Caroline Arnold passionately spoke her mind

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Caroline Arnold, who was a Kent Board of Education member, environmentalist, community activist and Record-Courier columnist known for passionately speaking her mind, died Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, at Kent Healthcare Center, where she had been hospitalized for several weeks with cancer. She was 83.

Active in a variety of causes, including the environmental movement, the peace movement and women's equality issues, she was an ardent progressive. Forthright in her views, she also welcomed civil discourse with those who disagreed with them.

Born Jan. 29, 1931 in Westerville, Ohio, she was the daughter of Dwight and Naomi Arnold. Her family moved to Portage County in 1946 when her father joined the Kent State University faculty, and she graduated from Kent State University High School. She went on to earn degrees at KSU and the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

She was a co-founder of the Peaceable Kingdom Bakery in Kent, served as an adjunct professor at KSU and was a former elementary school teacher.

She served for 10 years as a member of the Kent Board of Education, resigning in 1986 to take a job with Sen. John Glenn in Washington. She started working in his office on a fellowship. After six months, Glenn asked her to stay on permanently. Her job involved writing press releases, speeches and writing and answering letters for the senator. She eventually moved to Glenn's office in Cleveland, and retired in 1997.

She was first elected to the Kent Board of Education in 1975, the first woman to serve on the board in more than a generation.

Upon her retirement from Glenn's office, Ms. Arnold turned her attention to the Kent Environmental Council, of which she was a charter member in 1970. She was elected chairperson of the group in 2001.

Harold Walker, longtime chairman of the environmental group, said he first met Ms. Arnold's father, Dwight, when he and other "free thinkers" used to have "peace get-togethers" in Kent. He soon learned that the professor had a daughter, who would bike in all kinds of weather.

"A bicycler myself, I began to run into Caroline here and there, and found in her a kindred spirit -- who wasn't afraid to fight with you on points of disagreement," Walker said. "But more than that, I found that Caroline wielded a sharp pen -- which made her particularly useful to have on your side when an issue was at stake."

In 2002, he nominated her for a Lifetime Achievement award as an Environmental Advocate.

"Caroline has a passion for democracy, for the pursuit of the public good, and for using the institutions and instruments of our democracy for the sake of responsible stewardship of the natural world which is our habitat," Walker wrote.

Ms. Arnold was a longtime member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, serving as its moderator in the early 1970s. She was a member of the board of Family & Community Services, becoming involved with the agency through her service on the board of Kent Social Services.

An avid cyclist, she continued to get around Kent by bicycle until her illness prevented her from doing so, said her daughter, Alys DeMattia.

A cellist, she played with the Akron, Columbus, and Youngstown symphony orchestras, and taught cello and music theory at the Ohio State University, and at KSU. Ms. Arnold was a musician and composer with a special interest in 19th century American hymns. Her work has been performed by the Congressional Chorus in Washington and several Unitarian Universalist churches in Ohio. She retired in 2013 as principal cellist of the Stow Symphony Orchestra. She also sang with the Congressional Chorus during her tenure with Glenn, her daughter said.

"Music was her life," her daughter said. "Giving up the cello was probably the beginning of the end for her."

Ms. Arnold started writing opinion columns for the Record-Courier in 1997, a task she continued on a regular basis until February of this year, when she became ill. More than 120 of her columns were published on Common Dreams, an online site for progressive thought.

"Caroline was a provocative and progressive voice whose views engaged and, at times, outraged her readership," said Record-Courier editor Roger J. Di Paolo, who had known Arnold for nearly 40 years. "She was steadfast in her views, and even when facing criticism tolerated it as a means of encouraging discourse on public issues."

She also shared her views regularly with the R-C prior to becoming a columnist. In a 1983 letter to the editor, she observed, "War is not about dying for one's values -- war is about killing for one's values. All of us must die some day; killing is a choice we make."

James Myers, who served with Arnold on the Kent Board of Education, said that she was a devoted board member. Although he didn't always agree with Arnold's columns, he said, he always enjoyed reading them.

"She had an opinion and she expressed it well, and she was very committed to what she believed in," he said. "You can't ask more than that of a person."

Her daughter said she hoped people would remember her mother's devotion to helping others and to maintaining a sustainable lifestyle, and to educate.

"One of the last things she said to me was, 'Go out and live life,' " she recalled.

She is survived by her daughter, Alys DeMattia and her husband, William, and son, Seth Henning, both of Kent; granddaughter, Sara Henning; and brother, Victor Arnold in Rhode Island.

Services will be announced at a later date.

Memorials may be made to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent; the Kent Environmental Council; and Family and Community Services.

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