Nov. 20, 1937-Dec. 20, 2020
Carol Wynette Hecker passed away peacefully on Dec. 20, 2020, at The Lodge at Buffalo Hill Terrace, in Kalispell, Montana, at the age of 83.
She was born Carol Wynette Gray Nov. 20, 1937, at 10:10 p.m., in Plumas County, California, to Wynette Alma Evans and Lyart (Mutt) Osborne Gray. Her parents owned the Greenville Bakery and she grew up surrounded by flour and the smell of baking bread. When she was in the third grade, she was found to need glasses, but by that time, her difficulty seeing had put her far behind her peers. She had to take remedial classes, which affected her profoundly; because of this experience, she was determined that no one ever feel stigmatized by their disabilities. It also left her with a lifelong interest in helping children learn to read.
She attended Portola High School and Chico State College, where she received a BA in Primary Education. While in college, she met James Paul Hecker and was married May 24, 1958, in Carson City, Nevada. He, too, was a teacher and they started their first teaching jobs in 1959 in Hanford, California. Eventually teaching took them to Pacifica, California, Colfax, California, and, in 1969, Kelowna, British Columbia. Along the way, they had two children, Sharon and Steve. The birth of her children inspired her to start the first cooperative nursery school in Colfax in 1963.
In British Columbia, Carol continued her work as a fourth-grade teacher. In the late 1970's, she earned an MA in Counselling from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. This was followed by several years as a high school psychologist. Next, she became a literacy specialist for the school district. This career was her passion and she spent years working with teachers and students on developing reading and writing skills.
In 2000, she and her husband, Jim, moved to Butte, Montana, to be closer to family. Carol loved Butte, as it reminded her of the mining towns where she grew up and she spent 19 years there involved with her grandchildren and the community.
In her life, she was very active in community activities. She was a member of the California Teachers Association, the British Columbia Teachers Federation, and the South Okanagan Planning Board. She was an ardent member of a Consciousness Raising group in Kelowna, BC, (where she developed lifelong friends) and several book clubs. In Butte, she belonged to the Drama Study Club and the Burros club. She cherished her friends as a member of Gold Hill Lutheran Church. There, she regularly participated in a Bible study group, the Gold Hill book club, Stephen Ministry, and the Prayer Shawl Knitters.
Her family life was very important to her. Her children remember her cooking big picnic suppers and taking everyone up to a mountain lake, where they would picnic by the shore. (Some fishing happened at those picnics but all we can remember was exploring, chatting, and eating.) Her grandchildren remember Easter egg hunts, where clues from children's literature were hidden with each egg and would eventually lead to a basket (usually filled with books).
Carol was preceded in death by her parents, Wynette and Mutt Gray; her husband, Jim Hecker; and her brothers, Cliff Gray and Kenneth Gray. She is survived by her sister, Vicki (Gray) Smith; her children, Sharon Hecker and Steven Hecker; and her grandchildren, Caitlin Webb, Cicily Webb and Taylor Hecker. She is also survived by many nieces and nephews and their families. A memorial service is will be announced at a later date, likely the summer of 2021. Friends are encouraged to visit our website at www.buffalohillfh.com to leave notes of condolences for the family. Buffalo Hill Funeral Home and Crematory is caring for the family.