Obituary: Jerry Carson

Career educator, volunteer, father, grandfather, friend to many

Jerry Carson, a longtime Claremont resident, died peacefully May 22 surrounded by his family and friends in Fort Smith, Arkansas, following a brief illness. He was 88 years old.

Born in Fort Smith in 1935, he excelled in band and drum corps, serving as drum major and earning a major scholarship to Oklahoma University in Norman, Oklahoma, where he graduated in 1956. He became a national twirling champion, specializing in single, double, triple, and fire batons. For 50 years he trained competitive baton twirlers, mentoring four national champions.

After college, he lived and taught in Norman, where he met his wife Martha (Marty) Carson and started a family. He moved to California in 1962, teaching special education, history, and math for the Pomona Unified School District for 30 years. He was a leader in the district, serving as president of the Associated Pomona Teachers, chair of the district negotiating team, a delegate to both the state and national teacher’s associations, and traveling throughout California with the state demonstration math project.

He became an active member of the Claremont Friends Meeting (Quakers) in 1965 and remained a practicing Quaker for the rest of his life. He volunteered with the Foothill AIDS Project and was a loyal supporter of the Folk Music Center’s annual spring festivals.

In 1991, he moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas, where he volunteered for the sack lunch program sponsored by St. John’s Episcopal Church; Friends of the Fort Smith Public Library; the Fort Smith Historical Society; Community Clearinghouse’s Meals for Kids backpack program; afterschool tutoring; and many other worthy causes. According to some estimates, he and the “muffin crew” baked more than 25,000 muffins for the sack lunch program alone.

At the age of 66, his 2-year-old grandson Kyle came to live with him. He volunteered for all of Kyle’s school activities, serving as president of the HS band boosters when he was 81. For his countless years of volunteering for the Fort Smith schools, Jerry was named the State of Arkansas PTA Children’s Champion in 2016.

He enjoyed traveling, tutoring elementary students, teaching twirling for PE to local students, and swimming three miles a day right up to the day he became ill. He stayed in steady touch with friends nationwide via phone, letters, visits, and text messages.

“Sharing a family life with Jerry meant 4 a.m. departures for cross-country car trips, hosting any cast party or Fourth of July float building projects, eating the best homemade pizza, having a role model who showed what true servant leadership looks like, and finding assorted teenagers from across the country practicing their fire batons in the backyard on any given weekend,” his family shared.

His grandchildren fondly remember listening to his humorous stories, feeling like he knew everyone in Claremont, learning card games during long train trips, and appreciating his sharp wit and boundless energy.

Just prior to his illness he learned he was going to be a great-grandfather. His response was “It’s about time!”

He is survived by three of his children: Krista Carson Elhai (Philip) of Claremont, Marka Carson (Brian) of Claremont, Dov Carson (Michele) of Santa Monica; younger sisters Janean Saunders and Kitty Thompson; six nieces and nephews; and grandchildren Lindsey Elhai, Dylan Elhai, Noah Elhai, and Kyle (Bella) Carson. He also leaves behind his former wife Marty Carson; longtime family friend Fred Cortese; and a wider circle of friendships around the country.

He was preceded in death by his son Kurt.

The family would like to acknowledge and thank Kyle Carson for his loving care while the California family traveled to Fort Smith to join him.

Per his request, no services are planned in Fort Smith. A gathering of friends in Claremont will be scheduled for a later date. For further information, please reach out via email to

Donations in his name may be made to St. John’s Episcopal Church’s Sack Lunch Program at, click “give,” or by check to 215 N. 6th St., Fort Smith, AR 72901; Community Services Clearinghouse Backpack Program at, or by check to 4420 Wheeler Ave., Fort Smith AR 72901; or the Central Presbyterian Outreach Committee, c/o Central Presbyterian Church at, or by check to 2901 Rogers Ave., Fort Smith AR 72901.


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