KINGSPORT - Doris Dempsey Carson, 92 died suddenly on January 5 at Asbury Place Retirement Home in Kingsport. She had remained active until her final moments, when she collapsed on the way to helping at the Waverly Road Presbyterian Church food pantry.
Doris was predeceased by her husband of 67 years, Lewis A. Carson, and four older siblings: Barbara Anderson, Marion Broadway, Mildred Jeans, and Malcolm Dempsey. She is survived by brother Wesley (wife Phyllis) of Chico, CA; daughter Ellen Godbey Carson (husband Robert Carson Godbey) of Honolulu and sons Lewis Jr. (wife Karen Prus) of Durham, NC, and Kyle Carson (partner Sylvia Parker) of New York City; grandchildren Claire Carson of Durham, NC, and Oliver Carson of Odell, Bedfordshire, England; and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was the youngest of six children, raised in Waltham and Lexington, MA. Her father, a beloved Boston Globe gardening columnist, agriculturalist, and early advocate of Victory gardens, had known her mother from childhood. Despite the Depression, the household was busy and happy. One high point was a family trip across the country in 1941. This was an unusual accomplishment at the time, made all the more remarkable by the fact that a family of eight survived two squabble-free months shoehorned into a Ford Woody. Raised a Yankee — indeed she grew up on the homestead of Capt. John Parker, leader of the Lexington Minutemen — she found herself at Blue Mountain College in Mississippi. While teaching at Anderson College in South Carolina, a blind date with a recent Clemson grad named Lewis Carson led to a life brimming with love, growth, adventure, and service. When her children reached school age, Doris got a teaching degree and began teaching in Kingsport city schools. She and Lewis took the family on cross-country trips too (though in a bigger car and perhaps some squabbles).
This love of travel bloomed upon Lewis’ early retirement from Eastman. With her husband, Doris indulged her abiding love for nature, flowers, birds, and hiking. They drove multiple times to Alaska and Central America; they were the first couple to hike over the 40 peaks over 6,000 ft in the Southern Appalachian mountains. They traveled to over 35 countries and continued her love of nature everywhere she went, including volunteer service for Earthtrust to work with leatherback turtles in Costa Rica, penguins in South Africa, fish eagles in Kenya, and at their most beloved location, counting albatross on Midway Island. They loved to help others, including helping build Habitat houses both locally and in Nicaragua (driving there themselves), and serving as volunteer teachers in China (twice) and Russia. Doris’ spiritual home and social center was Waverly Road Presbyterian Church, where she had a lifetime of love and service as an elder, Sunday school teacher, choir member and many other activities. She also served Holston Presbytery Synod as its first female moderator and was a member of the Board of Trustees of Lees-MacRae College in Banner Elk, NC. Doris’s love and respect for teaching continues: she donated her body for medical research to the ETSU Medical School and encouraged others to do the same.
Donations in her memory may be made to Waverly Road Presbyterian Church, 1415 Waverly Road, Kingsport, TN 37664, the Food Pantry there, or to Lees-MacRae College. The photo was taken by Linda Coffey, a dear friend.
A memorial service is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, February 12, at 2:00 (to be confirmed), to be only live streamed for remote attendance. Contact WRPC for details (423) 247-4971.