Lyn Carman: 1936 – 2014

<b>MARATHONERS:</b> Lyn Carman (center) trains with Merry Lepper in 1963. Lepper was the fi rst U.S. woman to fi nish a marathon, and Carman was the third. At the base of the tree are Carman’s daughters Maire and Laurie.
Courtesy Photo

Lyn Carman was born in Iowa on December 31, 1936, and then moved with her family to Maryland when she was in high school. When Lyn was in the 10th grade, her father brought a young physicist from the Naval Research Laboratory home for dinner — Bob Carman. Although Bob was already engaged to be married, after meeting 15-year-old Lyn, he cancelled his wedding plans and waited patiently until Lyn was 18, when they married, despite the protests of her parents.

Lyn earned her bachelor’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University. She wanted to study math, but her parents felt that this was inappropriate for a girl, so she was forced to study home economics instead. Despite having a baby, Patricia, in the fall of her senior year, Lyn graduated with her class.

Laurie and Maire arrived in short succession, so Lyn had three daughters within three and a half years. Thankfully for everyone, it took another three and a half years to produce Eric. But that wasn’t enough — Lyn also incorporated several foster children into the family for several months at a time. Being a young mother, she could do things that other mothers couldn’t: like demonstrate how to do a cartwheel, race go-carts down a hill, and beat us in 10-kilometer races.

Even with so many small children, Lyn managed to obtain her credentials for teaching math, physical education, English, and, of course, home economics. She taught math at La Colina Junior High School for many years and started the first course for computer science in the Santa Barbara Unified School District — even before La Colina had a single computer. Later she became the coordinator for the district’s Gifted and Talented Education program, for which she received the Golden Bell Award from the California State School Board. Lyn also founded the girls’ track team at La Colina and was a founder of the Santa Barbara Sandpipers girls’ track team.

Bob Carman died in 2010, but during their 56 years together, Lyn and Bob accomplished enough to cover multiple lifetimes. In addition to raising their brood of children, foster children, and helping with nine grandchildren, another part of their lives was occupied with running. Bob got Lyn started at a time when women were told that running would destroy their fertility. Lyn was the third woman in the United States to finish a marathon. She had to hide her long hair under a hoodie or jump into the race from the bushes near the starting line. When one official tried to pull her out of a race, she punched him. Her best time in the marathon (three hours, 42 minutes) is an achievement that any person — male or female — would be proud of.

Lyn and Bob also wrote four math books together, and Lyn supported Bob with his work on countless math and physics books. In later years, they both won prizes for their publications in the Way Magazine. And they were dedicated to Mission Santa Barbara, joining the Secular Franciscans in 1995. Bob was initially more focused on the history of religion than on religion itself. Bob’s Sundays were reserved for his weekly marathon, and Lyn prayed for 30 years that they would find a church where they could celebrate together. The Mission Santa Barbara fulfilled her prayers, and Lyn and Bob spent many hours leading Bible study groups, lecturing, and acting as Eucharistic ministers. Lyn became a docent at the Mission in 1986.

Lyn didn’t want to die, although she looked forward to “being with Bob again”; she loved being involved with people in the Mission Church and did not want to leave the Franciscan community. She was only 77, and Lou Gehrig’s disease took her too early. On the morning after she died, a little bird flew into the house. It spent about an hour trying frantically to get out, banging its head against the high dormer windows. Somehow it made its way under the bed where Lyn’s body lay. At one point, the bird stood on the threshold of the open door next to her, but it didn’t leave. It came back in and stayed with Lyn for nearly an hour before it finally walked peacefully to the doorway, paused, and gracefully flew away.

We like to think the little bird was a gift from St. Francis, there to help Lyn into the next world. It calmed her spirit’s anxiety and then stayed with her until she was ready to fly off, peacefully.


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