Chattanoogan: Carol Grohn – Of Thee I Sing

Sunday, April 21, 2013 - by Jen Jeffrey

In 2002, Carol Grohn and her husband Larry came to Chattanooga for a wedding held at the Bluff View Art District and the city had an impact in their decision of where to retire. In 2007 the couple decided to move to Chattanooga and Carol took up right away with Sweet Adelines in the Scenic City Chorus.

Carol’s father Reuben Werschky had German parents, but he was born in America. Being from German descent had made a difference in Reuben being able to serve his country. This was something that would later tug at his daughter’s heart.

Carol was born in Flint, Mich., but her family had moved to Denver when she was only eight years old.

Her mother Eva had pushed her to study nursing. “Back then you were either a secretary or a nurse,” Carol says.

After having three pelvic surgeries and living with endometriosis, Carol had discussed adopting a child with her first husband. After going through many emotional and labor intensive steps to adopt, Carol’s then-husband had changed his mind. This devastated Carol and the pain eventually led to a divorce.

“After years of going through this, I felt so deceived. I knew I was never going to heal from this - it was a mark in my life of no return,” she expresses.

In her late 30s, Carol had sworn off men claiming she would never marry again.

“I just nurtured my career, I have now come to acceptance that I would not be a mother, but it wasn’t easy,” Carol admits.

While playing volleyball at her apartment complex, Larry Grohn was playing across the net from her.

“He had moved the other players along so he could be across the net from me the whole time and made eye contact,” Carol remembers fondly. “He was trying to get to know me. His two boys were 11 and 13 and they were at the game. This was nothing I would have ever planned or thought about but, maybe…” Carol grins. She and Larry married a year later.

“We went to Kansas where I was stationed in Fort Leavenworth. I had gone to the Persian Gulf - that was my war. I was being deployed and Larry was able to come in and work for the United States. He was ordering for the war effort. He had been working at Fort Sill ordering in the logistics department,” Carol states.

Larry had later begun teaching. When the couple retired in Chattanooga, they had attended meetings with the Chattanooga Tea Party and had become frustrated with what they were hearing.

“I don’t like the fabric of my country being destroyed,” Carol says. She helped campaign for her husband as they knocked on doors in their district, finding out about the people and their concerns.

“I had joined the Army because I wanted to serve,” Carol voices. “My dad who was German and spoke German was not allowed to serve. They were afraid of the Germanic roots. He told me when he was becoming a young man; a neighbor across the street had both of her sons killed in the war. She came over to my grandparent’s house, very loud and boisterous and asked, ‘How come none of your sons can go? You will never have to have a loss of your sons!’ And so…” Carol chokes up, “I went because my dad couldn’t. I wanted that history to be fixed.”

Tears spill onto her cheeks as she expresses her passion for serving and her passion for America.

“I am very patriotic and I love this country. I don’t want to see it damaged and I don’t want to see anyone abuse the executive order privilege,” Carol vows.

Her heart for serving held deep emotions she would never let go and, honor and integrity would forever guide her steps.

“I had tried civilian nursing after I got out of the Army, but it was so different. I was at Denver Medical Center, then at a Catholic hospital. They would invest money in granite but you couldn’t get a Band-Aid at bedside,” Carol scoffs.

“I had great difficulty understanding how men in three-piece suits making six-figure incomes in the hospitals, but had no idea what was going on at the bedside, were able to manage a hospital,” Carol questions.

“They didn’t have a clue what they were doing and they didn’t get input from those of us who were at the bedside. I was so angry that I wanted to find something else to do so I became a realtor,” Carol says.

She made the transfer very well. After a year with two real estate companies, she opened her own company called Denver Metro Real Estate.

“We worked out of our homes; it was during the boom so it was easy money. We were very busy. Larry and I needed to think about retirement. He was a school teacher by this point,” Carol says.

Carol had sung in school choirs and had always loved singing. It was a natural fit for her to join the Scenic City Chorus chapter of the Sweet Adelines.

“It is barbershop-style harmony – all a cappella. I am a baritone. I sang in churches. My favorite music is usually ‘groups’ such as ‘Windham Hill’ but I love all different genres and any of the tenor groups,” Carol shares.

Sweet Adelines is an international organization. Scenic City Chorus is Region 23 and it will be folding after the next competition. They will be merging with Region Four - which is Kentucky, Ohio and other states.

“We travel for the annual regional competition and we practice here in Chattanooga and we perform here. I am ‘the gig girl’ - I get the gigs for our group,” Carol says.

She was recently appointed as an incoming RMT (Regional Management Team) assistant for Region Four.

There are 61 members in the chorus. Director Jennifer Cook is part of an award-winning quartet called, ‘Dream’.

“There are quartets within the chorus; some quartets in Sweet Adelines are very successful and have their own CDs,” Carol says.  

The all-women’s barbershop-style harmony is evolving in a wider variety of music.

“We are hot and heavy into our contest music which has to be approved by the SAI. There are certain criteria we have to have for the music such as seventh chords. We have six minutes of fame to be on stage and we will have different costumes – about every three years,” Carol says.

On April 6, Region 23 competed at the Chattanooga Convention Center and on April 30t a private event of the Boy Scouts of America’s Southern Region Retiree Reunion at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo  will be the next big concert event for the Scenic City Chorus.

The group has performed for the Lookouts, Hamilton Place Mall, area churches, Ketner’s Mill, Fairfield Glade in Crossville, the Dalton Country Club and the North River Civic Center in Hixson, among others.

“What I bring as the gig-girl is that I am persistent. I have a business sense and I know how to talk to people,” Carol proclaims. “We have such a great time together - in some cases we are each other’s best friend.”

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