Carol Chatterton

Carol ChattertonCarol Chatterton enriched many lives and brought joy and fun to those around her. She shared her enthusiasm for life, first with her family, and then with the over 700 kids she coached in swimming in the Indian Wells Valley. She brought excitement and commitment to a wide array of volunteer activities starting when she was a teenager in Sparks Nevada until she was well in her 80’s in Merced. The world lost a beautiful soul when Carol passed on August 29, 2020 in Turlock, California.

Carol was born and raised in Sparks Nevada January 3, 1928. As a teenager she became a lifeguard and Red Cross swim teacher where her passion for recreation and working with children bloomed. By the time she graduated from high school Carol was an active leader in the Red Cross, the youngest member of the board of directors and the water safety chair. At 17 she went to the Red Cross National Aquatic School in Utah and at 18 she drove the Red Cross chapter’s car from Sparks Nevada to Coeur d’Alene Idaho to Camp Sweyolakan Aquatic School.

Carol met her husband of 66 years, Richard (Dick) Chatterton while attending University of Nevada, Reno. They met in a swimming pool of course. Dick, a native of Maui, was a record holding competitive swimmer and Navy Veteran. He joined the only swimming related activity at the University, the Aquacade. As you can expect, Carol was the organizer and leader.

Carol was studying to be a teacher and Dick was studying to be an engineer. They were married in August 1950 and Carol became a teacher in Fallon Nevada while Dick finished his degree, his education having been interrupted with his service in WWII. In June 1951 Dick started working at the Naval Ordinance Test Station in China Lake and Carol soon joined in giving birth to their daughter Terry in July 1951. Daughter Jean followed soon after in 1953, born in Reno.

Being a loving mother to Terry and Jean was not enough for Carol and she quickly became involved in Red Cross as Water Safety Chairman and was shortly named “Woman of the Year” by the Kern Chapter of the American National Red Cross. In 1958 the Indian Wells Valley Recreation Council wanted to start a swim team. As an experienced competitive swimmer, Dick was asked to be the head coach with Carol as the team manager. That didn’t last long, once Carol learned the different swim strokes in competitive swimming, she quickly became the coach with Dick as always at her side supporting and encouraging her. She soon became a champion for the youth of the Indian Wells Valley with Kern County Recreation. She also was a groundbreaker as a woman taking a leadership role in organized sports in the 1950’s.

In its first year, 1958, the IWV swim team featured an impressive 58 swimmers and Carol started her practice of mentoring young people as assistant coaches, “kid coaches.” Eight swimmers were honored as Kern County Champions that year. By 1959 The IWV team was winning swim meets. Both of her daughters Terry and Jean quickly became involved in swimming. Jean was a Kern County Champion swimmer and Team Captain. Both Terry and Jean were assistant coaches. Carol’s greatest supporter and booster was Dick. He was always at her side and behind the scenes supporting and cheering Carol and her extraordinary accomplishments.

By 1967 160 swimmers were taught competitive swimming every fall, winter and spring and they competed for 110 slots on the traveling summer team. That year, under Carol’s watchful eye and encouragement, the IWV swim team won 13 out of 14 of the meets they attended. In the 18 years that Carol was the driving force of this this phenomenon, Carol touched the lives of over 700 swimmers. She also nurtured and motivated 168 Kern County Champions and was a mentor and role model for dozens of her kid coaches. She enriched the lives of her swimmers and was a positive influence on the youth of the valley. Many of these swimmers call Carol one of the most influential people in their early lives.

Volunteering and enriching people’s lives continued throughout Carol’s life. No matter where she landed, she got involved with a passion. Meals-on-wheels, hospice, hospital volunteer and PEO were all were enriched with her leadership and hard work. Children were often her focus and she joyfully embraced becoming a grandmother of Jennifer and Susie Easley. She held weeks long “summer camps” the Chatterton cabin in Yosemite for Jen and Susie and an expanding circle of kids that included children of former IWV swimmers and other fortunate children. As always, she was happiest when surrounded by and directing the activities of children.

Carol and her life partner Dick touched the lives of many people. This was both with the broad stroke of the IWV swim team and volunteer work. They also reached out and personally touch the lives of several lucky young people, youth who needed loving adults to help them launch to adulthood. The extra helping hand started in 1960 when a swimmer wanted to complete high school at Burroughs while her military family had to move. Dick and Carol opened their arms, hearts and home to many of what she laughingly called “strays” It continued throughout her life for numerous young people. If just a home away from home, or an actual home itself, Carol brought joy, fun and memories to many people. She saw life as a wonderful adventure, and her exuberance and joy live on in the memories of the lives she touched.

— Submitted by the family of Carol Chatterton

Story First Published: 2020-09-18