Carol McGorray’s daughter shared memories of fudgesicles at the beach, Sunday donuts after church, reading the newspaper in her childhood living room—or rather squabbling over the comics section with her siblings—and even witnessing the birth of a baby goat.

A great grandmother and true altruist, Marana Town Councilmember Carol McGorray passed away on Thursday, March 22, leaving behind a huge family, including 13 grandchildren, four great-grandchildren and two more on the way.

Maureen Dykinga, the youngest of Carol’s seven children, addressed the many friends, family members and colleagues who filled St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church, on April 4.

“Carol was practicing farm to table long before it was trendy,” Maureen said, rainbow-colored stained glass shining behind her, a statue of an open-armed Jesus smiling at the crowd.

Born in Newton, Massachusetts, Carol indeed had a love for living close to the land. After moving around the U.S., she settled in the Tucson/Marana area 42 years ago and moved into a ranch-style Avra Valley home on five-and-a-half acres when her kids were still little.

She filled the acreage with animals: horses, cows, and a male and female goat. She hand-raised chickens and sold eggs to the neighbors. One time she even ordered 250 baby chicks and picked them up at the Marana post office.

An equestrian, dancer, cook, artist and a writer, Carol created the life she wanted—and was fiercely independent. She did the New York Times crossword puzzle every day (in ink). She was a seamstress, and sewed her daughter’s dresses for important occasions. 

“Carol took great pride in her children and let us be who we were, appreciating our individuality,” Maureen said. “She demonstrated a high level of patience when we were young, often sacrificing her dining room chairs, sets of sheets and sofa cushions for us to build forts in the living room.”

Carol took her children to museums and on hikes in the desert. She encouraged lifelong learning through academics and life experience, like staying home from school to watch the birth of a baby goat.

Once Carol’s children were all school-age, she began working at their elementary school, shifting positions until she was working directly for the Marana Unified School District. She was first elected to the town council in 2001, and served 17 consecutive years.

Marana Mayor Ed Honea also spoke at Carol’s memorial. He knew Carol about 35 years, and said she was one of the most active people the community ever had. 

Carol served on the Marana Community Food Bank and Marana Health Center boards. She worked with the Dove Mountain Civic Group and Dove Mountain Rotary Club. She was active with the Marana Chamber of Commerce, and she also helped spearhead the Marana Heritage River Park, which showcases the town’s farming roots and agrarian history.

“She liked the fact that farming and ranching could live in our community as we grew larger,” Honea said. “Carol was a very determined person. She always had an end in mind, and she had a means to get there before she ever told you about it. And I think that sticks with us today.”

The mayor said Carol was “feisty right up to the very end.” He spoke with her the day before she died, while in the hospital. She told him, “I don’t want to be in here. We’ve got meetings and stuff to do.”

Carol died from pneumonia, which she struggled with previously in the last few years. But even in her final hours, she chose her path, deciding her end-of-life care. 

“Carol was determined in everything she did,” Maureen said. “She lived her life on her own terms and dictated her care up to the final moments. Knowing that she died on her terms also brings a lot of comfort to her children.”

In memory of Carol’s community service, her family asks that in lieu of flowers, people make donations to the Marana Health Center or Marana Community Food Bank. Donations to MHC can be made online at mhchealthcare.org/get-engaged under “Donate Money to Our Cause.” Call 682-4111 for information. Donations to the Marana Community Food Bank can be made online at communityfoodbank.org/Locations/Marana. Call 682-3001 for more information.

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