Carol Sue Blankenship Ward passed away peacefully at her home in Harrison, Tennessee, on September 15, 2021, in the presence of her family, following an aggressive cancer treatment during the past two and a half years.
Carol was born on Dec. 8, 1954, to Wilbur Lorn Blankenship and Nadine Leonard Blankenship in Neosho, Missouri. Growing up, she enjoyed day picnics and overnight camping trips with her parents and friends, as well as weeklong visits to her grandparents’ farms with her cousins. She wanted to be an astronaut from a very young age, inspired by the testing of the Saturn V engines just a mile from her home. She graduated fourth in her class of 210 students at Neosho High School in 1973, where her classmates voted her Most Likely to Succeed.
Her interest in math and curiosity about how buildings were constructed steered her towards civil engineering, a field that at the time was extremely rare for women to pursue. She took courses at Crowder College and then attended the University of Missouri Columbia, where she earned her BS CE degree in 1977. Upon graduation, she accepted a job at the Tennessee Valley Authority in Knoxville, primarily working on nuclear power plant design. She would later obtain her Professional Engineer license. Carol and her husband Chuck, who also joined TVA around the same time, met while visiting the same church and were married there in 1980.
They had two sons, and she chose to be a stay-at-home mom until they were both in school. In 1988, the family moved to Chattanooga. Carol then pursued volunteer activities that she could perform out of her home. In particular, she took up architectural drafting and produced CAD drawings of the Erlanger Hospital complex, documenting their existing layout and incorporating remodeling plans. She went on to obtain a part-time position with a local architect, designing hotels and public buildings.
Carol was a lifelong member of the United Methodist Church. After moving to Chattanooga, she joined St. John UMC and was a major contributor to many ministries: Welcoming, Missions, Family Ministries, Stewardship, Finance, Worship (Choir and Prayer Team), the Trustees, and the Parsonage Committee. She coordinated Habitat for Humanity service days and delivered food for F.I.S.H. Hospitality Pantries. She and Chuck represented St. John at the United Methodist Holston Annual Conference for several years. She co-founded the Young At Heart group and organized many gatherings and trips. She made many friendships through the UMW and the Close Knit Friends knitting/crocheting group.
Outside of the church, Carol also sought other ways to serve her community. At her children’s schools, she was involved in the PTA, band boosters, and chaperoning overnight trips. Since retirement, she helped the underserved obtain medical care through the Volunteers in Medicine program.
Carol thoroughly enjoyed hiking, biking, and camping, especially in the nearby Great Smoky Mountains. She was fascinated by pioneer life and learned about it through books and films. She spent free time knitting, crocheting, and smocking and—taking after her mother—would produce homemade clothes and curtains. She especially liked the challenge of figuring out and creating patterns.
Carol is survived by her husband Charles “Chuck” Ward of 41 years; her sons, David Ward of Cambridge, Massachusetts and Jason Ward of Harrison, Tn.; her sister, Janice Blankenship James (Terry) of Conway, Arkansas; and six nieces and seven nephews.
The family will receive friends from 4-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 21, at the North Chapel of Chattanooga Funeral Home; and from 1 to 2 pm on Wednesday at St. John United Methodist Church, 3921 Murray Hills Drive, Chattanooga, Tn. 37416.
A celebration of Carol’s life will follow on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at St. John United Methodist Church. Burial will take place afterwards at Hamilton Memorial Gardens.
The family respectfully asks that all visitors follow CDC guidelines, including social distancing and wearing masks, at the funeral home, church, and cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests any donations be made to St. John United Methodist Church or to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, Tn. 38105.
Please share your thoughts and memories at www.chattanooganorthchapel.com
Arrangements are by the Chattanooga Funeral Home & Crematory – North Chapel, 5401 Highway 153, Hixson, Tn. 37343.