By Janice Limbaugh
As with any sudden passing, conveying the news to family, friends and associates is as difficult as it is shocking. Such is the case with former Wyoming Mayor Carol Sheets who died on Sunday from a massive heart attack at age 69. Carol was living in Florida for the winter with Alan, her husband of over 50 years.
Yet as quickly as the sadness settles, remarks are made – endearing, inspiring, and sure – that Carol Sheets lived as a remarkable woman. Without a doubt, her friends and community colleagues agree that Carol was special. She shared a beautiful singing voice in church. People gravitated to her smiling face and positive disposition. She understood what it meant to be a trustworthy friend. Carol was not only a devoted wife, a mother of six, and a grandmother of 21, but also a positive force in this community as a public school volunteer, an elected city council member for 12 years and as the first female Mayor for four years.
“Carol was passionate about our community and was a strong advocate for the City of Wyoming,” says Wyoming Mayor Jack Poll. “She worked to build consensus and to address some of the pressing issues facing us. She will be missed.”
“Carol cared so much for this city. She definitely was passionate about wanting positive things to happen here,” says Eric Tomkins, Wyoming Parks and Recreation supervisor and Carol’s colleague since the 1990s. “This is a big loss for this community.”
It was an impulse and her passion for improving Wyoming that prompted Carol to pick up the phone one day in the early 2000s and make a phone call to Metro Hospital officials. According to Wyoming City Councilman Rich Pastoor, Carol immediately placed the call when it was announced that officials were looking to relocate the hospital from the city of Grand Rapids.
“She said, ‘We’ve got a piece of land here for you that you might want to take a look at,'” Pastoor recalls. “It was a big coup at the time too because all the major hospitals and medical facilities were relocating downtown. But she convinced them to relocate here instead.
“She had many more accomplishments while serving the city but that was by far her greatest one. People are going to benefit from that decision of hers for years to come,” he said.
Mike Faas, president and CEO of Metro Health shares similar sentiments.
“The Metro Health family was saddened to hear of Carol’s passing. She played a valuable role in our move to Wyoming in 2007. She was an advocate for and supporter of Metro. As Mayor of Wyoming, Carol worked to ensure a bright and successful future for the City of Wyoming and its residents. We are forever indebted to her for supporting the vision of Metro Health Village and for encouraging us throughout our building and moving efforts. We will keep her family and friends in our hearts and minds at this difficult time.”
Throughout her career in community service, Carol worked closely with the Parks and Recreation department on a variety of initial projects including the Wyoming Festival, Celebrate Wyoming, and the Splash Pad at Lamaar Park. According to Tomkins, she was a a big advocate to getting that amenity in place.
“Carol was passionate about the city, but her extreme passion were children – not just her own, but the children of the community,” he says. “She saw the need for the youth of the community to have resources of hope, especially during the economic downturn Wyoming experienced when the GM plant closed.”
Tomkin adds that the Splash Pad is the most popular amenity in Wyoming Parks and Recreation department today. “She was mayor at that time and saw the importance of making that happen,” he says.
For Lillian VanderVeen, knowing Carol Sheets changed her life.
“I met Carol shortly before her city council campaign,” she recalls. “She was such a force of good, I decided to work for her on it.”
It didn’t take long for a real friendship to grow between the two and last all these years. “She was so trustworthy as a friend, I could talk to her about anything and know it was in safekeeping. She was a true friend of mine.”
Because Carol “loved Wyoming with a passion,” she always wanted the city to have a historical museum, says Dorothy Simon-Tibbe, local historian. “She worked hard to save a Methodist Church circa 1880 from demolition.
“It used to stand where CVS is now on Byron Center and 56th. She wanted to move it to the Metro Village complex but it didn’t work out. Since then, she’s been very supportive in establishing the historical society of Wyoming.”
Simon-Tibbe says the two were friends for over 40 years, living in the same neighborhood and being fellow cheerleaders for the city of Wyoming. “We ran in the same circles supporting our community, but Carol accomplished much more for the city than I did.”
Simon-Tibbe credits Carol’s accomplishments on her loving, outgoing personality and always having good things to say to others. Without a doubt and much conviction, she adds, “We are all born to die, some sooner than others. Carol is reaping her reward right now.”
“You’d never forget her if you had met her,” says City Councilman Rich Pastoor. “She encouraged me to run for city council back in 2001 and I’m glad I listened to her because it’s been a very rewarding decision for me.
“I considered her one of my closest friends in city government.”
Her genuine smile warmed friends and strangers alike. Now former Mayor Carol Sheets will always be remembered and embraced for her dedication and passion to the people in her community.