Passing of Carol Brantley

Carol Brantley

We are saddened to share that one of our consultants of many, many years, Carol Brantley, passed away in October. Her obituary can be viewed here.

Below is the text from the Memorial Minute handed out during the services at the Annapolis Friends Meeting.

Carol was born July 23, 1947 in Elizabeth, New Jersey to Charles Brantley and Annie Lee Brantley. She leaves her brother Glenn Brantley (Muriel) and sister Francena Brantley (who, known to us as Fran, became a beloved presence in our Quaker community during the year she was Carol's support and companion in the time of her illness.) And Carol treasured her ties to her two nephews, two nieces, five great nephews, one great niece and the daughters of long-time friends for whom she hosted "Camp Carol."

Carol's spiritual journey began in the Baptist church where she played the organ and sang in the choir. She loved Gospel music. As an adult she found her spiritual expression in the practice of Kundalini Yoga. The third strand in the braid of Carol's spiritual journey was the Annapolis Friends Meeting (AFM) community where she experienced spirituality and religion coming together.

Her professional work, her volunteer work, and her life as a member of the Annapolis Friends community all reflected her deep sense of the potential for all people to be whole, full contributors in the world, and to reflect the light of spirit in all they did. Whether it was as Board Chair and dedicated volunteer for the Light House, or in her work with organizations on long-term organizational change and the self-empowerment of women and people of color--woven throughout all that Carol did were repeated expressions of the Quaker values of simplicity, peacefulness, integrity, community, equality and environmental stewardship.

She was instrumental in forming and stewarding the Annapolis Friends Early Meeting for Worship that was held at 8:00 am on the second, fourth and fifth First Days each month. She was a guiding presence for Early Meeting, reaching out to everyone, and watching the Early Meeting grow over the years. Her Early Meeting invitation emails always included a beautiful photograph and a verse to help focus on the Light within. As Building Use Coordinator, Carol was the face of AFM, welcoming a more diverse group of people to rent our building and become part of our community.

A deep thinker, a regular meditator who understood that we all have access to a rich spiritual life within, she loved beauty, and she embodied beauty and elegance, with a striking memorable minimalism. She had known suffering and loss and it had left her compassionate and generous.

Carol will be remembered for her quiet, calm, but passionate love for the Chesapeake, including diving into its waters for the Polar Bear Plunge. A woman of clear intent and desire to continually improve spiritually, Carol meditated and engaged Spirit regularly. She treasured walking in silence near the water and longed for silent retreats where she would gain greater perspectives on her current life and the next steps to reach for an even deeper connection with Spirit. Carol was a spiritual mentor who challenged the depth of commitment to Spirit.

In her Annapolis Friends monthly meeting, Carol was often the person who spoke most thoughtfully and directly to concerns often not seen or voiced by others, especially when it came to matters of equality and inclusion. In personal conversations, Carol listened deeply and thoughtfully. She was widely respected, both within our meeting and outside, for her wisdom, her personal strengths, her graciousness and her bold spirit. She has brought us the gift of presence, of being fully present to the moment. She was able to really see each of us, and love what she saw. She has truly tested joy at her core, and we have been warmed by its light. The gifts she brought us with her presence remain with us in spirit.

“That's deep." Carol frequently vocalized this phrase-it was also a metaphor for her life.

Carol lived a deep life of introspection, love, compassion and loyalty. With her natural gift to connect deeply with many different people, she touched a wide circle of lives-friends, family, clients, community-and left a formidable legacy.

A hard worker and fighter, she built up a series of "firsts" throughout her life, including the first Black cheerleader and captain at Hillsdale College and the first Black woman officer at a traditional Philadelphia insurance company.

In every organization in which she worked, Carol challenged convention and modeled inclusive behaviors that others could emulate. With great emotion, a former client said that she was inspired by Carol's commanding presence and ability to help others see a different perspective and change their minds. "She didn't look like anyone else, and gave life to bringing your authentic self to work, and in the process changed the world."

In addition to challenging others, Carol deeply challenged herself. Through meditation, silent retreats, therapy and introspection, she opened her mind and heart to grow. She even tackled her fear of water-with the style for which she was known. She took a scuba course at Andros Island, Bahamas, overcame her fear of water, and as a side benefit, luxuriated on the magnificent beach!

Carol profoundly connected with young people. She spread her passion for empowerment and equality by lovingly caring for several close friends' daughters and her niece, Stacey, in what was affectionately named "Camp Carol." The girls and Carol would meet each summer, traveling, exploring, and talking about issues such as race, class, and gender. These experiences created intense bonds of support and love, along with a wider awareness of the world, that all Camp Carol women carry with them today.

Carol lived and breathed creativity and style. As a young teen, she designed and sewed her own clothes, winning national awards. She surrounded herself with a magnificent collection of African inspired art. She also designed a contemporary house in Annapolis that was situated on three bodies of water-water called to Carol's spirit and provided strength and inspiration.

Of course, her choices in clothes and jewelry are legendary. Clothes represented freedom and the ability to overcome requirements that society tried to impose on her. She said that if she had been born in a later time with more options, she probably would have gone into a design field rather than into the business world.

During her life's journey, Carol positively impacted many lives with her amazing consulting and coaching skills. She played many leadership roles professionally, but most loved her volunteer work at The Light House and at several environmental and socially progressive organizations-earning awards which she was uncomfortable accepting. Her respect for others, whether architect, interior designer, trash collector, or limo driver, was returned with friendship and generosity.

She also used irreverent language, loved anything with a heart symbol, left a trail of forgotten items when she visited friends, and longed for another dog like Sheba, her golden retriever while living in New Jersey.

She was a generous listener and was always the first one there during both good and bad times-when a parent died, a friend was diagnosed with cancer or there was a cause to celebrate. During any conversation, Carol offered her complete, deep presence. She brought a perceptive ear, insight and support. She offered new ways to think about what was happening and helped us feel whole again.

Carol-you were deep in so many ways and one of a kind. Your legacy will live on in our hearts and lives forever

Alison VanDerVolgenComment