Joel B. Carothers, a former Chicago resident known to her friends as Joie, passed away Aug. 7 at a hospice unit in Albuquerque, N.M. after a long battle with several different illnesses and complications arising after heart valve surgery, with her longtime partner Kate Winner by her side. She was 74.
Carothers, who had been retired for about 10 years, had long worked in sales and tech support and taught basic internet skills for seniors.
"She was a very, very creative person who never lacked for an idea," said Sue Mazer, who knew Carothers for about 35 years.
Born in Fremont, Michigan, Carothers received an associate's degree in business management. Carothers was an accomplished trumpet player, who was involved with the formation of the first gay and lesbian chorus in Chicago. She had a passion for golf and the card game Hand & Foot. Carothers also enjoyed painting, using water color and/or acrylic.
Plus, she wrote poems and children's books for young adults.
Carothers and Winner had weekly karaoke nights at their home for a large circle of friends, often up to 12 people, over the past few years, said Winner.
Carothers had an infectious sense of humor, and was "laughing till that last week," Winner said. "She came into my life to help me lighten up, and it worked."
Winner and Carothers met in September, 1993. Winner was living in New Mexico, about to open a bookstore. Carothers was living in Chicago, working for a company that sold inventory control software geared for bookstores.
Winner called the company that Carothers worked at, and her call was transferred to Carothers.
"We met on the telephone," Winner said, laughing. "I called to inquire about the software, and whoever answered the called handed ( the call ) off to Joel. We liked each other immediately. It was just supposed to be."
Their friendship and relationship blossomed quickly, even though it was primarily done over the phone, and by that Christmas, Winner proposed to Carothers.
And on April 23, 1994, the two had a commitment ceremony in Chicago.
"We spent Christmas ( 1993 ) on the phone, talking for hours and leading to a $700 phone bill," Winner said. "We talked Christmas Day on the phone, sipping Angelico and opening presents on the phone.
"I think she was put on the other end of that phone [asking about the software] for me, and me for her. I'll always think that. She came to show me how to have a good time, have fun, lighten up and take things less seriously. And I came to take care of her, nurture her in ways she deserved and hadn't totally had.
"It's been a wonderful life."
Winner ran the bookstore for only a few years.
"I opened the store to get on the phone to get Joel, and once I got her the store was secondary," she said, laughing.
"It was an amazing ( courtship )."
The two often mailed letters to each other, Winner said.
"It was fun, always like ( receiving ) a present," when a snail-mail letter arrived, she said. "When I feel in love with that woman, I fell in love the way you're supposed to do when you're 16."
Winner, though, was 47 when she met Carothers.
The two left Chicago the day after their Chicago commitment ceremony in 1994, and actually had another commitment ceremony in New Mexico. Plus, they were legally married on Cape Cod on July 26, 2012.
Winner and Carothers, plus Mazer and her partner, Jan Norton, plus two others were scheduled to go on a Caribbean cruise next February. Mazer said she and Norton are definitely still planning to goand plan to dedicate the cruise to Carothers "to her life and the fun we had with her," Mazer said.
Lou Bohr, who lives in Chicago and is a professor at Northeastern University, knew Carothers dating back to the early 1970s. They were "lovers" for a few years, Bohr said.
"She was funny, full of mischief and rebellious. She also was very passionate," Bohr said.