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Franklin County resident Carol Flieger has been to and lived in remote and exotic places that most people would just dream about.
SAM OWENS | The Roanoke Times
Carol Flieger sits on her screened-in porch with her newly adopted Maine coon cat, Caty. Flieger has always identified herself as an animal lover, and currently houses 11 chickens, a few horses, a bird and some goldfish.
SAM OWENS | The Roanoke Times
Carol Flieger gathers up the leash she uses to lead her dog, Buddy, around while feeding the chickens she owns, Tuesday afternoon, July 2. At 14-years-old, Buddy passed away earlier this week.
SAM OWENS | The Roanoke Times
Carol Flieger points to a picture of what the small Franklin County house she currently resides in used to look like before she added on to the house and put in a huge garden.
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
She navigated with a map on her lap when flying supplies from Juneau, Alaska, to fish and logging camps. The Taylorcraft plane she flew was float-equipped.
Her boss, Dean Goodwin, never let her fly in foul weather.
“He was a wonderful pilot. He was a legend,” Carol Walling Flieger recently recalled from her Franklin County home.
Carol and her first husband, Edward Koenig, drove to Alaska during the summer of 1947. She was a student at Smith College and he had graduated from nearby Amherst College in Massachusetts. They had married in 1943 after Koenig returned from volunteering during World War II as an ambulance driver in North Africa for the American Field Service.
Carol was in college when a car wreck left her with a broken nose. She used her $450 settlement to pay for flying lessons at an airfield in Northampton.
Koenig’s father gave the couple money to support the trip to Alaska, not yet a state. And he provided a long, black 1937 Buick once owned by a funeral home.
“We took the back seat out and built bunk beds in there,” Carol said. “It was very functional, with a Coleman stove and the extra tires and gas we needed to drive the Alaska Highway.”
The elder Koenig expected that his son and daughter-in-law would return to the East Coast after a brief visit. That didn’t happen.
The couple lived for a time in Haines, where Carol taught school. But then she and Koenig divorced and Carol moved to Juneau. After working for Goodwin, she left Alaska in 1950 and returned to live with her parents in Oradell, N.J., where she grew up.
But Carol’s adventures continued — in places that ultimately included Cuba, Venezuela and Bermuda. Today, she seems content to savor her memories while living a settled but still quite active life.
“I don’t have a big ‘bucket list,’ ” Carol said, smiling.
Nearly 30 years ago, Carol moved to occupy a small house west of Ferrum. She had originally purchased the property for her daughter Sally when Sally ran the equestrian program at Ferrum College.
Carol lives now in the tranquil homestead she has created, amid flowers and bird song and lush greenery.
She sat recently in her kitchen on a rain-soaked morning and talked, when prodded a bit, about her life. A newly adopted Maine coon cat, Caty, purred in her lap. Her dog, Buddy, a Catahoula leopard dog going gray, nuzzled up beside her. Poppy, a small, brilliantly plumaged parrot, occasionally uttered a piercing squawk that could double as a smoke alarm. A few of Carol’s watercolors and an oil hung on the wall nearby.
Outside, there were two roosters and 11 hens. “I love my chickens,” she said.
Carol expressed gratitude for the life she leads.
“I know I’m very fortunate,” she said. “I really have no complaints. I have a wonderful family and lots of interests. When I’m not in my garden, I’m painting or with these animals. I have good friends and lots to do. Life is not dull around here.”
Nor was it dull in March 1951 when Carol and her mother, Helen Hayes Walling, rendezvoused in Florida with family acquaintance Edward Flieger, a man who had long carried a torch for Carol. He lived at the time in Caracas, Venezuela. He proposed during the visit and Carol spontaneously accepted.
“I think he always wanted to marry me but I had married that other guy while he was in the war,” she said.
Edward Flieger was a paratrooper during World War II.
“He was a very nice guy and I thought, ‘Oh, OK, more adventure,’ ” Carol said. “It just seemed like a good thing to do.”
The couple wed nearly immediately during a ceremony in Havana, Cuba, where Edward’s employer, American International Underwriters, had an office.
“Then he went back to Venezuela and I went back home with mother and got all packed up and took the boat to join him,” Carol recalled.
She traveled with her dog, a Doberman pinscher named Satan, and a cat named Caledonia.
The couple lived in Venezuela for about one and a half years. Later, after Edward took a job with National Bulk Carriers, the couple moved to Bermuda with Sally, born in 1952 in New Jersey. Daughter Peggy was born in Bermuda, where the family lived for about 22 years.
“We had a wonderful life in Bermuda,” Carol said.
Daniel Ludwig, once one of the world’s richest men, founded National Bulk Carriers. Ludwig built his fortune with shipping and supertankers but “also owned citrus farms in Panama, coal mines in Australia, hotels in the Caribbean and a salt plant in Mexico’s Baja California,” according to an Associated Press story after Ludwig’s death in 1992.
Edward helped National Bulk Carriers establish two hotels in Bermuda — the Hamilton Princess and the Southampton Princess.
“Ed rounded up all the property for the Southampton Princess, which included a par-3 golf course, the beach property and quite a lot of land,” Carol said. “It was quite a coup.”
When the Hamilton Princess opened, Ludwig “gave a huge party on board his yacht at Christmas time,” Carol said.
At home before the party, Carol was creating Christmas decorations out of loquat leaves by spraying them with red paint.
“And the can exploded in my face,” she said. “Fortunately, I had glasses on. But I was covered in red paint and I couldn’t get it off my hands, so I wore white gloves to the party.”
While in Bermuda, Carol raised and showed Vizlas, a dog breed with origins in Hungary. Her dog Jolly Roger won numerous competitions. Carol also served two years as president of the Garden Club of Bermuda.
Sally was 7 years old when the family got its first pony. Today, Sally and her husband, Roddy Moore, who is director of the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum at Ferrum College, still raise horses. Carol takes care of five at her place. Her favorite is CeCe, an 18-year-old thoroughbred.
About 38 years ago, Edward, Carol and Peggy had moved back to New Jersey to live with Carol’s mother, a widow by then. Edward was 58 years old when he died in 1978 after a stroke. Carol said he had passed a physical with flying colors the week before. She stayed on to live with her mother, who died in 1984, the year Carol moved to Franklin County.
In 2002, cancer took Carol’s daughter Peggy, 46, an event Carol described as one of the few truly rocky experiences of an otherwise generally happy life.
Roddy Moore said his wife and Carol are best friends and that both women have provided for his daughters role models of strong, independent women.
Sally said her mother does not come across as someone with a history of adventure.
“But when you look back at her life, she’s done a lot of things other people haven’t,” Sally said. “Everybody who knows her knows she is one of the nicest people there is.”
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