Carol Byrne

Obituary of Carol Ann Byrne

Carol Ann Byrne (nee Schmeling) died peacefully from pancreatic cancer on August 30, 2023.  She was born Dec. 5, 1933 to Kenneth and Genevieve Schmeling in Watertown, SD.  They soon moved to Minneapolis, MN where Carol spent most of her youth, attending college at the University of Minnesota.  With three brothers Don, Gene, and Bill, Carol learned to stand up for herself.  She married Richard Thoreson and had two children, Wally and Bonnie.  The family moved around a bit before settling in Columbia, MO.  After her children were grown, Carol divorced and left for Berkeley, CA to attend Starr King Unitarian Seminary where she received a Master’s in Divinity. 

While attending seminary, she met the true love of her life, R. Bruce Williams. They married in 1981 and Carol gained three step-children, Karen, Tony, and Chris Williams. Carol and Bruce lived in Berkeley, CA for many years before moving to Grand Lake Gardens senior living facility in Oakland, CA. Last fall, Carol was evacuated from Grand Lake Gardens due to a fire and relocated to a memory care unit in Santa Barbara, CA for the last few months of her life. 

Carol was active in the First Unitarian Church of Oakland. She cherished her time at the church where she found an outlet for her creative and organizational talents along with a caring community.  She had many passions and was especially interested in family history, tracing her German and Irish ancestry back hundreds of years.  She and Bruce traveled the world volunteering with archaeological digs and social justice efforts. They were generous philanthropists, donating half their income to charity for many years (prompting numerous audits by skeptical IRS agents). 

Carol will be remembered for a creative spirit and humor that was combined with a practical, organized streak. She was a loving mother and constantly dedicated to her family. She treasured her relationship with her husband Bruce, and the two of them remained devoted through joyous times and tribulations.

Carol is survived by her husband R. Bruce Williams of Oakland CA; daughter Bonita Thoreson (Amir Alexander) of Los Angeles, CA; son Wallace Thoreson (Mary Green) of Omaha, NE; brother Donald Schmeling (Ursula) of Minneapolis, MN; grandchildren William Thoreson-Green (Chun Ying Wang) of Chicago, IL; Elisabeth Thoreson-Green of Washington DC; Jordan Alexander of Minneapolis, MN; Ella Alexander of Bergen, Norway; and great-granddaughter Sofia Jia Rui Thoreson. 

Memorials may be sent to First Unitarian Church of Oakland.  A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. on October 8, 2023 at Piedmont Gardens Senior Living Facility, 110 41st St, Oakland, CA 94611. Email with condolences or memories. 


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