Carol Jane Thurman

July 22, 1943 - July 28, 2023

Carol Jane Thurman, known as Casey by everyone she met, passed away peacefully on July
28, 2023, at Pisgah Manor in Asheville, N.C.

Born July 22, 1943 on the Dekle family farm, Candler County, Georgia, Casey was the oldest of three children born to Ray Vaughn Thurman and Sibyl Leta Dekle. Ray was the basketball coach at Ocilla High School where Sibyl taught music and piano. Ray soon joined the Navy and he and Sibyl were married on the Naval base in Jacksonville, FL. Sibyl went back to Stillmore to live with her parents while Ray went off to war. Carol was born in the old Dekle family home near Stillmore. After the war ended and Ray returned from Naval service, Ray and Sibyl with little baby Carol eventually returned to LaFayette, GA., Ray’s hometown, to raise their family.

Carol’s love of music and nature, taught to her by her parents at an early age, followed her throughout her life. Casey’s exceptional musical talent, her unshakeable love for other people, and her unbridled curiosity allowed her to connect with family, friends and colleagues in meaningful ways throughout her life, no matter where she was. Following in her parents footsteps Casey, (as she now preferred to be called), was in the LaFayette High band, played basketball on the Lafayette High basketball team and was voted Miss LHS her senior year.

When Casey arrived to study voice at Wesleyan College in Macon, Ga., she was unstoppable. Her senior yearbook described her as “the girl who was born with a smile on her face and a laugh in her heart.” In addition to other honors, she was selected “Miss Wesleyan” and “T & C Girl of the Year” in 1965. Friends said they could hear her shouting “This is better’n grits!” all around campus. Clearly, she had found her next home, and Casey referred to Wesleyan as her “cornerstone” for the rest of her life.

While at Wesleyan, Casey studied with Comer Professor of Voice Norman McLean, establishing a relationship that lasted for decades. “Mr. Mac” remained her vocal coach for many years. Casey won the Metropolitan Opera Regional/District auditions in 1964, which helped expand her vision and opened possibilities for her far beyond Macon and Wesleyan.

After graduation in 1965 with a major in religious education, Casey worked with the American Red Cross as part of the Supplemental Recreation Aid Oversees program. Often called Donut Dollies, she and her colleagues brought a much-needed touch of home, as well as compassion and comfort, to service members in South Korea. Casey’s music was an integral part of her service.

At the end of her year with the American Red Cross, Casey and two friends explored the world, traveling to 72 countries. Casey loved to tell stories about the time she lived on Kibbutz Amir in the Golan Heights and worked on an archaeological dig at Tel Lachish in the Hebron Valley, as well as her visits to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Great Pyramid of Cheops and Machu Pichu in Peru. In her 70s, Casey finally traveled to Antarctica – the only remaining continent she had not visited.

When Casey returned to Georgia in 1967, she worked as a teacher in Atlanta with the Georgia Department of Education’s Headstart program and later served as a caseworker for the Bibb County (Georgia) Department of Family and Children Services. During this time, she was also the choir director at a local United Methodist Church.

In 1968, Casey became the youngest member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra’s newly formed Chamber Chorus under the direction of Robert Shaw. She performed solo work with the Chamber Chorus in Atlanta regularly, performed at Carnegie Hall, and sang with Mr. Shaw during summer festivals, including appearances at Aspen, Princeton and in Avery Fisher Hall in New York.

In 1972 Mr. Shaw encouraged Casey to return to Europe for further vocal work. She auditioned at the Mozarteum in Salzburg, was awarded a one-year scholarship, and earned diplomas in lieder and opera. Theatre an der Wien in Vienna hired her upon completion of her study in Salzburg.

Casey came home after a tour of Canada and the U.S. with the Vienna Academy Chorus, and she entered graduate school at the University of Illinois to work with John Wustman, noted vocal coach and accompanist with Toscanini and the NBC Chorus. Wesleyan invited her to perform her graduate recital at the college with Mr. Wustman as her accompanist.

In 1974, Casey came home to Wesleyan as an assistant professor of voice performance. She performed recitals, taught studio voice, oversaw master classes and conducted opera workshops. She directed the Wesleyannes, a small group that toured Washington, D.C. and sang in the White House while Jimmy Carter was president, and conducted recruiting trips to New York, New England and New Orleans. During these years, she also strengthened her commitment to the Methodist church with service at Vineville United Methodist in Macon.

