IF YOU were fortunate enough to work with Carolyn Patricia Mack, you could count on some tasty pastry and best wishes for your birthday.
"If you knew Carolyn, she was big on birthdays," her family said.
And, of course, birthday treats were not confined to fellow workers. She also took care of family and friends with her baking skills because this multitalented woman was also big on family.
Carolyn Patricia, called "Cat" by family and friends, a community activist in both Philadelphia and Chicago, and devoted churchwoman, died May 8. She was 64 and lived in Chicago, but had lived for 40 years in Philadelphia.
"Cat was a quiet soul, but her contributions and dedication to help those less fortunate spoke volumes," her family said. "When she wasn't working, you could find her volunteering at various community events in Philadelphia."
She was born in Chicago, the oldest of the eight children of Robert West Sr. and Ruby Ruth Thomas. The family moved to Philadelphia when she was a child.
She graduated from West Philadelphia High School in 1965. While raising her family, she returned to school and earned an associate's degree in arts from the Community College of Philadelphia in 1982.
Carolyn worked for the Philadelphia Credit Union, TV Guide for more than 12 years and the Burlington Coat Factory after she returned to Chicago in 2003.
In Chicago, she volunteered for the alderman's office and became an election judge. She also volunteered at a medical clinic where she was an advocate for battered families.
"Carolyn would buy book bags and other school supplies for children who couldn't afford them out of her own pocket every year," her family said.
"Her time was always spent thinking of ways to make life a little easier for someone else. No matter what the assignment was, Carolyn stood out in every endeavor."
She had a passion for new experiences and education. For a time, she studied martial arts, and was learning sign language.
Carolyn enjoyed traveling and made trips to Japan, Jamaica and Hawaii, among other tourist destinations.
She also enjoyed a good game of pinochle, taking her dog, Patrice, for walks, watching professional basketball (Kareem Abdul Jabbar, of the Lakers, was a special favorite) and doing crossword puzzles.
She was married to the late Gleason Joseph Mack, but wound up raising their five children as a single parent after his death in 1975.
While in Philadelphia, Carolyn was an active member of Calvary United Methodist Church. In Chicago, she joined Damascus Baptist Church. She always gave her full devotion to her churches.
Carolyn was a member of the Red Hat Society, an international organization of women that encourages and supports women in their pursuit of friendship, freedom and fulfillment. (And they wear red hats.)
"They couldn't have found a better woman than Carolyn to help support their mission," her family said.
She is survived by four sons, Kevin Joseph, Edward Nathaniel, Darryl Michael and Gerald Scott; a daughter, Desiree Yvonne; three sisters, Gwen, Cheryl and Barbara; two brothers, Craig and Robert Jr.; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by another brother, Alton.