Carolyn M. DeSavino – champion Uno player, creator of her own “Happy Birthday” song, and the mother and grandmother everyone hopes they have – passed away peacefully on Monday evening, surrounded by her family. She was 88.
Born October 5, 1934 to Frederick, an embroiderer, and Mary, an Austrian immigrant, Carol Fiesseler attended Union City High where she captained the cheerleading squad and declined several marriage proposals, including one from the class athlete, Frank DeSavino. They went on to be married for 64 years anyway, and at their 50th anniversary party, Carol finally confessed why she’d said yes: Franklin made her laugh.
After attending Fairleigh Dickinson University, Carol became a registered nurse, caring for sick children at summer camps and elementary schools before having two kids of her own.
In high school, Carol’s classmates voted her “Most Popular.” It was a title she could’ve easily kept for the rest of her life. She was the warmest conversationalist, and strangers would sometimes think, ‘I must know her from somewhere,’ which is what happened during one visit to a Long Beach Island supermarket. Carol thought she recognized an old friend, only to realize after 30 minutes of chatting, the friend didn’t quite recognize her. The woman waved goodbye, “See you soon, Blanche!” The name stuck. Carol became “Blanche.”
In 1988, Blanche also became “Grandma,” and during the ‘90s and 2000s her dining room table – either in either River Edge or Beach Haven – was appointed nightly with a crumb cake and every game imaginable: Uno, checkers, gin rummy, Hungry Hungry Hippos, and the occasional feat of strength. (Blanche was a shockingly good arm wrestler.)
It’s birthdays, however, that her grandchildren will remember for the rest of their lives. Each year, before they blew out their candles, Carol would sing her signature birthday message: “Make a wish. Don’t tell,” she’d croon in her thick Jersey accent, “What your wish is, no one will ever know.”
Grandma, Mom, Carol, Blanche: Having you in our lives was a wish come true.
Carolyn is preceded in death by her husband, Franklin, and her parents, Frederick and Mary Fiessler. She is survived by her siblings, Shirley (Bob) and Fritzy, her children Franklin (Kathleen) and Karyn (Brian); her grandchildren, Jennifer (Michael), Ryan (Melissa), Kristen (Tucker), Kevin (Lauren), Heather, Alyson (Maxwell), Steven, and Jack; and her great-grandchildren, Poppy, Brooks, Charlie, and Hopper, with a few more on the way.
Carol’s family wants to especially thank Denise Alleyne and Mary Lojek, who cared for her and Franklin in their final months. In lieu of flowers, they ask for donations to Reed Academy and the Alzheimer’s Association.
There will be no visitation at the funeral home. A celebration of life will be held at St. Peter the Apostle Church, Thursday, December 1st, 10 AM. Family and friends may gather at the church at 9:45 AM. Arrangements: Beaugard-McKnight Funeral Home, River Edge.