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Great Falls —Carol Ann Cervenka Ecke, 64, of Great Falls, passed away Friday from complications after undergoing what was planned to be a routine heart valve replacement in Mesa, Ariz.
A memorial service will be 11 a.m. Monday at the Episcopal Church of the Incarnation, 600 3rd Ave. N. in Great Falls, with interment to follow in the church columbarium. Cremation has taken place.
People at the service are encouraged to wear bright clothing to celebrate her life. The family also encourages people to bring photos of Carol, as well as seashells and heart-shaped stones in honor of her favorite collectibles.
Carol was born Oct. 1, 1949, in Trenton, N.J., to Joseph and Helen Orashen Cervenka, and grew up in Flemington, N.J. She graduated from Hunterdon Central High School in Flemington.
She attended the University of Maryland, later transferring to the College of New Jersey, where she obtained bachelor's and master's degrees in speech-language pathology.
Carol came west from New Jersey in 1977, securing a job setting up a new speech and language program on the Crow Indian Reservation in southeast Montana for the U.S. Indian Health Service.
In Hardin, she met weekly newspaper reporter Richard Ecke. Both moved to Great Falls in 1978, where Carol took a position with Great Falls Public Schools. The couple married June 23, 1979, at St. Francis Episcopal Church in Great Falls. Rich and Carol were perfect for each other. Each complemented the other in ways that made them both whole. Carol gave birth to her first child, Johanna, in April of 1983, and to her daughter Meredith in June of 1985. She was a wonderful mother to them. She cared for her mother, Helen, who moved to Montana in the mid-1990s, until Helen's passing in 2000.
Carol worked for the Great Falls Public Schools for 26 years, then retired and became a consultant, working with cooperatives and school districts, including the Malta schools. In Malta, she made many friends in the community and cared deeply about her students. She also traveled as a representative of the Stuttering Foundation of America, and was for an extended period the only speech-language pathologist in Montana who was board-certified in fluency by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. She taught table manners in Great Falls and once taught etiquette to the entire Helena Boys Choir.
A New Jersey girl to the core, Carol was a big fan of the "Jersey Boys" Broadway musical and rocker Bruce Springsteen. She was skilled in the arts of sewing, weaving and chair caning. She was an early member of the Historic Preservation Commission in Great Falls, and was chairwoman of the Friends of the Library group. She liked to call herself an old hippie from the 1960s.
She and her family spent years renovating the former Anaconda Co. manager's house after moving the structure to the Lower North Side from Black Eagle in 1983. Carol had an eye for décor, and maintained a beautiful home in which she loved hosting guests.
Carol lit up a room when she entered it, showing enthusiasm for life and a joy in meeting people and making new friends. She loved visiting the beach, and could be found picking up seashells at the shore until the sun went down. She also loved visiting her daughter, Johanna, and her son-in-law Eric in New Orleans. She enjoyed walking around the French Quarter, listening to New Orleans jazz music and eating beignets with coffee and chicory. She was a master shopper and always found great deals - her favorite store on trips was Anthropologie, where she could be found shopping the sale section. She loved antiques and finding bargains.
Carol was tremendously devoted to her family and friends and will be greatly missed every single day. She adored her grandchild, Eira, Meredith's daughter, and was blessed to have been part of her first two years.
Survivors include Carol's husband, Rich, of Great Falls; daughter Johanna and son-in-law Eric, of New Orleans; daughter Meredith and granddaughter, Eira Watson, of Great Falls; a brother, Kenneth Cervenka, and his wife, Cinzia, of Boston; her brother-in-law, Bob Ecke, and his wife, Chere, of Los Alamos, N.M.; a niece, Laurel Ecke, and nephews Kevin Ecke and Adam Cervenka; aunts and an uncle in New Jersey, and cousins in New Jersey and Arizona. She also leaves behind many beloved friends whom she cherished like family. She was preceded in death by her parents and by an infant son, John David.
Memorials are suggested to The Animal Foundation adoption center, P.O. Box 3426, Great Falls, MT 59403. Schnider Funeral Home assisted with arrangements.
Schnider Funeral Home
1510 13th Street South
Great Falls, MT 59405-4501
Published in Great Falls Tribune on June 25, 2014