Carolyn A. (Achen) Sumner

Carolyn A. (Achen) Sumner

CAROLYN A. SUMNER, 92, of Madison, died gently on Monday, December 4, at home.

Carolyn (aka Kelly) was born August 17, 1925 in Kenosha, WI, the youngest of Francis (Frank) and Pearl Achen’s three children. She graduated from Madison West High School in 1943 and UW-Madison in 1947, where she majored in Anthropology. She followed this up two decades later with a Master’s in Library Science from UW-Madison in 1970 and had a rewarding career as an elementary school librarian in Evansville, WI.

Carolyn married William A. Sumner Jr. on May 15, 1948, and they raised four children in Evansville.

She is survived by her children Margaret Sumner, Bill Sumner, Lucy Sumner, and Libby Giacomini (Pete); five grandchildren, Bill Sumner, Dana Farnsworth (Vinny), Katie Giacomini, Don Giacomini (Casey), and Jessica Sumner; and two great-grandchildren, Noah Graham and Allison Graham.

Carolyn was a woman of many talents. She had a gift for connecting with elementary students, inspiring them to find joy in reading. Except for a spectacularly failed (according to her family) dinner of moussaka and any meal that included lima beans, she was an outstanding cook and baker. She produced a cookbook in 1954 (reissued in 2010) of favorite recipes from local cooks, titled Kate the Kook, published by Will’s newspaper, The Evansville Review. Carolyn also wrote a weekly column for the paper that chronicled the antics and foibles of her family, called Coffee Talk.

In 1979 Wisconsin Public Television’s Tryout TV invited proposals to produce a half-hour documentary, and Carolyn’s idea was accepted. The result was First Ladies of Music. It told the story of Olive and Marie Endres, two outstanding Madison-based piano and violin teachers. WPT was proud enough of the program to enter it into a nationwide contest of documentaries, and it was recognized for its merit. Carolyn and the director flew to Hollywood to accept the prize. Hugh Downs (remember him?) of ABC’s 20/20, featured a clip from it on his national news program.

Her love of travel began with trips West with Frank and Pearl, followed in 1948 with an extended honeymoon in North Africa, the French Riviera, and Paris. She shared the travel bug with friends, children, and grandchildren, her favorite destination being the centuries-old Christmas fairs in Germany. Her best-ever trip was a summer spent in Sneem, Ireland, where she worked in that school’s library and inspired school children there to love books. Carolyn had a strong sense of social justice, and readers of the Wisconsin State Journal and The Capital Times editorial pages were treated to her sharp wit and insights via letters to the editor.

Carolyn was predeceased by her parents, her sister Lucille Stortz, and her brother Francis (Fran) Achen.

Carolyn wants her friends to join the family in a joyful celebration on Sunday, December 17, at Brookdale, Madison West, 429 S. Yellowstone Dr., Madison, from 1-4 p.m. (The Packer game will be playing in the background.)

The family wants to thank the many kindnesses and friendships Carolyn received and enjoyed from Agrace Hospice and, especially, the staff at Brookdale. In lieu of flowers, Carolyn suggests you consider a gift to the Dane County Humane Society (, UW Odyssey Project (, or Broken Bread Food Pantry (51 W. Division St., Fond du Lac, WI 54935).

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