Carolyn….A Life Well Lived
Carolyn Lynn Massey was born July 24, 1956, to Mary Elizabeth (Liles) Covington and Sgt. Theodore Alonzo Covington, in Wadesboro, North Carolina, and went home to be with the Lord during a peaceful transition on March 16, 2018 in Columbia, Maryland. Carolyn was a proud North Carolinian who attended both elementary and middle schools in the Anson County School District in Wadesboro, North Carolina. Carolyn’s mother later married again to Sgt. James E. Jackson, who adopted Carolyn and her brother, Anthony. Together they raised their family, including their youngest, Michelle, on the Jersey Shore in Neptune, NJ. The Jacksons were well known as a family, and celebrated within their community, often leading annual cherished activities and contributing to the overall positive and uplifting spirit of the Sunshine Village Community in Neptune. Carolyn was predeceased by her husband, James B. Massey Sr., mother, Mary E. Jackson, her father, Rev. (Sgt.) James E. Jackson, and her brother, Anthony T. Jackson.
During her teenage years in New Jersey, Carolyn attended Neptune High School where she did everything from serving as Captain of the Cheerleading Squad to playing basketball to graduating with honors in 1974. Each step of the way, Carolyn was always ready for the next big challenge. After graduating high school, Carolyn attended college at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ, where she studied Business Administration. During this time, she began dating the man who would become the love of her life, James B. Massey Sr. While James had already graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Carolyn continued to attend college, with James continually encouraging her to move to Nebraska, where he had his first professional job at Boys Town. Carolyn was reluctant to do so, but believed in waiting for him. Once James returned to the Jersey Shore, they resumed dating, and soon thereafter wed in 1979.
Carolyn and James had two children: James Jr. and Marissa. They were exceptionally proud of both of them and enjoyed watching them grow into adulthood. James and Marissa both went on to work at the University of Maryland, College Park; James in Undergraduate Admissions working with the youth as they pursue higher education and Marissa in the A. James Clark College of Engineering working with students of color as they pursue careers in science and engineering. Carolyn was also particularly proud of her daughter Marissa being recognized by her peers when she was selected as the 2014-2015 Miss Bowie State during her senior year at Bowie State University. Carolyn was also very fond of both ‘The Brothers of Alpha’ and the ‘Sorors of AKA’ (as she often referred to them) because they showed so much love and affection for her children and her family. Carolyn would tell anyone that would listen how much she truly loved and thanked God for her children.
During her time in New Jersey, Carolyn did everything from work as an insurance adjustor at the headquarter office of Prudential Insurance in Newark, NJ, to spending weekends running the concession stands and selling hot dogs and sodas for the local Asbury Park Little League Association, for which her son played and her husband coached for many years. As a family, they enjoyed living on the Jersey Shore, spending many great days at the beach and the boardwalk, and celebrating many good times during holidays and other special occasions at the family homes on the shore.
In 2004, Carolyn and Marissa moved to Maryland and began a new chapter in their lives - one filled with renewed purpose and energy. Carolyn joined the faculty/staff at the University of Maryland, College Park, and began working at the David Driscoll Center for African and African-American Art. A humanities enthusiast, Carolyn enjoyed exploring the connections between artistic self-expression and the often complicated lives that individuals experience. James Jr., at the time a graduate student and, like his mother, a faculty/staff member at the University of Maryland, College Park, invited his mother and sister to attend service at New Samaritan Baptist Church (NSBC) in Washington, D.C. under the leadership of Bishop Michael V. Kelsey, Sr. James had recently joined the Church and had become an active member. Not only did they attend, but they also felt called by God to join the NSBC Family. All three in the family have served as active members and leaders ever since. Carolyn went on to establish and serve as the Inaugural Director of the Positive IMPACT HIV/AIDS Ministry at New Samaritan, which spoke to and ignited what became her life’s work and passion.
Carolyn endeavored to educate community stakeholders – including professionals within the public health, business, and faith sectors – about health equity and social justice concerns, encouraging them to create strategies to prevent and treat chronic diseases, and to build health and wellness collaborations. Carolyn was the Founding CEO of Massmer Associates LLC, a social venture company that built networks of collaboration and delivered training and capacity building services to catalyze service and employment for men and women affected by chronic disease(s). Carolyn served as a former HIV Commissioner for the District of Columbia and a former Commissioner for the Anne Arundel County, Maryland HIV Commission. She also served as the former Chairwoman of the Greater Baltimore Ryan White Health Services Planning Council and she is the former Chairwoman of the Places of Worship Advisory Board (POWAB) of the District of Columbia Department of Health. As the Director of the Positive IMPACT Ministry at New Samaritan Baptist Church, Carolyn helped to educate her congregation and the surrounding community about HIV/AIDS prevention and testing. Carolyn held many a testing day at her home church, days that included testing and counseling, as well as opportunities for education and community building through networking with local and national testing agencies. Carolyn also became a federally certified facilitator and trainer of facilitators of CDC-approved, evidence-based interventions, which brought these prevention programs to Baltimore City, Washington D.C. and the Greater Metropolitan Area.
