored to be in a writing group with her for a couple years that increased my admiration and respect for her.

Did you know that this petite blue-eyed blond taught at a Shaw University, a black college in North Carolina, early in her career?  The clan burned a cross in her front yard.  When students there decided to purge white faculty,  they kept a few instructors and Carolyn was one of them.  I didn’t experience her teaching presence, but know from others that she was generous and supportive to learners.  She was a careful researcher and a fine writer.  I admired the way she worked in our community, sharing her warmth, gifts, and talents.  She was keeper of Swedish heritage, too, and it was another way that she enlivened our area.

Thank You, Carolyn for everything., – Kathleen

Lisa Doerr

Beloved writers & readers – the miraculous, one-of-kind Carolyn Wedin ended our blessed time with her on earth today – Lisa

Lisa Doerr

(Lisa is a good friend of Carolyn.  She wrote and read the following beautiful verses almost 12 years ago at Carolyn’s 70th birthday party on October 2, 2009.  Lisa did not wait to write what she thought of Carolyn.  I think there is a message in her writing here for all of us.  I know Carolyn would agree.  –  John  ) 

Why wait? Does one need to be gripped by grief to take a moment and reflect on the subtle and not so subtle ways that a woman such as Carolyn shapes the world?

Maurice Ravel wrote his light hearted orchestral tombeau for comrades lost but not forgotten in World War I. Michael Daugherty uses polyphonic textures and harmonic layering to create his rhinestone kick step for the great Liberace. Both maestros waited too long.

Why delay until sorrow dilutes our awe for Carolyn’s passionate love of language and people? Why leverage loss and regret to highlight her commitment and immeasurable creative energy? Why let memories define her story when we’ve got Carolyn – larger than life – right here, right now?

There are none quite like this master weaver, pulling people together from the woods and lakes of the St. Croix River watershed for a celebration of life through language. Plays, poems, essays and films plied together in a sparkling river of cultural awareness and revelry. 

But, of course, Frederic, Four Corners and The Falls are only a tiny piece of the great world Carolyn embraces. New York, the South, California – nearly the entire nation comes to life in her book on the achievements of Mary White Ovington. Stora Mällösa, Örebro and the Atlantic Crossing are made real as Swedish settlers journey to Trade River in her edition of L.J. Ahlstrom’s memoir. Who else do you know arguing in the New York Times this year about socialist Norway’s lack of funding for immigrant schools? 

Carolyn’s unrelenting commitment to nurture fledgling creative spirits embodies the master’s touch. Thousands of aspiring writers have had the honor of hearing her speak about their work as if it matters and is part of a larger literary whole. Memoirs, histories and Hemingway derivatives are equally blessed by a moment of her time and constructive comments. All of this while at the same time imagining and completing her own myriad of projects.

Yes! Carolyn is an incredible woman right here, right now. I will not wait until a visit to her tomb inspires memories and I sadly attempt to capture her spirit. And anyway, with her beauty, brains and blarney Carolyn will long out live an aging baby-boomer such as me!  – Lisa

Phil Peterson 

How sad I am . . . for Carolyn!  I know of no one who enjoyed coaxing words, from those wishing to write, more than the Write Right Now Lady!  She gave me her files of WRN stories from years of classes and asked me to manage insertion of the weekly story into the Leader.  As John Persico and I slowly walked her to her car last Tuesday, I was holding her hand, thinking, “what a blessing this gifted lady has been to all of us!”    Thank you for A Page Turned!   – Phil

Mark Hulsether

Carolyn’s enormous and gracious spirit, and her powerful mind, were strong to the end.  As you may know, her heart gave out in the immediate context of fighting a badly infected gall bladder that ruptured yesterday morning, on top of various other medical problems of the past few years.

There are very few people who have a deeper and wider legacy of friends and people she mentored.  A tremendous hole for us to fill.   – Mark

Socorro Galusha

Carolyn

Teacher of words.

Encourager to writers.

Diminutive body tall in character stature.

Courtesy in speaking.

Last class ending early.

“I don’t feel well.”

Her body alerted mortality.

Next the shock of her leaving…

Leaves memories of an unforgettable woman’s journey into lives meeting with each other.

I listened to the interactions of Karen and John with Tony and Carolyn over the years. I could only wish I had encountered her.  –  Socorro Luna Galusha

John Persico (Written in the Fall of 2020)

Who was or is my muse for writing?  This past year Dr. Wedin had a series of illnesses and accidents rendering her unable to continue the “Write Right Now” classes that she had started.  Some of her students who have attended them for many years volunteered to take over, but it was not the same.  It is hard to describe Carolyn’s style of encouragement and critique, but I venture to say it is unique.  She inspires without criticizing.  She encourages without demoralizing.  She suggests without demanding.  When you have finished a session with Dr. Wedin, you have new ideas and a renewed motivation to go home and write. – John

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Carolyn very young playing with puppy.  Carolyn loved animals

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Carolyn first wedding photo

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Carolyn older playing a trumpet with children

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Carolyn loved to walk and hike and often told us about the bears she saw on her walks.

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Carolyn on her porch, fall of 2020.  She looked so frail then.  I could not believe it when I heard she started teaching again only a few weeks later.

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Carolyn was an outstanding writer and wrote many books of erudition and substance.  The following is from the foreword to her book “Inheritors of the Spirit.”

“In its densely researched, sensitively interpreted, and crisply written evocation of her subject’s career, Professor Wedin’s biography opens a wide window onto much of the inner life of the NAACP as it evolves from a virtual one-person show scripted by the incomparable (and sometimes insufferable) Du Bois through the unflappable stewardship of James Weldon Johnson and the manic operational brilliance of Walter White to become, in classic Weberian progression, a well-honed bureaucracy of lawyers, accountants, field secretaries, and lobbyists–and, overwhelmingly, of African Americans . . . a vibrant, valuable chronicle of an eighty-year dedication to economic, racial, and gender justice.”–from the Foreword by David Levering Lewis

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