Myrtle Othell Albright Carpenter, 89, died at her Lake Wylie, S.C., home on Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012, just as she wanted: She slipped away like silk between your fingers. That is her description of how she hoped her life would end.
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Her children, who will forever see her as their hero and compass, were alongside her, as was her devoted brother Charles, who with his sister, illustrated how siblings should honor each other.
Othell never liked her name; she found amusement in the multitude of mispronunciations (say OH-thell). But her name was as distinctive as her heart. Her grace spilled over her family and on all she encountered. When an ambulance would wail in the distance, she would pray for the stranger in trouble. When her caregivers lifted her, she prayed for their strong backs. A week before she died, she prayed for those affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Othell was born and reared in Gaston County, the daughter of Homer and Hettie Albright. Homer worked as a cotton mill supervisor most of his career. Othell grew up in a mill village with her brothers Johnny, Titus and Charles and worked in the Ruby Mill as a young woman.
When she was 17, she married Miles Love Carpenter at Armstrong Memorial Presbyterian Church in Gastonia. Right after the wedding they drove to Baltimore, where they both had jobs at Glenn L. Martin helping build bombers for World War II. Othell sorted and distributed nuts and bolts while Miles welded and assembled planes. Within a year, Miles got his draft notice and left for Europe. Othell returned to Gaston County and prayed for her husband's homecoming.
They would have four daughters and one son together. Miles died in 1976 of a stroke; Othell never had another relationship. She said she never needed anyone but him.
When her youngest started school, Othell took a third-shift winding job at Burlington Mills in Ranlo, where she worked for 20 years. She went to work six days a week at 10 p.m., returned home at 6 a.m., woke her children, made them breakfast, sent them to school, slept until 1 p.m., picked up her father, fixed him a meal, then started on dinner for her brothers and family. Her evenings were spent helping children with school work, mending their clothes and paying bills. On Sunday she took her children to Lutheran Chapel Church in Gastonia and made a family feast. At her church, Othell served faithfully on the Altar Guild and as a Sunday school teacher.
She had a heart attack soon after she retired. She resolved to help herself. She changed her diet, devoted herself to cardiac rehab and eventually created her own collateral bypasses. For more than 25 years, she lived with heart and pulmonary disease and arthritis but without self-pity. She reveled in every Christmas, Thanksgiving and birthday; she lived understanding that life is short. In her gratitude journal she wrote: "Thank you Lord for a body that moves on impulse, for eyes that see and ears that hear."
She loved pansies in winter and day lilies in summer, the Braves, Tar Heel basketball, experimenting with recipes, Big Band music, road trips, reruns of Billy Graham crusades, babies (especially grand and great-grand babies), Errol Flynn, Georgia Bell peaches, Sunday school and noisy family dinners with multiple card tables for little ones.
She will forever be the whisper in her children's ears, telling us to do right, be generous, offer praise for small blessings and love each other mightily. She lashed us together so that we could survive any storm.
Though a brain tumor clouded her thinking in her last year, she always knew her family and prayed with clarity; she hoped we would "shine like God's moon." Her requests of God were never for her, and they flowed easily and poetically -- like silk between your fingers.
Her family includes her brother Charles Albright; daughter, Barbara Robinson and husband Patrick; son, Miles Carpenter and wife Sharon; daughters, Deborah and Cheryl Carpenter, and Patricia Winemiller and husband Steve; sister-in-law, Jane Clemmer and brother-in-law Gene Carpenter and his wife Sara; grandchildren, Charlene, Buddy, Christie, Matthew, Samuel and Mary; great-grands, Andrew, Rachel, Madison, Ryan, Amanda and C.J.
Instead of flowers, our mother wanted remembrances to benefit her beloved Lutheran Chapel Church, 702 North New Hope Road, Gastonia, NC 28054. That is also where we will honor her on Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 3 p.m. A reception in the fellowship hall follows.
Published in Gaston Gazette on Nov. 19, 2012