Carolyn Kramer Serling ’50, widow of screen writer and Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling (also Class of 1950), died January 9, 2020, at her home in Pacific Palisades, CA. She was 90 years old.
Carol was a longtime champion of Antioch College, and her ties to Antioch ran very deep. Two of Carol’s great-grandfathers were Antioch notables, as was her grandfather. Carol was related to Horace Mann, Antioch’s first president, as a first cousin three times removed. Carol’s great-grandfather, Dr. George Caldwell, was professor of chemistry at Antioch 1859-62 and was later the first professor hired by Cornell University. His wife, Rebecca Stanley Wilmarth, was a first cousin to Horace Mann and taught at Antioch as well (1855-62).
Another of Carol’s great-grandfathers, Edward Orton Sr began at Antioch in 1865 as a professor of Natural History. In 1872 Professor Orton became President of Antioch College. The following year he was named President and a professor of geology at Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, which became Ohio State University, so Professor Orton was effectively the first President of Ohio State University.
Carol was born February 3, 1929, in Columbus, OH, the daughter of Warren A. and Ann Caldwell Kramer. After her mother’s unexpected death when Carol was 18 months old, Carol was raised by her grandparents, Frank and Louise Orton Caldwell of Columbus, OH, who established the Orton Caldwell Scholarship at Antioch. Frank Caldwell had served as a Trustee for Antioch 1909-34. Carol attended The Ohio State University Laboratory School in Columbus and was graduated from MacDuffie School in Springfield, Massachusetts.
During her freshman year at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, OH, she met Rod Serling, one of the returning World War II veterans attending the College. They were married two years later, on July 31,1948. Carol graduated from Antioch in 1950 with a BA in elementary education and psychology. Following graduation, they moved to Cincinnati, where Rod worked for a local radio station. Two years later, the couple decided Rod would devote himself full-time to writing, and they moved to Westport, CT, to be near the center of live television activity in New York City. In the mid-1950s, the couple and their two young daughters moved to Pacific Palisades, CA.
In California, Carol was a volunteer for the Fair Housing Council, the PTA, the suicide prevention center, and served in various roles for the League of Women Voters. For 30 years, she was the volunteer toy and book buyer at Santa Monica Hospital auxiliary gift shop. A life-long learner, she took art classes in painting, ceramics, and glazing, and enrolled in political science classes at UCLA. She enjoyed sharing time with friends and regularly joined them at bridge club, book club, the movies, or for a meal and conversation. She was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica.
Carol served on the Antioch College Board of Trustees 1983–1988 and was a member of the Alumni Board 1979–82. She also served for 18 years on the Board of Trustees of Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY, and—upon retirement from the board in 2002—she was named an honorary trustee.
She was a passionate supporter of many causes, most notably environmental and wildlife causes, women’s issues, liberal politics, and education.
Since her husband’s untimely death in 1975, Carol has managed his literary assets, providing access to his work and giving younger generations an opportunity to hear his messages of humanity, history, and morality. She was involved with negotiating, producing, managing, and publishing remakes of some of his works and a documentary on his life and writings. She was project consultant for the 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie and was executive producer of the current CBS All Access revival of the Twilight Zone series, hosted by Jordan Peele. She was associate publisher and consulting editor of Twilight Zone Magazine. During their life together, Carol was Rod’s trusted reader, editor, and critic, reading all of his scripts in progress, before they were submitted.
Carol spent most every summer of her life at the family cottage on the shores of Cayuga Lake in upstate New York. The cottage, built by her great-grandfather George Caldwell, was her favorite place in the whole world and after their marriage, the cottage became Rod’s favorite place, too. In her later years, she co-authored a book about the Cayuga area which featured photographs taken by her great uncle, Ray Chamberlain.
Carol had a curiosity and appreciation of the world and traveled with Rod, in conjunction with his work, throughout the United States, Asia, and the Philippines. They also enjoyed cruises to South America and Mexico and cherished trips aboard their 35-foot power boat through the Erie Canal, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Great Lakes. These trips, in the days before laptops and cell phones, were their opportunity to escape the daily pressure of television production. After Rod’s death, she continued her travels, visiting every European country, Scandinavia, Russia, China, the Middle East, Australia, and many South American countries. Carol appreciated the complexities, diversities, and beauties of life. As her daughter, Jodi, said, she was radiant, strong, brilliant and all who knew her were enriched by her friendship and love. Carol is survived by her daughter Jodi Serling (Michael Talarski) of Ithaca, NY; daughter Anne Serling-Sutton (Doug) of Ithaca, NY; three grandchildren, Ryan Rothstein-Serling, Erica Serling Petersen (Ross) and Sam Serling-Sutton; two great-grandchildren, Alyssa and Aidan; and half-sister Deedie Kramer Bedosky, Newnan, GA.; a niece and two nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, grandparents, parents, and half-brother.
Carol had a deep and lasting impact on the Antioch College community.
“Carol drew wisdom from a deep reservoir of life experience,” reflects President Tom Manley. “In my conversations with her she showed clear eyed thinking, fair minded curiosity, quiet humility and wry humor. She exemplified the best qualities of the Antioch education, which she used so well.”
“Carol’s was a life to be celebrated,” says Bruce LeBel, class of ’76. “She was a champion for Rod’s legacy, including, as his number one editor, and later as promoter for his works. Carol faithfully continued their combined leadership in the entertainment industry, and raising awareness in society in general, on issues of justice, civil rights, humanism, psychology and works with particular scorn for bigotry, and war, Carol shall be greatly missed. I for one will do what I can to carry her love forward.”
The family appreciates the devoted and extraordinary caregivers, Julia Zelaya and Tanya Torres, who allowed this special woman to live her later years in comfort and dignity.
Carol wanted her family, friends, and associates to remember their joyous adventures and happy days together. At her request, no memorial service will be held. Her ashes will be buried next to her husband in Interlaken, NY. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made in her honor to an environmental or educational charity of the donor’s choice.