Carolyn Marie Cappo, loving mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, died on October 13, 2021, at age ninety-four. She was living a full and independent life in Grand Rapids, Michigan, until a recent fall.
Born Carolyn Marie Wheeler on December 1, 1926, in Cedar Springs, Michigan, young Carolyn enjoyed small-town life—attending the same school from kindergarten through high school and walking everywhere with her friends and two sisters. She especially loved visiting with her grandfather, Herbert Warren Wheeler, president of Cedar Springs State Bank.
Carolyn excelled in school and as a pianist, becoming a church accompanist as a young teen. Her family moved to Grand Rapids when Carolyn was a high school junior. In her senior year, she performed a piano concerto with the Central High School symphony and graduated in 1944.
Always independent in spirit, Carolyn paid her own way through college at the University of Michigan by earning scholarships and working at the Michigan League. After graduating in 1948, she became an elementary school teacher in Pontiac. That’s where she met her husband, Eugene Cappo, when he came to visit his cousin, Eleanor Sloan, who was Carolyn’s colleague and housemate. Carolyn and Gene married on January 24, 1950.
Carolyn put her teaching career aside to raise six children, including a set of twins. She made her children her priority, ensuring they all felt loved and accepted. Gene’s career in automobile sales took the family to California, Colorado, Indiana, and Illinois, before returning to Michigan in 1971. Carolyn always said, “The most important thing to me is my family, and I’m taking them with me, so it doesn’t really matter where we live.” Carolyn quickly made each new house a home with her cooking, gardening, and decorating skills.
With her children grown, Carolyn returned to the classroom. She earned a master’s degree in special education from Michigan State University and taught students with learning disabilities in the Flint public schools until her retirement in 1990.
Enjoying an active retirement, Carolyn and Gene lived in Arizona in the winter months, where Carolyn never stopped learning. She enrolled in dance, art, and writing classes; she produced many beautiful watercolor paintings as well as a memoir of her life. She continued to cook for Gene and for her many grandchildren, who loved the Italian dishes that Carolyn had learned from her mother-in-law, including homemade ravioli, spaghetti sauce, and breaded veal.
After sixty-nine years of marriage, Carolyn was widowed in 2019. With the help of her children and other dedicated caregivers, she enjoyed her last years in comfort at Beacon Hill in Grand Rapids. A committed Catholic and a woman of deep faith, Carolyn emphasized that the most important relationship in her life was her relationship with God. Her last words of advice to her family were these: “Always remember that love is the answer in any situation. Love can be applied liberally.”
Carolyn is survived by her six children: Mark Donovan Cappo (Marilyn) of Crestwood, Kentucky; Amy Ruth Abbott (John) of Grand Rapids, Michigan; Jeffrey Eugene Cappo of Carmel, California; Louis Anton Cappo (Susan) of Walnut Creek, California; Jonathan Wheeler Cappo (Emily) of Mamaroneck, New York; and Eugene Wheeler Cappo (Marcy) of Huron, Ohio. Carolyn had twenty grandchildren: Nathan (Tonya) Cappo, Joel Cappo, Jonathan (Courtney) Cappo, Cathy (Derek) Townsend, Jordan Cappo, Mary Beth (Mike) Brown, Angela (Ross) Keilen, Mark (Gena) Abbott, Michael Abbott, Eric (Beth) Cappo, Michael (Lianne) Cappo, Aly Cappo, Amy Cappo, Kyle Cappo, Casey Cappo, Daniel Cappo, Jason Cappo, Matthew Cappo, Ryan Cappo, and Joshua Cappo. She also had fifteen great-grandchildren: Grant and Grady Cappo; Nora Townsend, Emma, Abigail, and Benjamin Cappo; Matthew, Jack, and Gracie Brown; Michael, Evelyn, and Adam John Keilen; and Mary Grace, William, and Thomas Abbott.
Carolyn is predeceased by her husband Eugene Cappo, her parents, Donovan Wheeler and Marie Tinney Wheeler; and her sisters, Mary Jane Wheeler and Ruth Wheeler Michelson.
Funeral services will be held at Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 1935 Plymouth Avenue, Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Friday November 5, 2021. Visitation will begin at 10:00 a.m. with the funeral mass at 11:00 a.m. Luncheon to follow. A later burial will occur at Elmwood Cemetery in Cedar Springs, Michigan, where Carolyn’s casket and Eugene’s ashes will be laid to rest together.
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