Carolyn was recognized as a national speaker and trainer on the topics of HIV/AIDS and the intersecting issues of women, aging adults, African American health disparities and communities of faith. Carolyn served as an expert panelist during the 2010 White House Special Meetings on HIV and Aging, under the direction of President Obama; she served as a speaker before the 2013 Senate Special Committee on HIV and Aging; and she participated in the 2012 International Conference on AIDS as a featured panelist on the topic of HIV and Aging held in Washington, D.C. Carolyn also was a well-respected traveling lecturer for Bristol-Myers Squibb, receiving invitations to speak in such places as New York City, Southern California, Atlanta, and North Carolina. Carolyn – her face and her story – were used in national campaigns to educate on Aging and HIV. She was a collaborating author of a local Community Level Intervention, “Healthy Relationships 55+.” Carolyn was also featured in a national documentary on African-Americans and HIV, and was the focus of a piece broadcasted by ABC News, about Faith-Based Initiatives and HIV. Her published works include articles in the American HIV Prevention Journal, national prevention materials, and several white papers – reports presenting complex topics with clarity and authority. The video of her sharing her story, as part of the “Once Upon A Time in America” project of the Baltimore In Conversation movement, will allow her voice and her wisdom to be heard by all for years to come.
Carolyn traveled to South Africa over 10 years ago with Emmy-nominated Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, as part of a group of woman with a singular mission – to educate more South Africans about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and prevention methods. Carolyn believed that no one was too far removed from HIV/AIDS, and that it touched just about everyone, either directly or indirectly. Carolyn worked very hard to fight against the stigma and discrimination that many with HIV/AIDS often faced. She believed that by giving a face to HIV/AIDS, and highlighting those who were successfully managing their lives with the disease, others would be able to better understand the humanity of HIV/AIDS. Carolyn worked with Magic Johnson over 10 years ago, bringing him to her home church, New Samaritan, to educate the community about HIV/AIDS, and the full and exceptionally productive and happy lives people living with the disease can enjoy. As a 25-year survivor of the disease, Carolyn literally won her race and fulfilled the destiny of what became her life’s work and passion.
Carolyn most recently served as the Executive Director of OWEL – Older Women Embracing Life, a dynamic group of women dedicated to providing support for women—many living with and all impacted by HIV/AIDS—as well as their families and care providers. OWEL helps to prepare women to live successfully despite their health challenges, to enjoy enhanced personal networks, and to experience an improved quality of life. OWEL delivers education, training and volunteer opportunities throughout the Mid-Atlantic. The organization has continued to grow and expand, with its most recent chapter being launched in Washington, D.C. under the direction of NSBC’s Rocky Thomas. OWEL was very near and dear to Carolyn’s heart and it allowed for her to link arms with other women and tackle many of the hardships and disparities that transcend race, socio-economic status and our respective local communities. The women of OWEL stood very close by Carolyn’s side through each and every step of the way. They will forever be part of her family and filled a very special place in her heart.
It was only in the last several weeks, after the passing of her mother, that Carolyn received a diagnosis of Lung Cancer. After managing many other health challenges, a new fight was before her, but in the end, the Lord was ready for another angel to be called home. After several weeks of care and instruction, and despite a strong fight and will to go on, Carolyn was welcomed home by the Lord on Friday, March 16, 2018. Carolyn was surrounded by loving friends and was holding the hands of her two children, James and Marissa, during her time of transition. Death have no sting as Carolyn exchanged life in this world to fulfill the promise of life everlasting with our Father in Heaven.
A life well lived, indeed. Mother loved her God, her family, and her community. She was an example of selflessness and sacrifice, and she truly believed that together we all could unite to overcome any obstacle. We honor her for the woman that she was, her passion and her dedication to all that was important to her. We all are her legacy – may we carry on with purpose, integrity and most importantly, LOVE.
Carolyn leaves to cherish her memory, her two children, James B. Massey Jr. of Laurel, