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Carol and Joseph Pierce


April 17, 1936 –  September 20, 2012

Carol Pierce passed away today of cardio-pulmonary complications.  Aimee Hilliard and Mary Laura Jones were with Carol the entire morning. Carol enjoyed the Accelerate 77 event on Saturday and loved keeping in touch with many of you and keeping track of your lives and activities. Carol will be deeply missed.  She was a wise and courageous mentor to many of us. I will miss her wisdom, her humor, her gracious attitude and her demonstration of living a great life in the midst of physical adversity.

~~  Mary Laura Jones



A person of presence, graciousness, competence, and humor: when we knew her, she embodied those features along with a twinkle that demonstrated a certain detachment from the immediate crises with which she was involved. Her spirit and style will be greatly missed.  We join the Order and the family in celebrating her completed life. And we are grateful for the privilege of having known and worked with her. Grace and peace,
~~  Ann and John Epps



Mid-year 1971, Carol flew from Chicago to Kansas City and came to the Religious House to talk straight to the Cocks and Tolmans, the new priorship team–neither family had any globally assigned priorship experience. In essence she said, “Get this house and region moving. We think you can do it, but it won’t be easy. Call us if you get in trouble. Good luck and grace and peace. Oh, I think the four of you need to hang tight. Make everyone sure that if they’ve talked to one of you, they’ve talked to all of you.” We sort of saluted and thanked her. We were nervous about our assignment, but eager. We were a good team. It worked out.

I reminded her of this when we visited with her at her apartment a year or so ago in Chicago. She did that interesting laugh and said something like, “We probably didn’t have anyone else to send to Kansas City.” One never had to guess where Carol stood, and where she stood was. more often than not, in exactly the right place. We send you out, dear colleague, to continue the profoundly mysterious journey.

          ~~. John (and Lynda) Cock



News of Carol’s death hits hard. We traveled quite a journey together, as did we all. And in many way, it continues. Charles and I traveled three months in 1966, with Carol and Joe, visiting countries of the Arab world. We spent a lot of time reading, talking and reflecting before we left Chicago, and of course, that continued throughout the trip. During meals and coffee/tea breaks, Carol often made some succinct comment (laced with facts and figures) about the current country we were visiting. Joe would say, “How do you know that?” to which Carol would reply, “Well, it was in that book we read before we left Chicago.” And Joe would just shake his head in disbelief (and some degree of disgust).

I last saw Carol at her apartment. We had to rush the visit a bit, because she was being picked up by some specially equipped vehicle and whisked off to a medical appointment. So, my last memory of Carol is her wheeling herself onto a elevator/platform that went up a few feet from her “garden” apartment to ground level, thereby allowing her to move her wheelchair directly out onto the driveway. She wheeled around, waved goodbye and was on her way. Grace and Peace,
~~  Doris Hahn



The first time I went to 3444 (was it ’63,’64, can’t remember), it was in the afternoon.  I got out of the taxi and went through the door, no security then, went up the stairs and the only two people around were Carol and Kathy (now Zervigon), walking down the hallway.  They immediately greeted me, treated me to coffee and we talked as if we had known each other forever for I don’t know how long.  After that I never sensed that I didn’t know Carol.  She had a way of twisting her mouth and saying in that southern drawl something that would shift the mood of the conversation whenever it went off track, even when Pierce was rocketing off on some subject that was blowing out all the light bulbs.  I’m a bit sad, hoped to have had one more conversation.
~~  George Holcombe



Over the last week I have been reflecting on the lives of Margynell Knutson, Ellery Ellizondo and Carol Pierce. They represent the hundreds of other women in the order. .I first met Margynell at the ITI in Mumbai where she was on the faculty of the program in 1972. Carol Pierce met me at the airport in Hong Kong on my way to Chicago for the first time in 1972.  Ellery was always available for consultation and support while I brought up our son in Chicago. Their lives and their decisions were important for my life. The choices and the solidity of their decisions made it possible for me to have the courage to move out from the ordinary. The extra ordinary opened up for me.Metaphorically, one could say, I have learned to walk on water. Thank you one and all,

~~  Mary D’Souza



I too was hoping to see and talk with Carol and regret that I did not manage to get to Chicago in time. Gracious, cool headed and a master of indirection – that was Carol. It has been moving to read all these emails about her. We will all miss her.

~~  Dharma



This is sad and a bit shocking to me. I saw her at Accelerate 77 and she was her usual funny self. So glad to have known her.

~~. Pat and Doug Druckenmiller



Carol’s decades of constant care for all of us both structural and individual is a legacy that is embedded in our lives, even when memory may forget the details. What a blessing she continues to be as we live from that gift she is to us. Grace and Peace

~~. George and Carol Walters



Carol Pierce was on the staff of the Academy in the winter of 1972 when I attended as a participant and then joined the faculty for the spring of 1973. She was a formidable woman and I was in awe of her ability to see right through people and casually state the spirit struggle which were mirrored in the paper or course we were holding at the time. One of my jobs was to get up early and knock on all the doors of the faculty at 4:30 A.M. so we would be ready to go when everyone else was supposed to be at Daily Ritual at 5:00 A.M. sharp. One morning I knocked on the Pierce door: Praise the Lord Christ is Risen…to which the answer was supposed to be… He is risen indeed…but instead I heard a male voice say…Christ is Dead, Go Back to Bed… I was stunned.  I said, Are you awake, are you okay? and I got back a weak Yes, yes, he is risen indeed from a female voice….  Later that week Carol came up to me and apologized.  I told her not to worry about it, I will just keep knocking and asking the question. Joe apologized too. He said he always has something to declare. After that each morning was a strong two voiced answer… He is Risen Indeed!


