KAYSVILLE — They walked together most every day for a quarter of a century. For a few years, when their knees were in their prime, they picked up the pace and trained for a marathon. They talked about everything and about nothing. They knew each other’s hopes, dreams, schemes, moods and regrets.
Martha Gardiner can’t believe how long it lasted or how quickly it ended.
On May 2, Carolyn Pierson died at 69 after a brief bout with cancer.
On a Memorial Day that comes less than four weeks since Pierson’s passing, Gardiner’s thoughts are on that most valuable of human treasures: a true friend.
“We could say anything to each other, we always knew where the other was coming from, we totally trusted one other and we just loved each other,” says Gardiner. “Sometimes we’d laugh our heads off, sometimes one of us could be really grumpy and it was, ‘OK, she’s grumpy.’ We knew each other so well, we were as close as two people can get. She was one in a million. Oh my gosh, every day I just think about her.”
Gardiner has plenty of company in her grief. All over Kaysville they’re thinking about Carolyn Pierson. She was the kind of person who spread her friendship around liberally, without discrimination. For someone who never held public office or ran for anything — she liked to refer to herself as a “common community citizen” — she cut an uncommon swath through her 69 years.
She threw wedding showers for people she wasn’t even related to. She organized neighborhood parties just because. She was a mainstay in the community book club and art club. She was president of the PTA. Every year she arranged for a college scholarship for a kid at Davis High School, her alma mater. A student body officer and prom queen, she graduated from Davis in 1966 but never really left. She taught at the school for several years. Anything brown and gold was always and forever in.
Her most visible legacy can be seen in the center of Kaysville in the form of Heritage Park, a five-acre sanctuary of green that everyone agrees would not be there if not for Carolyn Pierson.
When she was a girl growing up in Kaysville, the space was occupied by the Clover Club potato chip factory, a business founded, owned and operated by Clover Sanders and her husband Hod, himself a Kaysville native.
At its peak, the factory employed 300 people and the popular Clover Club chips were distributed to no less than 13 states, at which point the company became a victim of its own success and was bought out by bigger companies. The new owners eventually came to the conclusion that a factory in landlocked Kaysville wasn’t economically practical. In 2000, the factory shut down and the land went on the market.
Kaysville city leaders said at the time that they foresaw a commercial use for the vacant lot — ideally situated less than a mile from the freeway and adjacent to Kaysville’s Main Street.
But Carolyn Pierson foresaw something else entirely: an open space where kids could play, couples could stroll and families and groups could congregate.
“The last thing she wanted was a strip mall,” says Blaine Pierson, Carolyn’s husband.
She drummed up support from concerned citizens like herself. She worked the City Council like an NBA coach working the referees. She talked people into donating money for the cause.
Finally, the city agreed to buy the land and turn it into a beautiful park.
“She used to tell me that she felt like Clover Sanders was telling her something from above — to use that property to benefit the community,” says Gardiner, who joined hundreds of others at Heritage Park on May 14 for a candlelight memorial for Pierson. “She just cared so much.”
They’d moved to Kaysville about the same time, first Martha Gardiner and her husband Paul in 1975, followed in 1976 by the Piersons, who had returned to Utah — and, of course, Kaysville — after Blaine finished dental school and a stint in the Air Force.
Living just around the corner from each other, the two young moms (they’d each eventually have six children) bonded instantly. One day they met at 5:30 for an early morning walk that lasted about an hour. It was the first of thousands more just like it.
Until 2001, when the Gardiners moved to Bountiful, Carolyn and Martha walked, or ran, virtually daily.
They didn’t need therapists, they had each other.1 comment on this story
One of the quirks they had in common was looking for loose change. Whenever they saw a coin on the ground, they’d pick it up. Gardiner would then take it home and put it in a jar. At one point they had collected enough to purchase a $50 bond each.
When Pierson died, Gardiner asked her husband to take the rest of the coins to the bank. All told they added up to $221.50. Added to the appreciation on the bonds, the two friends’ haul was up to $404.50.
For Gardiner, there’s no question where that money is headed.
“It’s going to the park,” she says. “I’m giving it to Carolyn’s park.”