Carol was born in Bellingham to Al and Wilma Ferngren on February 28, 1951, joining her brother, Gary (b. 1942), and her sister, Jean (b. 1944), as the last of three children. Growing up, her life consisted of family, church, and school. “We attended Grace Baptist Church,” she wrote in 2014 for a Ferngren family history, “and went to services several times a week. I was very involved and sang in the church choir. My youth group consisted of four kids, and I still see them on occasion around Bellingham.”
She had five cousins, four of whom were daughters of her father’s sister. “I spent many enjoyable hours at Aunt Babe’s and Uncle Lloyd’s house. We often had picnics in the backyard and fireworks on the 4th of July. We ran back and forth across the alley to each others’ homes. As the youngest of the cousins, I was too young to run with the group, but I remember especially how kind cousin Carolyn was. She took me places and spent time with me.” The fifth cousin was Karen, daughter of Carol’s dad’s brother, Bill, and his wife, Clara. They “came often to visit when I was young, and we went to visit them at their cabin out at Birch Bay. We had wonderful family times at Birch Bay.”
Though her early childhood years were happy ones, “with the decline of my dad’s health, life became more difficult.” Her dad had rheumatoid arthritis, which ultimately necessitated his retiring and Carol’s mom having to support the family. She got a job with the Bellingham School District as a PBX/Switchboard Operator. There she became friends with Ruth Harkness, mother of Rex, a classmate of Carol’s at Carl Cozier Elementary School. Wilma and Ruth “used to walk together at noon. They were both Christians, and they prayed for each other’s children. Little did I know then that Rex and I would marry. An added blessing was of their two granddaughters, one resembles Ruth (Kristen) and the other resembles my mom (Melissa).”
After Carl Cozier Elementary School, Carol attended Whatcom Junior High School, and then Sehome High School. During her freshman year, her parents sold their home on Iron Street and built on Undine Street, on a lot overlooking the city. There she spent her teenage years as the only child still living at home. Those were somewhat lonely years, which were brightened considerably when she and Rex began dating during their senior year. They both graduated in 1969. After a brief stint at college, she transferred to Bellingham Vocational Technical Institute. She then went to work at Morse Hardware.
Carol and Rex married in 1972 at the lounge of The Firs Bible and Missionary Conference. Grant Whipple officiated. He was the Director of the Firs and Pastor of Geneva Community Church, both of which had a significant influence on Rex as he was growing up. For the next seventeen years, Carol and Rex attended Geneva, first as a couple and then as a family with the birth of their children. In 1989, they began to attend Immanuel Bible Church. Whether at Geneva or Immanuel, Carol’s hunger for the Word made her a faithful participant in women’s Bible study groups.
In the meantime, “Before my dad passed away in 1974, he sold us the lot next to their home on Undine Street,” Carol later wrote. “He had to talk us into it and charged us a very reasonable monthly amount. At the time, I didn’t think we would ever move up there, but my dad was thinking ahead for my mom. A few years later, Rex decided he wanted to build on Undine Street. Then he had to talk me into it. It didn’t take much talking.” They built their house on that lot and lived next to Carol’s mom for ten years before she passed away in 1987.
During those years, Carol taught data entry and keyboarding evening classes at Bellingham Vocational Technical Institute. She and Rex had their son, Jared, in 1981, and their two daughters, Kristen and Melissa, in 1983 and 1988. “My two oldest kids,” Carol wrote, “spent many happy hours at Mom’s home as we went back and forth just as I remember doing as a child.”
Carol and her mom shared a love for Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). She had talked her mom into going, and “she reluctantly agreed. I think she soon regretted it when she saw how much work was involved but in fact it became an anchor for her in later years. We would often look back at old lessons and would call them ‘gold.’” Rex’s mom, Ruth, and Carol’s sister’s mother-in-law, Esther, attended BSF with them.
In Carol’s words, “We’ve been a close family through the years with my sister, Jean, her husband, Darrel, their daughter, Kim, her husband, Rod, and family, and Kim’s brother, Scott, and his family. We enjoy sharing holidays and picnics in the summer. We also enjoy seeing my brother, Gary, and family when we can. I miss Gary’s wife, Agnes. Her passing was a big loss for our family. Darrel’s mom, Esther, was also an important part of our family along with Rex’s mom, Ruth.”
Carol and Rex’s three children grew up in the family home on Undine Street. All three graduated from Bellingham Christian School, where Carol worked as a secretary for several years while her kids attended there. In 1998, she began working in Data Services and helped maintain a large international database at SPIE, a non-profit, scientific society in Bellingham. Kristen married Mike Juenemann, and their son, Drayden, was born in December 2008. Jared married Jenny Giesen in August 2009. Kristen and Mike had their second child, Dazzlyn, in March 2015, and Jared and Jenny their first child, Sydney, in November 2015. As Carol wrote to her cousins, “The grandkids are so fun. I am up to three and trying to catch up with my cousins.”
She wrote that in August 2016 in an email in which she told her cousins that in July of the previous year she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She described the course of treatment, which had ended June 29, and then remarked, “I am recovering well from my treatment with the exception of some lingering chemo brain, which has become our family joke. What odd thing will Mom say next? Rex and the kids were very good to me all year, taking me to appointments, helping with the house. Before the diagnosis, Melissa had asked to move back home for a while. It’s interesting how the Lord works things out before we know we need them. He showed Himself to me in many ways and through friends and family.”
The next four years were rich with family time, especially as she and Rex enjoyed being grandparents. Then, in June 2020, Carol learned that her cancer had metastasized in a particularly aggressive form. On August 19, her mom’s birthday and at 69, the same age as her dad, she departed from the family she loves to be with the Lord she loves. Exactly five months later, her fourth grandchild, Keeley, was born to Jared and Jenny.
Carol is survived by her husband, Rex Harkness; son, Jared (Jenny) Harkness; daughters, Kristen (Mike) Juenemann, and Melissa Harkness; grandchildren, Drayden and Dazzlyn Juenemann, and Sydney and Keeley Harkness, all of Bellingham; brother, Gary Ferngren of Corvallis, OR; sister, Jean (Darrel) Amundsen of Bellingham; sisters-in-law, Sharon (Lyle) Shearer of Palm Desert, CA, and Shirley Tittle of Birch Bay; and numerous cousins, nieces, and nephews.
Carol had concluded her biography in March 2014 with a fitting memorial: “I see the hand of God not only in my life but throughout the generations of our family. Although the seeds of faith were planted in my early church years, I believe it was the faith and example of my mother that had the most impact on me. I also see it in my extended family and am thankful for all of you. Shortly before my mom passed away, she said to me, ‘someday you’ll see how important family is,’ and Mom, you were right.”
Because of Covid restrictions, no memorial service was held. A graveside service was officiated by Pastor David Erickson, September 2, 2020.