In 1980, Casey was asked to come to Guatemala City to sing for the International Conference of the Familias of the Americas. She sat on stage with Mother Theresa who was the keynote speaker. As they left the stage, Casey touched Mother Theresa’s hand and looked deeply into her eyes. It was, Casey said, one of the most profound moments of her life.

An unexpected phone call in 1980 helped Casey find her final home. Mary Kellogg Bell asked Casey to become the camp director at Camp Glen Arden in North Carolina. Mary Bell wanted to retire, and she proposed entrusting her precious camp to Casey where she had worked as a camp counselor for several years. The job combined her love of music, children, the outdoors and teaching.

During her 36 years as camp director, Casey recognized the connections between Wesleyan and Camp Glen Arden. Many talented faculty members and students worked at Glen Arden helping young women become emotionally, physically and spiritually strong.

In 2004, Casey helped commission a new choral piece to celebrate the inauguration of Ruth Austin Knox as Wesleyan’s first alumna president. In succeeding years, she helped plan concerts during Alumnae Weekends. She often visited Wesleyan, and in 2015, Casey was the recipient of the prestigious Wesleyan Alumnae Association Award for Distinguished Service to Wesleyan.

Casey is preceded in death by her parents and her sister Ruthie Thurman Pauley. She is survived by her brother Jim Dekle Thurman (Gail), niece Kristin Thurman Tawadros (Alex) and nephew Kevan Dekle Thurman (Caitlin), and great niece and nephews Abigail Marie Tawadros, Avery Malid Tawadros, James Atef Tawadros and Caspian Vaughn Thurman.

Casey’s family and friends will celebrate her life at Camp Glen Arden, Tuxedo, NC, on Saturday, September 9, beginning with a memorial service at Noon in the gym followed by a reception in the dining hall.

Please RSVP to the following email, if you plan on coming to Casey’s memorial service:

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in her memory to Wesleyan College, Class of ‘65 Scholarship Fund, Office of Institutional Advancement, 4760 Forsyth Road, Macon, Ga., 31210.

Memorial Service

Saturday, September 9, 2023
12:00 PM

Camp Glenn Arden - Directions
1261 Cabin Creek Rd
Tuxedo, North Carolina 28790

(828) 692-8362

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  • August 30, 2023
    Brenda Fletcher says:
    Casey was our neighbor for over 35 years. Such a wonderful person. Love to hear her stories of her travels, camp life and her family life in Georgia. A beautiful tribute to Casey and can still hear her voice telling me “Bless your bones”. She always had a smile and encouraging word for everyone she meet. Brenda and Jerry Fletcher

  • August 24, 2023
    Karen Senior says:
    It was the summer of 1996 when I travelled all the way from Cape Town, South Africa, to be a camp counselor at Glen Arden. It was one of those life changing experiences, and Casey played a big part in it. Her smile was infectious, warmth emanated from deep within. Being so far away from home she was my ‘go to’ when I needed a hug from ‘mom’. A fond memory of her racing out of her office with a fax in her hand saying “I have a fax all the way from Cape Town for you!” Enjoy your eternal rest Casey and thank you for everything that you were. A real treasure. Karen Senior (nee Treasure) aka Stork

  • August 17, 2023
    Elizabeth Cariker Guenther, Golden Hearts '75 says:
    Casey, you were so wonderful as my Wesleyannes director in 74-75. I treasure my memories of us singing Fruitcake, Pinecones and Hollyberries, Solitude, Bugle Boy, and so many others. My group did not record the songs, but the album from the next year you all did had all those same beloved songs, so I claim it as well. You led a rich, exceptional life and gave this Psychology major a chance. Thank you.

  • August 07, 2023
    Elena Smith Lundy says:
    I am so happy to have you being in my life. I am proud to have called you my friend as everyone did that knew you. You were all of our friend and we knew you cared for each of us. I know that beautiful voice will sing joyfully in heaven.

  • August 06, 2023
    Carrie Butcher says:
    Thank you for the wonderful memories, Casey. You were one of a kind.