Carole Ann Browning (ne’e Gill) passed away Sunday morning May 8, 2022 after a prolonged illness, to the sounds of horses shuffling through the morning dew and birds singing. She was 79. Mrs. Browning was the daughter of late Sarah (Sallie) Pike Gill and the late George Martin Luther Gill. She was born January 4, 1943 in New York City.
Mrs. Browning was a long-time teacher locally working for both Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools where she prided herself on inspiring countless young people to learn how to read. She worked at North Buncombe High School, Hill Street Middle School, Erwin Middle School, and came out of retirement to work part time teaching literacy skills at TC Roberson High School. She also dedicated many hours early in her career to the Arden Reading Clinic.
Mrs. Browning was a graduate of Ambler Junior College in Philadelphia, earned a BS at the University of Kentucky, and received a Masters degree in Education at Western Carolina University. She was a life-long educator whether in or out of the classroom.
From an early age, Carole’s love of all creatures was a hallmark of her life. As a child she would present her parents with stray kittens asking to “fix” them if they were in distress in any way. She rescued many dogs over her life always trying to provide them a loving a safe home whether they were what she would call a “Heinz 57 breed” or some esoteric pure bred. Her knowledge of all pets was encyclopedic. Sitting next to her while the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was airing was like a crash course in all things Canine. Carole could find something nice and purposeful to say about every breed paraded across the television screen, saving her biggest praise for “working” breeds as they took her back to furry friends of earlier periods of her life. Carole saw worth in all things and never thought a stray or lost pet was expendable or worthless.
Her greatest passion, however, stemmed from a life-long relationship with horses. Beginning as a young child over 70 years ago as a reason her late Grandmother cited was to “get her out of the house”, Carole began taking riding lessons. This humble start turned into a life-long journey seeing her compete in Madison Square Garden in the early 1960s in Dressage and Show Jumping, to competitive trail riding in Vermont and Western North Carolina, to becoming the horseback riding instructor at both Camp Merri-Mac and Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain. When not at camp, Carole would teach riding lessons to local children, many of whom still recall the days of her standing in the center of the ring instructing with an enthusiasm born from a love of watching young people overcome anxieties through the guiding of animals much larger than themselves. Years later, Carole turned to breeding and focusing on preserving old English bloodlines within the New Forest breed of ponies, and later watching her grandchildren all take up riding to one degree or another. Even late in life, Carole possessed a knack for knowing what a horse could do if given a little patience, love, and time. Through the years Carole rescued horses from starvation, donated animals to therapy farms, and continued to follow all things Equestrian. Late in life she was heard saying one of her greatest accomplishments was that all of her grandchildren learned from her teaching how to safely and respectfully relate to the same animals that provided her so much comfort and joy over seven decades.
That enthusiasm for her children and grandchildren was well known wherever they were actively participating in a variety of pursuits. She had a laugh that could easily be identified in an audience while watching her daughter perform any number of sketch comedy shows. Whether a track meet for her son, or a soccer match for her grandchildren, the signature “Way to Go!” could be heard distinctively above all else. She never followed those moments with anything other than a positive, validating comment of how proud she was of their accomplishments and activities. Her concerns were that children and grandchildren were having fun, and that they finished what they started.
Carole will be missed for many things. Notably a sense of humor that was quicker than most realized, and sarcastic to its core. If her son began a sentence with the word “Well” it was sure to be followed quickly by Carole with the statement, “that is a deep subject” to make sure he did not take himself too seriously. Carole could usually find humor in most situations, followed by that signature room shaking laugh that would leave others checking their eardrums. If a grandchild belched, she would reply to herself, quoting her own mother, “Greetings from the Department of the Interior!” She was memorable for her car trip games as her children still are smarting from the many losses they took at her expense playing the alphabet game on countless trips to Kentucky, Vermont, or her beloved Nantucket Island. We are all convinced that when she found a “Q”, she could be heard several time zones away as she announced the letter with glee. She also emphasized family traditions and told countless stories of her past with her parents, grandparents, and others to insure those tales would not be lost, whether it was reciting the number of wishes someone received on their birthday (it was a lot), or throwing pennies at the Brant Point lighthouse leaving Nantucket harbor to insure you would always return some time in the future. She loved the story of her grandparents driving her to Brant Point to throw a penny the year she left on an airplane because she was worried if she did not, she might not come back the following summer. Watching her explain these traditions to her grandchildren was magical as she instilled the hope she felt as a child in them.
Carole is survived by her husband of 56 years Shirley Browning of Swannanoa; her son Robert (Bob) Browning and wife Cameron Kempson of Arden; their children Aiden Browning, Abigail (Abbey) Browning, Avery Browning all of Arden, and Hayley Roberston of New York City; her daughter Elizabeth (Betsy) Puckett and husband Benjamin Puckett of Asheville; their sons Ezekiel (Zeke) Puckett and Noah Puckett of Asheville; her sister Sandra Gillies and husband Donald Gillies of Annandale, Virginia; her Brother-in-Law Frank Browning and partner Christophe Sevault of Paris, France; and many nieces, nephews, grand nieces, grand nephews, and cousins across the country. She is also survived by the hundreds of young people she inspired to learn whether it be literacy on the page, or confidence in the riding ring.
Undoubtedly, Carole is reading this over the shoulder of the author and recalling one of her favorite Bumper Stickers she should have had on her own car, saying to herself “I am silently correcting your grammar.” Needless to say, she was rarely silent when doing so, and always followed with a rather loud guffaw and reassuring smile.
Always the teacher.
In lieu of flowers the family would appreciate donations to any of the following organizations: Hope for Horses (www.hopeforhorses.org); Literacy Together (formerly the Literacy Council of Buncombe County (https://lit-together.org/); The Arden Reading Clinic (https://www.ardenreadingclinic.com/); and Memory Care of Asheville (https://memorycare.org/). A celebration of life is planned for later this year.
Penland Family Funeral Home is honored to be serving the Browning Family at this time.
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