Dear Carrel, a Letter from Cheryl DiVito

This week, we remember Exponent II founding mother and longtime board member, Carrel Sheldon, who died after a heartbreakingly swift cancer diagnosis. When Carrel was first diagnosed, her family asked that her Exponent II friends send her notes of healing and love. Today’s letter comes from Cheryl DiVito, longtime Exponent II historian and board member. If you would like to share something, please email us at exponentblog[at]gmail[dot]com.

Exponent II Staff Retreat 1997

Dear Carrel,

    When I first met you in 1980, I was struck by your surroundings.  Your house was a big victorian on Pleasant Street with awesome woodwork, pocket doors, fireplaces, and a long, stained glass window on the landing of the stairway.  I had just moved from Salt Lake because my husband had been accepted into a master’s program in Boston, and I was in love with New England and its history. Your house was part of that charm.

    The large rooms were put to good use with holiday parties and Exponent gatherings.  One of the biggest wooden bowls I’ve ever seen would often be filled with popcorn for the crowd.  I found it strange that you hadn’t renovated your kitchen considering the size of your family and the number of people coming and going.  But it became clear that you really weren’t interested in keeping house–you were focused on surrounding yourself with interesting people and projects.

    I remember your bedroom as a very personal sanctuary.  You loved nature and had brought in tree branches for the walls and could dangle pretty trinkets from them.  When you had your summer retreat in Ipswich, you transformed the cottage into your own space by replacing the owner’s knickknacks with your own found treasures.  Even when you moved to Seattle, you kept collecting interesting little objects from yard sales to add to your nest.

   You always had stacks of books and journals because of your insatiable curiosity.  Your interests were eclectic. You could tell us about the interpretation of dreams, Myers-Briggs personality definitions, and kegel exercises for improved sexual performance.   You reported back on your birdwatching expeditions, rambles though wilderness, and adventures watching fiery lava floes at night in Hawaii.

    And, like me, you have loved projects.   Of course, there was the Exponent and the retreats.  But I also remember the wedding gift you envisioned for Linda Othote–a canoe painted to resemble a patch-work quilt in homage to our shared pioneer heritage.  You even talked Garret into blow-torching the surface so the paint would be sure to stick. You also took art and photography classes. One project was to create a series of photos of yourself which imitated photographs of your granddaughter: she had a yellow raincoat, you had a yellow raincoat, etc.    When the Exponent women went to St. John’s, you took contemplative shots of us all–in black and white, I think. I was impressed with your “artist’s eye.”

    One project I have never really understood.  Maybe it was motivated by a competition with your mother and sisters.  You have always been determined to improve your beauty–from red or gray hair to the tips of your pedicured feet. But you were gorgeous in the first place!

    It was hard to see you move away from New England to Seattle.  It’s even more difficult to contemplate your going beyond our mortal reach.  I will think of you in a wonderful new place where you continue to gather the people you love and create amazing projects.

Always your sister,


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2 Responses

  1. Heather says:

    Thank you Cheryl. This captures so much of what I loved about Carrel.

  2. Ellen Patton says:

    This is beautiful.

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