The happiest moments of Carolyn Wood’s life were those in which she was surrounded by music and children. These often included her children and grandchildren, in whom she nurtured a love for music from their earliest days and throughout their lives together. But her passion for sharing music extended well beyond her own family. She was a piano teacher, choir director and accompanist and, perhaps most proudly of all, a practitioner of early childhood music development in her later years. “Grandma Music,” as her grandson Arlo Bolles nicknamed her, helped shape the musical lives of innumerable members of her community.
Carolyn, born April 27, 1952, came by her musical inclinations naturally. Her father, Daniel Wood, and her late mother, Barbara, were talented musicians — Dan as a drummer in a military band and Barb as a gifted singer and pianist. Her parents were active in the choir at Hope Church in East Providence, R.I., where they raised Carolyn and her brothers, Doug and Chris.
In 1972, she married Mark Bolles, then of Warwick, R.I. Throughout their marriage, which ended in 1999, music was a constant and unifying presence. Some of their children’s fondest memories are of singing around campfires and at family gatherings, especially when Mark and Carolyn’s voices would intertwine on “The Bramble and the Rose,” their signature duet. The family moved from Rhode Island to Maine and later Charlotte, Vt., as Mark pursued his career as a Congregational minister. Along the way, Carolyn led church youth choirs of which her children were often members.
Each of Carolyn’s children has gone on to make music a central part of their adult lives and carry their mother’s legacy with them. Daniel Bolles is the music editor at Seven Days newspaper in Burlington. Tyler Bolles is a respected bassist in a number of Burlington area groups, including the rock band Swale and the gypsy jazz outfit Queen City Hot Club. Ariel Bolles, now based in Chicago, is an upright bassist and singer.
Carolyn was diagnosed with lung cancer in April 2012. She died early on the morning of Sunday, February 22, 2015, at the Vermont Respite House in Williston at age 62. In the years between, she was surrounded by those whom she held most dear. Her children, especially including her devoted daughter-in-law Kate Lasko, were by her side through every arduous and uncertain step — often taken with feet covered by the warm, colorful socks she knit for almost everyone she knew. (Carolyn’s passion for music was matched only by her love of knitting and sewing.) Her father, brothers and their families also provided love and support through this time. Tagging right along were the two people who gave her more joy than anything, her young grandsons Arlo and Griffin Bolles. And there was music. Carolyn continued accompanying choirs at the United Church of Hinesburg, Wake Robin and Ben & Jerry’s until her final weeks. She took every opportunity to see her children perform and to attend concerts with them. And when she was no longer able to do those things, her children and grandchildren brought music to her, playing songs by her bedside until, as her favorite gospel hymn goes, she flew away.
A memorial service celebrating the life of Carolyn Wood will be held at the United Church of Hinesburg on Saturday, February 28, at 3 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in Carolyn’s memory be made to the Vermont Respite House at vnacares.org.