Cover photo for Carol Marenko's Obituary
Carol Marenko Profile Photo

Carol Marenko

November 3, 1942 — August 30, 2020

Overlooking White Eagle Bend, her most beloved stretch of the AuSable River in Northern Michigan, surrounded by loving friends and family, Evelyn Carol Marenko, peacefully returned to her Creator on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020, at the age of 77, following a courageous 3-year battle with ovarian cancer.


Carol, better known by her grandchildren as “Grandma Sunshine” (a variation of her 1970’s CB radio handle), embraced life fully and completely. She encountered each day with curiosity, enthusiasm, joy, and love, even amidst the significant challenges she faced in her full life. From her closest family to strangers encountered for the first time, she treated all with respect, kindness, joy, curiosity, and unconditional love. She was an unashamed hugger, offering her warm embrace to any person willing to receive it. Her frequent and infectious laugh, often at her own expense, brought delight to those around her. 


White Eagle Bend on the AuSable River was her lifelong refuge. Her beautiful flower boxes along the river and decks earned compliments from passing fly fishers and paddlesports enthusiasts. She spent hours watching the birds, trout, and other animals around her in fascination, always quick to share pictures online of the latest nature news. Her greatest joy was when family and friends were around. A full table for Carol was like a full heart. Sunshine was always concerned and caring about others, offering comfort and kindness.   


Evelyn Carol Southard was born on Nov. 3, 1942, in Detroit, Michigan, the first child of Harold Carleton and Gretchen Evelyn (née Bates). She was also the first paternal granddaughter of pioneer Detroit radio and television star Edith Fern Melrose, known as the “Lady of Charm” in the 1940's-60's. As a child, Carol was occasionally a guest on her grandmother’s television program. The art of hospitality and grace she learned from her grandmother was a gift she would use throughout her life.


Growing up along the shore of Lake St. Clair, Carol was joined by a sister, Nancy, followed by two brothers, Stephen and Brian. Their childhood included many happy vacations in Grayling, Michigan, camping along the AuSable, canoeing, and fishing. In the late 1950s, her parents purchased White Eagle Bend, on the mainstream of the AuSable River near McMasters Bridge, then building a family cabin on the property in 1960. That cabin would grow to become her parents, and eventually, her home. In 1979, Carol's parents purchased Ray's Canoe Livery in downtown Grayling, which was a staple of the family for nearly thirty years. 


Carol graduated from St. Clair Shores South Lake High School in 1960. She continued her higher education at Northern Michigan University, earning a bachelor's degree in education. Following her graduation in 1964, she taught mathematics in public school and later, served in public relations for the Girls Scouts of Michigan.


While at NMU, she met her future husband, Dennis Patrick Fitzgerald. They married and had two children, Barbara Jean and Robert Joseph. The two were married for twelve years. In 1979 Carol and the kids moved to Grayling, where she lived and worked at Ray's Canoe Livery alongside other family members. 


In 1982, Carol joined the startup crew at the new Weyerhaeuser Structurewood Mill. Later, having the opportunity to transition into sales at Weyerhaeuser, she helped the company integrate a complex supply chain system. In 1995, Carol resigned from her post with Weyerhaeuser after the sales division was moved out-of-state. Staying near to family, she then began working remotely in client services for Itelligence, Inc. until her retirement in 2009.


Carol spent many happy years in Grayling with her late husband, Alex Franklin Marenko of Battle Creek, following their marriage in 1992. They enjoyed canoeing, fishing, and playing golf together. Carol served as Alex's full-time caregiver before he passed from esophageal cancer in January, 2000.


Shortly after the passing of her parents and Alex, Carol moved into and renovated the family cabin at White Eagle Bend. It was Sunshine’s determination not to live in grief, a decision that led to her meeting the final love of her life, David Black, in 2007. The two met in Livonia, where for several years they each commuted every week to attend a personal growth program, Landmark. Carol and David shared a common love of play, joy, laughter, and curiosity for 13 very happy years.


Carol was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in March 2018. She was an active member of the One to One Ovarian Cancer Support Group of Troy throughout her treatment. The entire family expresses their deep love and appreciation to David, for his unwavering love and dedication to Carol, standing by her and providing care until her final day. 


Carol is survived by her daughter, Barbara Fitzgerald Doyal, grandchildren Kathryn and Emma Doyal, and their father Mark Doyal; her son, Robert Joseph Fitzgerald, wife Leslie, and grandchildren, Ava and Grace Fitzgerald; her sister, Nancy Birnie-Visscher and her children: Lhara (David) Zywicki and grand-nephew, Andrew; and Ryone (Marissa) Visscher and grand-nephew, Elon; her brother Stephen (Cecilia) Southard, and their children: Kathleen (Devin) Reitz and grand-nephew Beckett; Lucas Southard and fiancé Thao Ha and their children, Caitlyn and Eli; and Andrea Southard and fiancé Austin Wilson; She was preceded in death by her parents, Harold (Hal) and Gretchen Southard, brother Brian, husbands Dennis Fitzgerald and Alex Marenko, and niece Mariah Louise Southard.


Gathering of Family & Friends to remember Carol will be held Friday Sept. 4, 2020 2-6 PM at Sorenson-Lockwood Funeral Home. A Celebration of Carol's Life will take place in Spring of 2021. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made in honor of Carol to the One to One Ovarian Cancer Support Group at the following address:


One to One Ovarian Cancer Support Group

c/o Marilyn Brozovic

4793 Alton Drive

Troy, MI 48085


Condolences to the family may be sent to:

P.O. Box 619, Farmington, MI 48332


To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Carol Marenko, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Gathering of Family and Friends to Remember

Friday, September 4, 2020

2:00 - 6:00 pm (Eastern time)

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Sorenson Lockwood Funeral Home, Inc.

1108 West North Down River Road
Grayling, MI 49738

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