A beautiful woman in every sense of the word died Tuesday morning.
Her name was Bucilla Carroll, and she was one of those good people who day after day, year after year, do their assigned tasks in life, create no fuss, raise their children to be good citizens, and honor God as best they know how.
Such folks are little noted in this life and only briefly in their passing. Their living and dying do not make headlines or HBO specials. I’d like to believe that there are so many of them that there would not be room enough in a newspaper or time enough on the airwaves to give them their due. They, not our celebrities, are what make America great.
None of this is to say that Bucilla was without recognition during her working career as a judicial secretary and 44th Circuit Court Administrator. Over the years she dealt with thousands of lawyers and litigants embroiled in the disputes that found their way into our courts. It was largely though her efforts that the docket I inherited as a Circuit judge in 1983 managed to progress in a reasonable fashion. With Bucilla making the wheels turn, and my court clerks and law clerks making me look halfway efficient and intelligent, I managed to get the job done for 26 years. It was my privilege to know her for 46 years.
I met Bucilla in 1970 when I left my newsman’s job at The Detroit News and hauled my wife, Barbara, and four kids to Howell so I could practice law. I took over the practice of lawyer who had just died, and Bucilla was already in place as the secretary. I was a 32-year-old newbie lawyer, and at age 27 she’d only been a legal secretary for a year. Somehow we made it work.
A year later I accepted the offer of a partnership with a veteran Brighton lawyer, and Bucilla was kind enough to come with me, as she did 11 years later when I was elected Circuit Court judge.
For almost 20 years this West Virginia born lady managed my judicial office with diligence, courtesy, and humor. Her secretarial skills, including her mastery of the English language, were impressive for a woman who’d left school early to marry the love of her life, Ed Carroll.
Just as impressive if not more so, were her skills at handling tough lawyers, no mean feat. Well do I recall the hotshot out-of-county attorney who told her on the phone that the court was too far away for him to attend a pretrial conference in Howell. She replied: “Well, sir, it is the same distance it was when you took your client’s retainer.” He showed up.
She and my wife, Barbara, were not above trading tales about the difficulties of handling a male of the species like me. I’d like to think that I was a perfect boss, but I suspect it was Bucilla’s patience and fortitude that created an office where she and I never exchanged a cross word in all those years.
If I had to select a single trait that stood out in Bucilla Carroll’s interaction with the world, it was this: she was always a lady. No matter where she went, she added dignity to any gathering as soon as she entered the room. Just having her in the court helped our legal system live up to some of its lofty goals. In so many ways she was what America is all about.
Barbara and I respected and loved Bucilla. We held a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the day she and I started working together, a day in 1970 when I arrived in Howell and met a 27-year-old lady who knew more about day-to-day practice of the law than her new boss did.
Farewell, dear lady. In his infinite wisdom, God decided He wanted you with Him now. We could have used you here a little longer to make this world a better place, but He has his reasons. You are now wrapped in His loving embrace, and we are comforted with the knowledge that we will all meet again.
Funeral arrangements: Visitation: 2-4 p.m., 6-8 p.m. Friday, May 20, at Keehn Funeral Home in Brighton. Funeral services are Saturday, May 21, at Brighton Assembly of God. Visitation is at 10 a.m. and the funeral begins at 11 a.m.