Carolyn Patch Fairbanks, a lifelong animal advocate who illuminated Estes Park with her kindness, bravely fought her final battle on February 14, 2021. She was 74.
Carolyn was best-known for leading the Estes Park Pet Association and other nonprofit community programs. But it was her self-labeled “weirdness” that people in her orbit particularly cherished. Among her best traits: an offbeat sense of humor, mental and physical grit, and a knack for making anyone feel loved.
She was born on June 23, 1946 in West Chicago. Her father Ralph Boyd Patch was an advertising man and political cartoonist. Her mother Louise Hummel Patch was a newspaper society editor. Together they had three children: Fred, Martha, and Carolyn.
From an early age, Carolyn found purpose in rescuing stray and abandoned pets. She also discovered a special talent for drawing, a gift she proudly credited to a long line of artists in her family.
Carolyn had many wonderful memories from her childhood. Friendly "wars" with the neighborhood kids. Her father’s storytelling. Playing with Fred and Martha in their historic home. But most of all she adored her mother, who died when Carolyn was 17.
In the years before she lost the ability to draw, Carolyn produced a striking portrait of her mother Louise. She is gazing outward from an open window, hands cradling a cup of coffee, her smile radiating in perpetuity.
Carolyn became a mother herself in 1963 with Terence, and again in 1965 with Jeffrey.
In the summer of 1969, she met William Harry Fairbanks at a wedding reception. Her stubborn heart was no match for his persistent charm and good looks. They got married in 1970.
Their third child William was born in 1972. Shortly after, Carolyn and her family traded the Great Lakes for the Rocky Mountains.
They eventually made their way to Lyons, Colorado, where Carolyn and her friend Sylvia Kloosterman would become the first female volunteer firefighters in the state. On one occasion she and others carried buckets of water up the mountain to stamp out a growing fire.
In the late 70s, Carolyn received the "Silver Band-aid" award for finishing last place in an Estes Park marathon. She celebrated in perfect style—by drinking a beer before crossing the finish line.
Bill and Carolyn found their forever home in Estes Park, Colorado. They loved the small town for its panoramic beauty, friendly people, and the potential for success. Their youngest son Alexander was born in 1981. And in 1983, Bill and Carolyn founded Fairbanks Excavation.
Together they built a successful company from the ground up. It was a testament to Bill's work ethic and talent for operating heavy equipment, as well as Carolyn's ability to keep things running. The business also gave Carolyn the stability to fully embrace her role as an advocate for the local humane society.
Carolyn had a clear vision when she became President of the Estes Park Pet Association in 1990. Over the years she helped find homes for thousands of stray and abandoned pets; raised money to cover the costs of sterilization and care; appeared in the local media; and educated young people about the humane treatment of animals. Nearly every week for over 20 years, she brought joy to the residents at Prospect Park Living Center with her therapy dogs.
The Fairbanks house was always affectionately known as "the zoo." People came from all over to see the potbellied pigs, Irish wolfhounds, newfoundlands, pugs, chihuahuas, birds, and a dozen other marvelous creatures.
Carolyn was a professional artist, and she created many original art pieces and sketches over her lifetime. Many of which she would sell as prints to raise money for the Pet Association. Others she would give as presents or display around the house. All are constant reminders of her talent and eye for the beauty in life.
Carolyn was selfless and humble, but also grateful for the recognition she received over her lifetime. Several notable examples include Estes Park's "Woman of the Year" award and a feature inside the 2016 book “Legendary Locals of Estes Park."
She held an impressive grasp of anthropology, ancestry, history, music, antiques, miniatures, cooking, and so much more. She was fiercely determined, proudly progressive, and infinitely accepting. Later in life she enjoyed the experience of being a grandmother and took great pleasure in spoiling the family she helped grow.
She dedicated her life to making the world a better place for animals and their humans. And she succeeded in spite of decades of often debilitating health challenges.
In 2020, she survived a near-fatal case of COVID-19, much to the surprise of her doctors. She was the kind of person who could come back from anything. A true warrior who deserved many more years.
Carolyn is survived and adored by her husband of 51 years, Bill Fairbanks; four sons and their spouses, Terence and April, Jeffrey and Julie, William and Valori, Alexander and Amber; grandchildren, Elissa, Rebecca, Sarah, Zachary, Roman, Megan, Aaron, Jeremy, and Harrison; her brother’s children, Victoria, Thomas, Antonio, and Alice; and their children Bryce, Hunter, Lauren, Sarah; her Aunt (or “Ant”) Carolyn’s daughters, Lisa, Suzanne, and Michelle; other loved ones across her family tree; a great many friends and several of her precious animals. She was preceded in death by her parents, Ralph and Louise; her brother Fred and sister Martha; and her aunt Carolyn.
She said she wanted a “big party” to celebrate her life instead of a funeral. This party will be held on July 16, 2021 at the O’Conner Pavillion in Estes Park, from 3–7 p.m.: 1700 Fish Hatchery Rd, Estes Park, CO 80517.
The family asks that you donate to the Pet Association of Estes Park in her memory: www.gofundme.com/f/celebrate-carolyn-patch-fairbanks-anima-rescue