Saying Goodbye to Carolyn Ruth Dunning Fenn: July 11, 1924 – February 8, 2016

Carol FennCarolyn, better known as simply Carol, was born on July, 11, 1924 in Rochester, New York; the third of six children to Frank B. and Helen Graham Dunning.

She is survived by two children, Bonnie Fenn Sullivan and Paul Wallace Fenn, a son-in-law Kevin, a daughter-in-law, Kimberlee, seven grandchildren, and two great grand-children. She was predeceased by one daughter, Betsy Ann Fenn, a special-needs child who she raised with a love that was all encompassing.

Carol enjoyed a simple and happy childhood with her loving family.  She especially enjoyed putting on shows in the garage with her younger sister Jean and her lifelong friend Edith O’Brien. Neither her father nor mother learned to drive, so growing up the family stayed close to home walking, bicycling and riding the street car to get around downtown Rochester.

IMG_0282After high school Carol worked in the clerical department of the Railroad Signal Company where her father Frank was a supervisor. In 1944 she answered the call of WWll and joined the Navy Waves (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service). She was stationed at the Brooklyn Naval Yard and served for three years. Her service remained one of her proudest accomplishments throughout her life. Later, she became the first vice president of Connecticut Ripples Unit 40, Waves National, a group formed by Navy Women.

After her discharge from the Navy, Carol went to work at the Behr Manning Company.  On her first day, a young William Wallace Fenn (Wally) followed her into the lunchroom and asked her out. Later in life she would joke that at first she wasn’t that interested in him.  This soon changed and they were married in 1947. During their early years together, Carol supported Wally while he earned a degree in Electrical Engineering at Rensselaer.  They were married for 67 years.

IMG_02841n 1950 they bought a home in Old Greenwich, CT where they raised their three children Bonnie, Betsey and Paul. They moved to Noank, CT in 1970 where they dropped anchor and never left.

Carol enjoyed volunteering her time for worthy causes including the American Red Cross. She and Wally were longstanding and active members of All Soul’s Unitarian Universalist Church in New London, CT. The community there helped ease several major transitions in Carol and Wally’s lives, and this last transition was no exception.

Throughout her life, Carol was the quintessential optimist. She consistently practiced kindness and respect to others. She loved to smile and laugh (often at herself) and enjoyed deep, rich, longstanding relationships with friends and family. Her family often referred to her as “the great communicator” because she thoroughly enjoyed chatting with her friends, telling stories and staying in touch with those she loved. Hearing from those closest to her was one of her greatest joys.

IMG_0247Carol lived her life according to The Golden Rule and so served as an inspiring example for her children and grandchildren. She will be missed, but never forgotten.

There will be a special memorial service celebrating Carol’s life at All Soul’s Unitarian Universalist Church in New London, CT on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at 11:00am. All are invited!

Two organizations that Carol felt strongly about were the American Red Cross and Camp Harkness, one of the few state parks in the country dedicated for exclusive use by citizens with disabilities. Anyone interested in making a donation in Carol’s name to one of these two organizations, should contact Paul Fenn by email at

12 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to Carolyn Ruth Dunning Fenn: July 11, 1924 – February 8, 2016

  1. As another Noank elder who steered such a steady course sails on, we can only think of the wonderful legacy that she has left for and with all those terrific grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Thoughts and prayers to the Fenn family with love from the Burdicks

  2. I know you were a good son to your beloved Mom and that you will miss her. So good that you and Graham were able to beat the snowstorm and visit her one last time. Please accept our condolences.

  3. Our condolences from the Dunnings out west. I remember visiting when I was a kid and once later on as and adult and always enjoyed talking with your mom & dad. I spoke with your mom shortly after my dad died several years ago. She was a very caring person and will be missed.

  4. So sorry to hear about Aunt Carol I remember when Jim and I visited with her and Uncle Wally years ago now and you took us out on a sailboat. We also saw them in Louisville, KY when my mom and dad and yours went on the river cruise down the Ohio. She was an extremely nice person and we will all miss her. Dunning kids are partying together now, I am sure. Wishing you and Bonnie the best.

  5. So sorry to hear about your Mom- what a lovely lady. I know you, Kim and the Fenn three have fond, fond memories!! Sending you much peace-

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