|Adeline, Amelia, Caroline, & Jenny|
Caroline Gierko Aiken of Springfield passed away on Monday, August 7. Although she suffered from dementia the last few years of her life, she will rather be remembered for her boundless energy, the twinkle in her eyes, upbeat enthusiasm, unyielding determination, limitless generosity, above perfect attendance at St. Mary’s on Pleasant Street, unfailing honesty, hysterical laughter to the point of tears (particularly in the company of her three sisters), and unending kindness. She called herself “simple,” but for her family and all who knew her, Caroline was a model of selflessness, integrity, and grace.
Born November 12, 1920, Caroline lived her entire life on Valley Street in Springfield. She hosted family gatherings every Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter (usually a minimum of 30 people) until she was 85. Asked why she hosted these events for over half a century, she said, “I want the cousins to know one another.” Asked why she stopped hosting at 85, she said, “I guess I’ll let someone else do it for awhile.”
Caroline is survived by three children, David Aiken and wife Edie, Howard Aiken and wife Jill, and Judy Robinson and husband Dave. She worked at Springfield Local Telephone Company for 20 years. She is survived by seven grandchildren, all of whom graduated from universities aided in part by once-a-week hand-written letters from their grandmother. Asked why she wrote these letters so regularly for so many years, she explained that she had left home for a year to learn bookkeeping and secretarial skills at Bay Path College when she was 18 and that nobody had written. She continued to take notes in shorthand very nearly until her death. She is also survived by seven great-grandchildren.
Caroline is survived by an immense extended family and many friends. There is not a relative or friend without a story of how Caroline somehow helped them, showed some sort of kindness at a time of need, or influenced their lives in a positive way. Nieces and nephews will tell how she encouraged them to follow their interests and dreams. Relatives will recall heaping portions of food on visits (“No” was not an option) and a relentless loyalty to family. Friends and neighbors will remember her charity and giving; Caroline was a regular volunteer at polling stations in Springfield on voting day and, post-retirement, was a regular visitor at Springfield Hospital to patients – particularly the elderly – who had no visitors.
She was a fiery competitor – as friends (and opponents) at the cribbage table at the Springfield Senior Center – will attest. She never let anyone win (not even a grandchild), but somehow losing to her didn’t hurt as much. She was a devout Catholic who never missed a church service and who prayed for everyone she knew every night.
Caroline was pre-deceased by beloved husband Howard George “Bunny” Aiken, veteran of WWII, who died in a plane crash in 1959. Caroline carried her pilot’s license and loved to tell stories of flying. She never remarried; why would she when she had already found her one and only? Asked how she approached life after Bunny, she said, “Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute.”
She was pre-deceased by her parents, Frank and Helen Gierko, who emigrated from Poland, sisters Adeline Benson (and husband Raymond), Jenny Kane (and husband Jimmy), and Amelia Obuchowski (and husband John).
Caroline Aiken was humble, gentle, and unassuming. Although she lived alone for much of her life, many of her siblings and relatives made a tradition of coming to her house to visit every Sunday; she was surrounded by a loving family that looked up to and admired her strength, fortitude, and downright dogged determination. She impacted the lives of many, and she will be remembered.
Special thanks to the group of in-home caregivers headed by Barbara Kolodziej for their kindness and attention over the last several years.
There will be a memorial service and mass at St. Mary’s on Wednesday, August 16 at 11AM. A reception will follow.
In lieu of flowers please make donations to Springfield Adult Day Program, 266 River Street, Springfield, Vermont 05156. www.Springfieldhospital.org/adult-day-program