Carol A. Sarganis of Riverside, RI, and formerly Naples, FL passed away peacefully on October 25, 2022, at Rhode Island Hospital. Born in Providence on November 13, 1946, she is preceded in death by her parents Sarando “Sam” and Bertha Sarganis. She is survived by her devoted brother George Sarganis, his wife Claire McWilliams, their daughter, Carol’s beloved niece, Zoë Sarganis, and many loving cousins and friends.
Carol was diagnosed when she was very young with Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. This variation of the disease involves progressive muscle weakness and often shortens lifespan. Doctors predicted that she would probably not survive past 13 years of age. Nevertheless, she persisted.
Throughout Carol’s school years, her parents relentlessly fought for Carol to have access to public school and have a normal school experience, and they instilled that fight and determination in her. Despite guidance counselors who suggested that going to college would be unwise, Carol graduated from East Providence High School and was accepted at Salve Regina University in Newport, RI. Her persistent parents encouraged her to apply, and she did so with her own convictions that she was destined to teach. In 1964, she arrived at Ochre Court using crutches and a manual wheelchair, assisted by RNs who were students themselves, to earn her bachelor’s degree in elementary education.
Four years later she was almost fully dependent on the wheelchair but had a degree and started her career as a remedial reading specialist in the Newport Public School system, where she worked until her retirement in 1996. While working as a teacher she earned a Master’s Degree from URI, learned to drive, got a license, and purchased a handicapped-accessible van. Cold winters were hard for her in New England, so in 1989 she purchased a condo in Florida and spent several winter months there every year. During her tenure in Newport, she was recognized as “Teacher of the Year.” She was also invited by several organizations to speak on topics related to handicapped living. Her work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association and willingness to help others with disabilities was recognized with an MDA award.
After retiring from teaching after 28 years, Carol gradually moved to Florida full-time. She began a new career as an employment specialist/job coach with Project: Return to Work. From 2006-2015 Carol assisted other handicapped people, including many veterans, with job placement and support. She served as a role model for her clients as someone who had overcome many obstacles. She described these barriers as “architectural and attitudinal,” meaning that one must prove to doubters and “naysayers” that possibilities can become reality. She never wanted to define herself by her body or its limitations. Carol also volunteered to tutor ESL and reading in elementary and middle schools in the Naples area.
In 2015, Carol was hospitalized in Naples, sent to hospice, and was not expected to recover. Nevertheless, she persisted. She moved back to Rhode Island and lived at the Waterview Villa Nursing Home for the last seven years. While there, she made many wonderful, loving friendships and became the president of the private donation-funded Resident Council where she advocated for the residents and worked tirelessly to improve their experiences. She will be missed by the residents and staff, and her family appreciates the wonderful care she received there.
Gratitude was Carol’s answer to any question regarding how she coped with life and credited her parents and brother George, most of all. Co-workers, classmates, friends, and other family members, especially Claire, Zoe, her cousin Elaine and her husband Dick, were counted as essential to her lifestyle, which would have been limited without them. Carol was thankful to the many people in her life who carried her up flights of stairs so that she could attend classes in college and graduate, who drove her or made accommodations in work situations, and who help her clean and organize her room or send cards and notes.
Calling hours will be from 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM on November 12, 2022 in the Smith-Mason Funeral Home,398 Willett Ave Riverside, RI 02915. Burial will be private at Swan Point Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests that donations be made in her name to Boston Children’s Hospital, 401 Park Dr., Suite 602, Boston, MA 02215 Attn: Gift Services. Or to the Waterview Villa Resident Council Fund ℅ Barbara Ellis-Voltas, 1275 Broadway, East Providence, RI 02915.