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Clare (Bishop) Kirk

Living in Fernandina in the 60's as a child I knew Carolyn and the Phanstiels as the dearest of family friends. Carolyn never failed to share a hearty laugh with us and brighten everyone's day. Through her friendship with my Mom, I caught up with Carolyn multiple times since Fernandina and was always taken by her kindness and understanding. She will be dearly missed by so many. Rest in peace Carolyn.

Andy Mead

Mrs. Phanstiel was my senior English teacher in 1965-66. She changed my life. I was floating along with a vague notion of going to college but no real plans. Then there appeared this beautiful teacher who was unlike anyone I had known. At first I was infatuated, then inspired. She made me want to write poetry and plays. I was having a great time. She sat me down one day and asked about my plans. "I'm going to write the great American novel!" She suggested that I first needed a college degree, then I job that would pay me for writing while I worked on the novel. My reaction to good advice at 17? "You mean prostitute myself?" I got a master's degree in history, followed by a long, rewarding career as a newspaper reporter. Twenty years after high school we spoke on the phone and she town me now happy when was that I had become a writer. Then she recalled my "prostitute" comeback. "Yes man, I get a paycheck every other Wednesday." I last saw her at out 50th reunion. She was the only teacher there and I got to thank her for all she had done to set me on the right path. I didn't know until reading her obit that she also was a first generation college student thanks to a guidance counselor. She was very special to me and to many, many others.

Orlando Avila

I met Carolyn professionally over 20 years ago when she was a Gaurdian-ad-Litem volunteer and I worked for a state agency not to be named. She was a consumate professional and an amazing advocate. Fast forward a few years and my wife and I are foster parents and Carolyn was our foster-daughter's guardian-ad-litem. We would go on to adopt her and 3 of her siblings over the years and Carolyn kept up with them and us we would see her around town often. She will be missed.

Joan Hill

Carolyn will be remembered by her students and colleagues as an exemplary teacher and human being.

Pat Ellis

Carolyn often spoke of life as a journey. Her journey left a trail of love and peace for others to follow. She first shared her passion for social justice when, together with Alice Grant, we designed and implemented the first English as a Second Language program at Florida Community College. In retirement, Carolyn and I traveled four continents together. She never met a stranger and was loved in every travel group we met. She was the most disciplined person I've ever known: getting up early in every hotel that had a swimming pool to exercise her painful back with never a complaint. "Just part of my day," she would say. Carolyn was an honorary member of my extended family spending several days at our summer reunion in St. Augustine Beach. She was also with us on a family cruise for my 70th birthday. They said of her, "She was always so kind to remember and inquire about things that would have been forgotten to others." "She makes us see our best selves and then we want to be what she sees." Rest in peace my dear friend. I picture you with great joy in your new status.

Carolyn Hough

Heaven received a beautiful angel.

Dickie Anderson

A treasure that will be missed hugely.

Carolyn Edna Phanstiel


Carolyn Edna Phanstiel was born in Queens, NY, February 28, 1938, and died peacefully at home April 30, 2023, surrounded by loved ones gazing upon the Atlantic Ocean.

Carolyn was valedictorian of her high school class but never considered going to college until a guidance counselor pulled her aside. She received a BA from Albright College, a graduate degree from NYU, and post graduate studies from UF. Both Carolyn and her husband/soulmate Otto came from working class families. They both were the first and only ones in their families to graduate from college. She has been a local Fernandinian since 1962. Carolyn and Otto worked overseas in Taiwan for three years and American Samoa for two years while raising their two children. From there, they moved back to Fernandina Beach in 1977.

Carolyn was beautiful. When she and Otto came to Amelia Island in 1962, people thought they were movie stars. Little did the community know what a gift they had received. She loved all social activities. In fact, she celebrated her 80th birthday with numerous parties over a three month period.

Carolyn was a teacher. She had an inquisitive mind and wanted the same for her students. Former students from Fernandina Beach High School and Florida Community College of Jacksonville remember her as their favorite. Over the years, she continued to enjoy meeting with faculty friends from FCCJ.

Carolyn was a friend, a best friend to many. She had this amazing ability to connect people so that they too could form lasting friendships. She lived, “To have a friend, be one.”

Carolyn enjoyed new experiences. She supported local theater, organizing groups to boost ticket sales. For two decades she looked forward to lively discussions in her beloved Book Club. She traveled the world, visiting all seven continents, always returning to her ocean view home filled with sunflowers and memories. She loved lap swimming and sailing. She was constantly exploring new talents. She even learned to juggle in her seventies.

Carolyn had a big heart for those less fortunate. She served on the board of Barnabas and volunteered at Hospice. She wrote grants for local parks and playgrounds. She was the co-founder of the Coalition for the Homeless. She participated in Study Circle: Voices of Diversity on Amelia Island and Oceans of Fun Reading Camp. Whenever she saw a need, she was ready to lend support with both time and money. In 2010, she received the Elsie Harper Volunteer of the Year award.

Carolyn was a political activist. She was inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” She wrote articles for publication, called her congressmen, walked door-to-door and wrote postcards to bring out the vote, and participated in peaceful demonstrations. She once wrote that she would “say a prayer of gratitude for lessons taught to me by my mother about the necessity of common decency, the values of inclusiveness and the love of the United States of America.”

Carolyn was an active member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. She loved the liturgy, the activities, the people and the priests. When she was confined to a wheelchair, St. Peter’s made special accommodations so that she could attend a Wednesday morning service. She exemplified the Christian life.

Carolyn’s greatest joy was her family. Daughter Cheryl (David), son Otto (Nicole), granddaughter Jennifer and grandsons Christopher (Ioanna), Zack and Cole. She took great pride in their accomplishments, large and small. Carolyn never let geographical distances separate her from the close bond she had with each and every one of them. Her extended family included much loved nieces and nephews.

Her greatest advice in all matters of living was that “Love is the Policy” and she regularly signed her letters with “Oceans of Love.”

Her funeral will be held Saturday, May 13, 2023, at 11:00 AM, at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Fernandina Beach, FL. All are welcomed. Also available will be remote access via a live stream during the funeral. You can access it at:

Rather than flowers, memorial gifts should be directed to Barnabas Center, 1303 Jasmine Street, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034.

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