A couple of years ago, may be 2009 or 2010, I don’t remember. It was during the summer when I usually visit Marge and Lela. It was after lunch we had a tornado announcement on the tv in Chicago. I have been in lots of typhoon watches in Taiwan, but wondered who might need assistance if the electricity went out and walked over to Carol’s apartment in the corner of the seventh floor of the Kemper building. Lela was at work and Marge was downstairs in the basement. I knocked on Carol’s door and she came out in her wheelchair, a group of us were huddled in the hallway. One of the residents said it was probably safer away from the windows in the hallway all together. I asked if people had cracked their windows to prevent air pressure build up. Some said yes, others went to open a small crack. We discussed what would happen if the electricity went out and the elevators would not work. We got out a battery operated radio, we had our cell phones or flashlights and talked about the fact that a disadvantage of no landlines in an emergency is that sometimes the cell phones don’t work and phone systems run by electricity don’t work too. I told them we collect water in the bathtub to flush toliets and make sure we have drinking water in Taiwan along with food supplies. Carol pointed out we have a water tank and it would take some time to drain it all out. We just had lunch and we were not hungry. We talked about carrying people down the stairs in a fireman’s carry with our arms crisscrossed. Carol looked me straight in the eyes and asked if I had ever done it before. I said no, but I trained for this as a girl scout and in first aid. She calmly said, that’s fine,  I will take my chances up here and thank you for your offer. Send up one of those strong firemen if it comes to that! I was relived because I was not sure if I could actually go seven flights carrying another person between us! But if I had to, I would do it. I just said I would stay with her if the lights went out and not to worry, we would figure it out. Do you have any candles and matches? Of course we all said we would stay with her and she just shook her head. We all smiled and then one of the residents said, the alert has changed color, it has passed over us, just relax.  We all went back inside our apartments to look at tv screens and think about what we just said to each other.


Carol was a symbol of the old guard and the permanent house church for me.  We have only a precious few among us still and I am sad to hear of her passing. As I age, I hope I am able to be strong and gracious as she was to me. We celebrate the life and death of Carol Pierce and send our sincere prayers to her family in this phase of transition. Praise be to God. Amen Amen. Sing the Doxology to the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky..

~~. Evelyn Philbrook for Larry, Evelyn, Lloyd and Lela Philbrook.



For Carol, while there are many, many memories: one that popped to the top was the time we were at the IERD in Delhi and had boarded the VERY tiny elevator on the top floor (about the 22nd as I recall) of the hotel where we were housed. We pushed the button for the ground floor and about a third of the way down, the elevator shuddered to a stop and the door opened…on a brick wall. Well, I was a little claustrophobic and unaware that Carol was extremely claustrophobic. That hour waiting to be rescued (it could have been 15 minutes, but seemed like SEVERAL hours) was revealing of the wondrous woman of steel (Superman move over) who kept us breathing and laughing to avoid injuring ourselves in the mad panic of fear that sets in when you MUST get OUT and you cannot. Clearly our circumstances were not our problem. While in “Heaven,” do a few cartwheels for me, my dear, as I know we both would enjoy them.

          ~~  Sunny Walker



The thing is, as so many of you have said, Carol played Carol to perfection.  Ellery played Ellery to perfection.  With Carol, I always knew I was going to have an RS-1 encounter.  With Ellery there was this way she had of tilting her head, forming sort of a smile, and I knew she was affirming whatever was going on and ready to see if anything concrete was going to emerge.  I am reminded of this poem

Perfection Wasted

And another regrettable thing about death
is the ceasing of your own brand of magic,
which took a whole life to develop and market –
the quips, the witticisms, the slant
adjusted to a few, those loved ones nearest
the lip of the stage, their soft faces blanched
in the footlight glow, their laughter close to tears,
their tears confused with their diamond earrings,
their warm pooled breath in and out with your heartbeat,
their response and your performance twinned.
The jokes over the phone. The memories
packed in the rapid-access file. The whole act.
Who will do it again? That’s it: no one;
imitators and descendants aren’t the same.

                                                John Updike.
~~   Jim Wiegel



1927- May 29, 1993

Robert Shropshier gave a witness to Joe’s life at his memorial service.

OBITUARY – Chicago Tribune


Joseph Lewis Pierce passed away at his home, age 66, husband of Carol, father of Catherine Pierce Loeb of Baltimore, Joseph D. Pierce of Chicago, Gregory W, Pierce of New York City, and Mark Pierce of Atlanta.  He was a founding member of the staff of the Ecumenical Institute and former radio and television announcer in Dallas and Chicago.




One can’t remember Carol without recalling Joe as well.  Joe on discontinuity in the Seoul ITI of ’72, nursed a tumbler at the bar while listening to Neil Diamond croon, “I am, I said, to no one there!”  I dusted my vinyl the first day I got back to Manila, and immediately moved in to the Manila House when it became obvious I was not valued just for my ecclesiastical connection.  Serendipitously, we moved in the same day Marcos declared martial law, so Mary Lou was with Caucasians, and I decided not to throw away my green card, just in case.

It must have been the spring of ’82 when I decided to proceed to the Guardians’ meeting at Kemper, extending a trek from Majuro to Honolulu since the additional cost was a bargain.  I ‘bumped’ into Carol and Joe at O’Hare, and asked where they were headed (thought they were on a development trip).  Carol smiled me to breakfast, and announced the Panjayat’s sense that I might visit my mother-in-law, then come to Kemper after the weekend. Carol was never shy in factually articulating the truth, as she saw it.  I found her candor and lucidity refreshing and healing. In fact, when she and Joe drove me to Sandwich, Illinois where mother-in-law lived, I ended up the apologetic, self-effacing, grateful Asian, for their time and attention.  I spent a week at Kemper later, watching W. Marshall Jones meticulously finesse to perfection the global film.

~~  Jaime Vergara