An Extraordinary Life: Wilmington mom fostered hundreds of children

‘She was a really good role model for being a good human being’

Patricia Feazel of Coal City had the highest regard for her good friend Carol Juricic of Wisconsin.

Carol adopted four children and cared for hundreds of foster children when she and her husband, Paul, lived in Wilmington, and Patricia was one of Carol’s references when Carol and Paul applied to become foster parents, Patricia said.

The women met through their husbands, who both worked at the former U.S. Steel, Patricia said. They went out every Friday night for fish and a movie. They both served on the PTO when their children were young and helped out with Wilmington’s annual Catfish Days, Patricia said.

Carol was a fabulous cook – Patricia especially loved Carol’s chicken with vermouth dish and her chocolate cake – and she collected hundreds of church cookbooks, Patricia said.

Halloween was Carol’s favorite holiday. According to her obituary, Carol thought the scarier the movie, the better, and her outdoor Halloween decor and scary music reflected it.

“She took in animals like she did kids,” Patricia said. “She was always wanting to help.”

‘He walked on his hands’

Carol grew up on a farm in Wisconsin.

Her father, Arthur, had an injury when he was a child and lost the use of his legs, so “he walked on his hands” and sometimes used a small wagon, said Jeannette Juricic of Wisconsin, Carol’s daughter. The toilet and bathtub were low to the ground to accommodate his disability, she said.

At one point, Carol taught beauty school, but she really wanted to be a mother. Carol had several miscarriages. When Carol was 36, she adopted Jeannette.

“I was about 4 years old when they decided to do foster care,” Jeannette said. “I honestly don’t know what got them into it other than my mother wanting more children.”

Carol and Paul cared for children of all ages and then switched to emergency foster care only. However, in many cases, children stayed a long time, especially if they had nowhere else to go, Jeannette said.

“My mom would not let these kids go to a group home,” Jeannette said. “If they were going to a group home, she’d say, ‘I’ll just keep them.’ ”

Carol’s daughter Sheila Juricic of Wisconsin, also adopted, said she admired her mother for “what she did for children.”

“She was always a very patient woman. She never lost her temper,” Sheila said. “She was very calm and polite and kind. She wanted to be everybody’s mom; she was the nurturer.”

A special Christmas gift

Carol loved babies, and her son Bill was “a Christmas gift from a social worker,” Jeannette said. A social worker brought several children, including Bill, a newborn hemophiliac whose parents had a drug addiction, Jeannette said.

Bill was diagnosed with HIV around his second birthday and full-blown AIDS about five years after that, Jeannette said. Knowledge of the virus was still new at the time, Jeannette said, and she recalled accompanying her mother to Chicago when Bill saw a pediatric AIDS specialist.

“If he was born now, it would be totally different,” Jeannette said. “But they didn’t know how to treat it. And life expectancy was short.”

Make-A-Wish Foundation sent Bill and the family to Disney World in Florida a month before Bill had surgery to insert a feeding tube. The surgery went well, but “Bill did not wake up” from the anesthesia, Jeannette said.

Jeannette said Carol was told she could not foster past age 65. So in her early 60s, Carol fostered Tony, a newborn who was addicted to heroin and later diagnosed with autism, Jeannette said. When Tony went to his adoptive home, he failed to thrive, Jeannette said. So Carol adopted him.

“My mother had endless energy for children,” Jeannette said. “She was the picture perfect mom. Being a mom is what brought her the greatest joy.”

Service beyond children – and a lasting legacy

Even though Carol never drove, she also led a brownie troop for the Girl Scouts, served as an election judge, canned food and entered her bakery in fairs and contests, where she won blue ribbons, Jeannette said.

Sheila praised her mother’s potato pancakes, chop suey, meatloaf and her homemade pickles, jellies, jams, pizza sauce and chili sauce. She said Carol and Paul “used to run a hot dog stand.” Carol even “kept up with technology,” Sheila said.

“My parents were older than most of my friends’ parents by probably a good 10 years,” Jeannette said. “So I was exposed to a lot of different things. My parents didn’t listen to The Beatles. They listened to the music from the ‘20s and ‘30s and ‘50s and Big Band music. But I still think, in a lot of ways, my mother had some pretty progressive ideas for someone of her generation.”

This was more than Carol letting her children listen to any music they wished and watch any movie they wished. Jeannette said that while fostering and adopting children are more commonplace today, Carol most likely heard, “Well, don’t you want biological children?”

“None of that mattered to my mom,” Jeannette said. “She just had this love for kids. It didn’t matter if they were biological or not.”

Jeannette said their house was “always chaotic” but in a way that left warm happy memories. Carol would never have just three children or animals in the house, so no one would feel left out, Jeannette said.

“We had kids and animals everywhere,” Jeannette said. “We had dogs and cats and fish and birds and hamsters. I had a hedgehog for a while. Rabbits. Whatever came along. We had the most incredible desserts every night. It was nice to have my mom always be there. She was a really good model for being a really good human being.”

Jeannette and Sheila feel Carol’s example led them to their careers. Jeannette is a U.S. diplomat. Sheila is a social worker. Sheila said she and Carol traveled overseas to visit Jeannette who has served in various countries over the years.

Jeannette recalled the time Paul stayed home with the foster children so Carol could drive to Mexico with Jeannette in Jeannette’s Volkswagen Beetle. Carol flew out to Washington, D.C., where Jeannette was living at the time. Jeannette drove and Carol held Jeannette’s Pekinese on her lap.

In Mexico, Jeannette pulled off a busy highway to rescue a flea-covered newborn kitten from the middle of the road. They bought whatever supplies they could from a gas station to care for it.

“We drove another day with the kitten on my lap and the Pekinese on my mom’s lap,” Jeannette said. “My mom said, ‘What are you going to do with it?’ And I said, “I’ll figure it out when we get there.’ By the time we got there, my mom was used to bottle-feeding the kitten and that was that.”

Carol eventually moved back to Wisconsin to be near family. When she lost the vision in one eye, she listened to hundreds of audiobooks, Jeannette said. Carol had great plans for the future, so she received the COVID-19 vaccine, continued wearing face masks and forbade anyone who wasn’t fully vaccinated from visiting her, Jeannette said.

Carol was 82 when she died May 3 of COVID-19 pneumonia.

• To feature someone in “An Extraordinary Life,” contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-280-4122 or dunland@shawmedia.com.

Denise  Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland

Denise M. Baran-Unland is the features editor for The Herald-News in Joliet. She covers a variety of human interest stories. She also writes the long-time weekly tribute feature “An Extraordinary Life about local people who have died. She studied journalism at the College of St. Francis in Joliet, now the University of St. Francis.