January 11, 1944 – January 12, 2017
There was nothing simple about Carolyn Green. She could be stubborn and compassionate. Mischievous and demanding. It was exactly this complex, fascinating mix of personality traits that made her the person she was. She had a strong will and an ability to be funny, joyous, and irreverent.
Green was lit with vibrant energy. Energy that led her into situations you would never have thought possible for a woman born in 1944 in a small town at the very bottom of the state of Georgia.
When Green threw herself into a project, there was no stopping her, or telling where her initial steps would lead. Her heart, her sense of loyalty and of right, her love of adventure, and her fearlessness propelled her throughout her entire life.
So, for instance, in 1977, when the van came to deliver a new pony to the Farm in Hamilton, and out stepped a starving thoroughbred mare that had been brought along to keep the pony quiet during the ride, she stepped right up and said she wouldn’t let the horse leave. She and her husband, Bud, were buying it. And they did. Next thing you knew, the Greens were in the race horse business, breeding foals from that mare, who turned out to have pretty good bloodlines. And, if having foals meant sleeping in a freezing barn in January during snowstorms because the vet might not be able to make it in time, so be it. Green hated the cold. But she’d do what she had to, to have an adorable foal kicking up its heels.
Or when Green walked into the office of Leesburg Today to complain that the paper wasn’t doing stories on land use around Hamilton. The editor, Brett Phillips, listened to her, understood that she had that grasp of people’s motivations that is the hallmark of a real journalist, and asked her if she wanted to be a reporter. Her first assignment, a trial run, as she told it, was to do a piece on homelessness in Leesburg. There isn’t any, she protested. Go look, he replied. Sure enough, she got the story. She went on to become one of the toughest investigative reporters around. But then she’d pivot, and write an entertaining feature about a local artist, easy as you please.
She was an extraordinary gardener. And she didn’t just spend her time crafting that garden; she was also a fearless decorator. But then again, she was also a gracious, fun hostess who put together extravagantly perfect parties for her friends.
There was plenty about where Green came from that made sense in this woman, raised by a strong woman in a family that loved each other fiercely. She learned about dedication from her mother, Elizabeth May, and the grandparents who helped raise her after her mother was left widowed with three young children. Carolyn, Betty, and Johnny teased and took care of each other from the beginning, cooking dinner, cleaning, and minding the garden. They had a childhood rich in love and the knowledge that the people they loved believed they were special, part of a clan that persevered through strong will. They were devoted to each and supported each other throughout their lives.
Green’s mother showed her how women could and should break down barriers. In 1946, to earn a living, Elizabeth May became the first woman in her Georgia county to open a store, turning her talent for smocking into The Tiny Princess shop. That clothes store had a 52-year run, becoming a model for businesswomen throughout the state.
She and Bud turned a rundown farmhouse into an elegant, beautiful home made for entertaining their friends and raising children and grandchildren. Carolyn and Bud’s attack on the place – the dry walling, stripping of bricks, painting of walls and doors, sanding of floors, recovering of furniture, and sewing – turned that rundown house into a showplace, a happy home.
But her understanding of people also meant that Green fought for what she thought was right. She never backed down on her convictions. She had no patience for people who thought themselves better than others. She hated injustice. When people tried to intimidate her, she dug in harder. But she also believed people could learn, situations could change. Rather than turn her back on what she thought was wrong, she acted.
Green loved her family completely and was there for them no matter what. She worried over them, but she was also just as vocal in her pride in their accomplishments. She went to endless tennis matches, band concerts, riding lessons, and play performances. She arranged the most amazing weddings for her children in the bank barn, and, with Bud, the most fabulous fundraisers for Habitat.
The end of her life was the final demonstration of Green’s strength and determination. She was just on the verge of coming home to the Farm and her family. She’d fought and dug in for more than two months while she was at the rehabilitation center in Charlottesville. She’d worked so hard to come off of the ventilator, showing that grit that made her who she was. And then, the wrong antibiotic in her body at the wrong time ended her fight for her.
Green is alive in the memories of her husband, Bud Green, children Craig and Heather Green, sister Betty Warwick, brother John May, and grandchildren Marley and Meghan Green, and Lilly Greer. Memorial gifts may be made in her honor to the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club and Keep Loudoun Beautiful.