Cover photo for Carol Leeper's Obituary
Carol Leeper Profile Photo
1936 Carol 2022

Carol Leeper

March 16, 1936 — March 15, 2022

Carol Jean Leeper, age 85, died on March 15, 2022. She passed into God’s love and care one day before her 86th birthday.

Carol was born on March 16, 1936 in Mitchell, Nebraska to Hazel and Perry Smith. She attended high school in Ashland, Oregon. She married James Zemke and they later had four children. Her love of travel brought her to live in different places around the United States. Together, James and Carol lived in Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Texas, and Colorado. Her family often followed and relocated nearby. As a result Carol, our Grammy, had a close relationship with her four children, twelve grandchildren, and twenty-two biological great-grandchildren. Carol also considered loved ones who were married to or adopted by any of her children as important members of her family. The love and care he showed each one multiplied as her family grew. She attended as many births, baseball games (and other sporting events), birthdays, weddings and graduations as she could. Carol was very proud of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. After losing her husband, Jim, she continued to travel and visit each family member, as many times as she could.

Later, Carol married Donald Leeper. They continued to travel. They moved to Alaska and built a cabin on the Kenai Peninsula. They built a lovely life there; which included their church, senior center, friends, and family. After Don’s passing, Carol remained in Alaska until 2019. She remained very active in her church, senior center, and a big part of her beloved friends’ lives. In 2019 she was diagnosed with cancer and relocated to Colorado to receive treatment. Finally, she settled in Palisade, Colorado where she enjoyed the quiet, small town life.

Throughout her life, Carol enjoyed game nights, sewing, painting, camping, cooking or baking, and caring for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Her life revolved around her family and dear friends. She was a loving and devoted daughter, sister, aunt, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and a humble woman of God. She imparted a faith in God that made its way into every part of her life. She made sure to keep each one of her family and friends on her prayer lists.

Carol was preceded in death by: her mother and father, Hazel and Perry Smith, her sister, Donna Osborn, her great-granddaughter, Kayla Ibarra, and her husbands James Zemke and Donald Leeper.

Carol will be missed by her two sisters Betty Grice of Sacramento, California and JoAnn Gilliam of Tiller, Oregon and her four children: Richard (Debbie) Zemke of Redding, California, Gerald (Joan) Zemke of Hilo, Hawaii, Sande Caruso of Niwot, Colorado, and Connie (Steve) Moore of Palisade. She is survived by twelve grandchildren: January (Kurt) Jackson, Greg (Julie) Zemke, Perry (Theresa) Zemke, Angela (Dan) Ibarra, Brad Zemke, Michael (Amanda) Zemke, Stephen (Ashley) Zemke, Joshua (Megan) Caruso, Katrina (Catlin) Davis, Joey (Lauren) Caruso, Ryan (Denra) Girardi and Collin Girardi. Carol is also survived by many nieces and nephews and 21 great-grandchildren.

A Celebration of Life will be held (TBD) in early summer so that her friends and family may gather together and celebrate her quiet, loving spirit.

Please consider making a memorial contribution in the name of Carol Jean Leeper to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Carol Leeper, please visit our flower store.


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