“Strike up the band and let the celebration begin for a life well lived!"
Those are the often repeated words of Vic to his family, friends and through several of his numerous journals he wrote narrating his memories of his long and successful life.
Vic was born February 12, 1924 on a farm owned by his paternal grandfather near Morocco to Robert and Dorothy (Kessler) Carlson. Currently his son Scott owns this farm and granddaughter Kyra and great-grandson Lyle live in the house in which he was born. Brother David was born in June 1925 and brother Ronald in November 1926. Sister Marjorie was born in 1929 and later sister Marilou in 1940.
The great depression of the 1930’s left money scarce and the early years were in the house with no electricity, no running water and no central heating. But he wrote “we did have loving and hard-working parents and lots of love and family togetherness”. When Vic was in second grade his parents purchased a farm consisting of 160 acres north of Morocco. That land is still farmed by son Scott and grandson Matt, and the house he and his siblings grew up in is owned by nephew Van (Vicki) Carlson.
Vic and brothers began farming early in their childhood with horses and many other chores raising their crops and livestock. His father Robert once said “when it comes to chores, with one boy you get one boy’s work. With two boys you get one half boy’s work and with three boys you get no work at all!”. His mother played the piano and engaged the three brothers singing as a trio at the church and at a talent contest at the Indiana state fair. The first line of the song they sang in competition was “We the merry farmer boys so early in the morn, hoeing in the corn”. His memoir manuscript contains many stories of childhood adventures and aptly titled “Traplines, Chicken Thieves, and Tin-lizzie Fords”.
Vic was 17 when WWII began and he received his military call in January of 1943. He had to request a short deferment because his father broke his wrist cranking a gasoline engine and could not care for the livestock. Vic entered the Army on May 19, 1943 and spent a month at Ft. Ben. He then traveled to California for training and ultimately began his forty-two-day voyage from Newport, Virginia. The troops assumed they were heading to Europe since they were leaving the east coast but woke up going through the Panama Canal and ultimately ended at Bombay India. They traveled through India to Burma on buses, trains, trucks, riverboats, airplanes, mules, rickshaw and on foot. He soon developed malaria and described receiving a “kill or cure” cocktail of 17 different drugs. He recovered and rejoined his unit to begin the march into the mountains and jungle and on into China. During his service, he served as a Staff Sargent radio operator in the 124th Calvary Regiment of the Army.
When the war ended, he traveled back to the US by ship, landing in Seattle, Washington where he met up with brother Dave who had served in the Navy in the South Pacific. Vic arrived home to Morocco in January of 1946. He was an immensely proud veteran and a member of the Morocco American Legion for over 70 years.
Vic began farming with brother Ron who served in the Navy during WWII stateside. The days of horses had luckily passed. Father Robert was still farming and picking corn by hand. Vic invested in a one row corn picker and was criticized by his Dad for such a foolish investment. But he happily accepted Vic’s help with his next harvest!
He met a gal at the post office and later married her, Betty Lois Heath, who was raised in Morocco but had moved on to complete her nursing training in Lafayette and then served in nursing in Baltimore and Indianapolis. They married on September 12, 1954 and welcomed son Victor Scott in October 1955 and daughter Kimberly Ann in September 1958. A favorite story Vic told was when shortly after Kim was born, he had taken Scott to the coffee shop. A fellow farmer asked Scott what Vic had home in the crib. Scott quickly answered “corn”. Vic was proud of that response and the farming lineage and legacy continues through Scott, Matt and Lyle. Vic and Betty purchased their first land in 1960 including the house that grandson Matt and family now live in. They continued to expand their land ownership through the years.
Vic had many hobbies including singing in the church choir, several barbershop quartets, restoring antique tractors and horse drawn equipment which he used on small plots with his draft horse pairs. He was instrumental in establishing Antique Barn at the Newton County Fair, originally called “Tools of Yesteryear”. He restored his father’s tractor, a Farmall F12 which was purchased new in 1936. In 2018 he participated in the antique parade at the Newton County Fair with four generations on several of his restored tractors now maintained by Scott and Matt. He and brother Ron organized several Plow Days where others were invited to bring their antique machinery and turn the soil together.
He retired in 1986 and moved to the edge of Morocco but was still active doing various farm projects. He had a passion for drainage and spent many hours developing and improving waterways through his properties.
In 2001 he and Betty offered their additional lot to the Newton County Library Board who were looking to build a new library. They provided a generous discount after which the library created the Jamie Carlson Children’s Reading Room.
He enjoyed reading, writing, and attending his “therapy session” at the coffee shop where he enjoyed telling jokes not allowed at home. He was thrilled when spending time with the grandchildren and teaching about music, the horses, and the farm. He was proud when Kim and later Jamie joined the church choir with him. He was thrilled to sing the National Anthem with Jamie at several local events. He was also instrumental in supporting Betty in her numerous hobbies and community activities. She volunteered for most everything and in some way, Vic was always involved behind the scenes.
As the years moved on his health was excellent, and his medicine list was short. He would often say “My vitals are good!”. He cared for Betty in her decline with dementia who passed in December of 2016. At this point he began to express his desire to meet his Maker and find his peace. He recognized he lived a long and successful life and was ready for the next.
He continued to live at home and stayed active doing various projects in his barn and steadfastly keeping his yard in top condition. In April of last year, he suffered a stroke which left him quite weak. While in rehab he suffered a fractured hip and choose not to have surgical repair. He began more fervently praying the Lord help him find his peace. While he had adamantly maintained he would never go to a nursing home or live with his children, he adapted quite well and enjoyed the care and attention of his “pretty ladies on his staff”. He died peacefully in the early morning of January 20, 2021. Of note, brother Dave died at age 95 on December 19, 2021.
Vic was preceded in death by his wife Betty, parents Robert and Dorothy, brother David, brother Ron, and sister Marilou. Also, his oldest and beloved granddaughter Jamie. Vic’s sister Marge (Russ) Garrard survives. He is also survived by son Scott (Carol), daughter Kim Somermeyer (Steve), granddaughter Kyra (Bernie) McGraw, grandson Matt (Jennifer), grandson Justin Somermeyer and granddaughter Shea Davis. Also, great-grandchildren Lyle Harrington, David Florian, Kayla Florian, Aubree Florian, Gavin Davis, Hannah McGraw and John McGraw.
In December 2015, Vic wrote the following:
“There is a time for grieving when people die young and do not have the opportunity to complete their life. My granddaughter Jamie passed at age 21 but she left memories to all who knew her.
However, when an old codger like me meets his Maker, it is no time to grieve because it is time to realize he has served his time on this earth and is happy and ready to “hang up the harness”!
NO TEARS PLEASE!”
The family wishes to give a special thank you to the at home caretakers, Franciscan Alternacare, Cumberland Pointe Health Campus, and Guardian Angel Hospice.
A private, family only service will be held at the Morocco United Methodist Church on January 23, 2021 with private burial to follow at Oakland Cemetery. A Celebration of Life service will be held at a later date.
Memorials may be made to Morocco First United Methodist Church, Jamie Carlson Scholarship Fund, or Morocco American Legion Post 146.