November 28, 1922 – May 20, 2020
Carolyn Elizabeth Fix November 28, 1922–May 20, 2020
Carolyn Fix died at her Vienna home on May 20, 2020 at age 97. She was preceded in death by her parents, William and Evelina Fix, and her older brother William. Carolyn’s grandfather, Wilhelm Fix, immigrated to the United States from Germany in the 1870s and became a brew master. Her father ran a bedding and carpet cleaning works on Long Island and farmed; her mother was a homemaker and part-time bookkeeper. Her uncle, Paul Fix, was an actor who appeared in more than 100 movie films from 1925 until 1981. Carolyn visited with him in Hollywood when she was stationed at the Presidio in California.
Carolyn was born on November 28, 1922 in Utica, NY; she grew up during the 1929–30’s depression in New Hartford, NY. After high school, she took courses offered by the National Youth Administration, a New Deal program started by then-President Franklin D. Roosevelt, to educate unemployed youth. She studied Italian, German, newspaper printing, and wood working. In 1941, excelling in machine shop work, she landed a job at a gun factory⎯one of the first four women hired at Savage Arms Company. At night school she studied x-ray technology, then a new field. She quit the Arms company, earned her certification as an x-ray technician, but then couldn’t get a job.
To get experience at age 20, she enlisted in the new Women’s Army Corps of the U.S. Army on November 5, 1943 and served until June 30, 1948. She completed basic training at Fort Oglethorpe, GA, and Army x-ray technician school at Camp Atterbury, IN. At the end of training, Carolyn boarded a troop train that wandered throughout the southwest. “They didn’t tell us where we were going,” she said, but it ended at Camp Stoneman, CA, her first duty assignment. Assigned to the Transportation Medical Corps with the Ports of Embarkation, she worked in the Camp Stoneman Base Hospital.
On July 17, 1944 she was performing with the WAC Chorus at a venue in the hills of Oakland, an off-duty recreational singing engagement. Two ships loading with U.S. Navy bombs and other munitions exploded at Port Chicago, CA, killing more than 300 men and wounding others. While on a bus going back to base, the group heard the blast, saw the glow in the sky, and the bus sped back to Camp Stoneman. For the next 24 hours and days afterward Carolyn was on emergency duty as an X-ray technician at the hospital. The tragic event, the scope of injuries suffered by the survivors, and the news aftermath thereafter weighed deeply in Carolyn’s mind for the rest of her life.
After World War II ended, she was assigned to Letterman General hospital at Presidio, CA. She served in the U.S. Army for six years on active duty and three years in the reserve. “The service changed my whole life,” she said. “I would not have attended college were it not for the service.
After leaving active duty in 1948, Carolyn used her GI bill benefits to earn a bachelor’s of science degree in biology from Utica College, in 1951, and a master’s of science degree in geology from Syracuse University. In 1953, she was hired as a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in Denver, and she was selected to enter the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship Program. She studied at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, traveled around the world (mostly by ship), and visited eighteen countries in 1954 and 55. She studied corals in northern Queensland and at the Great Barrier Reef, Aborigines, and a glow worm cave during a visit to New Zealand.
A 1960 “Career Girl” article gushes about Miss Carolyn who presented extensive travel lectures about places she had traveled, and her acceptance to the Rochester Nature Salon and the National Photographic Society for her prize-winning color photography. In 1963 after ten years, she left the U.S. Geographic Survey, returned to the east coast, and transitioned to the science publications field where she gained success as a science magazine/book editor and an editor-indexer with the American Geological Institute.
In her last job, Carolyn was the first woman public health inspector in Fairfax County. An individual of formidable endurance, her medical training and pursuit of advancing medical knowledge kept her healthy so she could work into her late 70s.
Carolyn played the organ, the piano, and sang. While stationed at Camp Stoneman, she sang with the WAC Chorus. Later, she sang in the San Francisco Chorus Society, the Utica Ladies Chorus, and the Cathedral Chorus Society at the Washington National Cathedral in DC. She also collected antique musical instruments, including a zither, phono fiddle, and even two pipe organs, one that she repaired so she could play it.
She was a woman of abundant curiosity... a Renaissance woman… scientist and writer, talented amateur singer, musician, and photographer, model maker and wood worker. A long-time member of the Northern Virginia chapter of the WAC Veteran’s Association, she was also a member of American Legion Post 180 in Vienna, and the Women in Military Service for America (WIMSA) Foundation, which supports the memorial located at Arlington National Cemetery.
During her Army career, Carolyn earned the rank of Staff Sergeant. Her awards included the Army Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign medal, and World War II Victory medal. She also proudly wore the Women’s Army Corps Service Ribbon.
I’ve known Carolyn for 20 years or more. I might have met her at an event at the Women In Military Service For America, Inc., located at the entrance to Arlington National Cemetery. Both she and I are Charter members of that memorial, in company of many other women who served in a military service. Together we attended monthly meetings of the Northern Virginia Chapter 33 of the Women’s Army Corps Veterans’ Association.
At first I couldn’t figure her out, she talked non-stop. If I didn’t respond to something she continued on another subject - there was always another subject, and I began to realize the depth and expanse of her mental acuity and scope of abilities and interests. Music, geography, natural sciences, home repairs, model ship making and, of course, military history, medical and other and news of the day. I learned a lot from her. She was a very independent woman who had a high IQ and made the most of opportunities that she herself learned of. She believed in herself and the abilities she mastered, she worked hard and enjoyed it. She stood up for herself and others she knew and worked with; she confidently pursued the many things she cared about. She was a kind, caring, loyal friend—an extraordinary woman we are fortunate to have known and loved.
Lastly but not the least, Carolyn enjoyed her beloved home in Vienna to the end of her life. That would not have been possible without the love and devoted care she received from her niece, Janice Fix, her sole survivor. Janice obtained the necessary assistance of professional medical healthcare providers over the last three years.
Carolyn would want me to thank you for all the tender care she received in these, her last years, and I do.
This remembrance was prepared and presented by Lois Beck, with input from Beth Johnson, members of the Northern Virginia Chapter 33, Women’s Army Corps Veterans Association.
On April 6, 2006, Carolyn was interviewed by the Veterans History Project from the Library of Congress. The video is available at: https://memory.loc.gov/diglib/vhp/bib/loc.natlib.afc2001001.39653.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
May 21, 2020
I am the Curator from the Pittsburg Historical Museum, and Carolyn's army uniform was donated to us many years ago, as she served at our, now defunct, Camp Stoneman. We never knew who had donated it, and I guess the name of the donor was lost. Beth Johnson tracked down the whereabouts of Carolyn's uniform, and found us. We were so excited to find out who had been the owner. Beth donated more information about Carolyn, and we have a display of her uniform and the other information that Beth donated. We wrote an article in our newsletter about finding the owner of the uniform, and I sent a copy to Beth to show Carolyn. Beth said Carolyn seemed happy about it, after wondering about it all those years ago. Please give our condolences to her family.