Florence Louise “Bobbie” Carlson, 95, of Oberlin, passed away Sunday, February 16, 2014 after a brief illness. She was born July 9, 1918 in Seattle, Washington, to James Parfet Dunn and Sarah Littlefield Bailey Dunn.
Bobbie graduated from Berkeley High School in 1936 and like her parents, attended Oberlin College. After completing her degree in 1940, Bobbie went to China to teach English as a representative of the Oberlin Shansi Association. It was there that she met and married another Shansi representative, Ellsworth “Ells” Carlson, on December 25, 1943. As Japanese forces drew closer to their school in Sichuan Province in 1944, Bobbie and Ells returned to United States, where they both took jobs with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in Washington, D.C. Bobbie compiled biographies of Chinese leaders that were used by the allies for intelligence to end the Japanese occupation. In 1947 she moved to Boston, where Ells completed his PhD in Chinese History at Harvard University. Bobbie devoted her attention to their growing family, after Ells accepted a position with the History Department at Oberlin College in 1950.
Beginning in 1957, the family spent two years living abroad in the Philippines and India. Once back in Oberlin, Bobbie decided to upgrade her teaching certificate. She was a first grade teacher at Eastwood School from 1961 to 1968. In 1969, she taught English to high school students in Hong Kong, where Ells spent his sabbatical year.
After returning to Oberlin, Bobbie supported Ells during his two short tenures as Acting President of Oberlin College in 1970 and again during 1974-1975. Always active in community affairs, she worked to improve the relationship between college and town by organizing events at the president’s house on Forest Street. During the 1970s, Bobbie also taught fourth and fifth grades in the Oberlin public schools. She later accepted a position at Oberlin College in an Asian Outreach Program to raise awareness about Asia in the public schools of Lorain County. As part of this job, she produced a program newsletter and made classroom visits.
Bobbie did not sit still after she retired. She audited courses on history, politics, geology and astronomy and attended lectures and concerts at the college. She served as a volunteer in the community and worked as a tutor at Eastwood School. Bobbie regularly attended the First Church in Oberlin and was a member of the Oberlin Sorosis. Along with other women in Oberlin, she contributed to a patchwork quilt that now hangs in Mudd Library and assembled a booklet describing local history depicted on the quilt. Bobbie also helped produce a workbook on the history of Oberlin. In 2008, she wrote a memoir of her years in China, entitled Lost in Time. Shortly before her death, she was working on a history of houses in Cleveland.
Bobbie was an avid reader of history and biography. She traveled extensively in the United States and abroad. Her tours, that combined academic study with field trips, continued into her 90s. She wrote extensively about her travels and prepared albums filled with her most memorable adventures. Bobbie also worked on tracing the genealogy of the Dunn and Carlson families. More recently, she took up watercolor painting and enjoyed participating in a group of writers at Kendal. She continued gardening and hiking until her death.
Bobbie was preceded in death by her husband of 55 years, Ellsworth Carlson; sister, Helen Dunn; and brother, James Dunn.
She is survived by her four children, Elizabeth Morris (Eric) of Oberlin, James Carlson (Linda Striefsky) of Cleveland Heights, Frank Carlson (Mary) of Oberlin and Sarah Seifert (Bruce) of Chesapeake, Virginia; 10 grandchildren, Matthew Morris (Brett Williams), Michael Morris (Gina Martynova), David Carlson, Paul Carlson and Daniel Carlson, Thomas Carlson, Andrew Carlson and Timothy Carlson, Karen Clune (Edward) and Brian Seifert; three great grandchildren, Luca Morris, Kennedy Clune and Mason Clune; as well as by nephews and nieces.
The family welcomes those who knew Bobbie and her family to a Memorial Service Saturday, March 8, 2014, at 1 P.M., at The First Church in Oberlin United Church of Christ, 106 North Main Street, Oberlin. A reception will follow in Fellowship Hall. Burial will be in Westwood Cemetery, Oberlin.
The family wishes to thank friends and caregivers at Kendal at Oberlin, who provided support and encouragement over the past few months.
Memorial contributions may be made to Oberlin Weekday Community Meals, c/o Christ Episcopal Church, 156 South Main Street, Oberlin, OH 44074.
Dicken Funeral Home, Elyria, handled arrangements.