A century of love, music, activism and more: Carola Lacy turns 100

Carola Lacy blows out the candles at her 80th birthday party at the Ashland Community Center.
September 1, 2022

Longtime Ashland resident celebrates centenarian status Thursday, Sept. 1

By Debora Gordon for Ashland.news

Carola Lacy of Ashland celebrates her 100th birthday today, Sept. 1, still active and engaged as she’s been nearly since her birth a century ago.

The multilingual centenarian still lives independently in her Ashland apartment. She’s lived in four different countries, joined the Women’s Army Corps (WACs) in 1944 during World War II and served until 1946, briefly became a teacher before turning to puppeteering, including making her own puppets, including stages and props.

Carola Lacy a few days before her 100th birthday. Debora Gordon photo

She continues to be a violinist in a string quartet and social justice activist, which led to her being jailed twice—once in 1982 for protesting nuclear weapons development at Lawrence Livermore Labs in the San Francisco Bay Area and later in Portland, Oregon.

Born in Philadelphia to a university professor father and a homemaker mother, Lacy’s family lived three school years abroad in Switzerland and Belgium. She recalls one trip across the Atlantic, in 1934, on a freighter took a full three weeks. Lacy speaks French and Spanish and is currently learning Italian.

She was born into a musical family and began her lifelong violin playing with the family orchestra. In 1940, she graduated from a Quaker boarding school outside Philadelphia, followed shortly by signing up for the WACs, where she was stationed in Paris and helped provide provisions for the military.

She then enrolled in UCLA, graduating in 1951 with a bachelor’s degree in educational psychology. She taught elementary school for two years, but eventually quit because she felt she lacked the “disciplinary skills” (as in disciplining students). She later taught English as a second language (ESL) for a year at the now-closed Ashland Learning Center.

Carola Lacy as a WAC in Paris in World War II.

She married Milo Lacy, a civil engineer, in Santa Clara, California. They moved to Talent in 1966 and had two sons and a daughter, all now in their 60s. She joined the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and remains a member to this day.

In Talent she started doing puppet shows, presenting at schools and nursing homes, and writing poems, such as this one from 40 years ago:

On Becoming 60

Wow! Imagine being 60!

Well, kiddo, you are.

At this age

Anything & everything is possible

No binding chains

Except the ones I put on myself

I feel exhilarated and overwhelmed

Carola Lacy plays the violin with her son Brian on the mandolin.

By what I can be and do

The Peace Corps?

A freighter ’round the world?

Bus our Northwest?

Revisit childhood haunts in Belgium?

Or, maybe stay home

For inner tripping …

To get more in touch with me

And my spiritual questing.

Tune in same station next year

For update.

Carola (Waples) Lacy’s suggestions for a long life:

• Choose your parents with care

• Healthy eating

• Drink lots of water

• Walk

• Learn something new every day

Her social and political activism increased in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, particularly protesting U.S. military spending and actions. She played with Rogue Valley Symphony for 20 years, but says “I quit when I got involved in politics.” Since then, she has written letters to the editor every month since 1967, focusing on political and social issues.

In the early 21st century, a combination of musical performance and interests took her to China, Kenya, Costa Rica, Mexico, Guatemala, Greece and Turkey.

More recently, she has given away her car and has neither a television nor cell phone, though she does maintain a landline, where she screens calls to be sure they are not from telemarketers.

Reflecting back on her century of her life, she notes that life both was and was not complicated. Growing up, drug use was not an issue, she said, and life was not as fast-paced.

Carola Lacy helps carry the PFLAG banner in the Ashland Fourth of July Parade.

Looking ahead as she turns 100, her goals are “to stay healthy, learn about dying and just go with the light. I want to be relaxed and be willing to let go of my body.”

Lacy describes her current health as good, with the occasional unsteadiness in walking, though, she notes, “I am curious as to how I will die. I never thought I’d live to be 20, much less 100.”

Looking back, she adds, “I wish I had had better skill at relating to people when I was younger, but I didn’t, and I regret saying things that were unkind and doing things that were not appropriate. Ignorance on my part … I have asked for forgiveness.”

She adds, “Blessings on all of you … Each of us is special in our own way. Spread kindness.”

Debora Gordon is a writer, artist, educator and non-violence activist who recently moved to Ashland from Oakland, California. Email Ashland.news Executive Editor Bert Etling at betling@ashland.news or call or text him at 541-631-1313.

Sept. 1 update: Corrected information about places lived and visited, and the caption for the photo showing her playing violin.

Carola Lacy, at left, and her family.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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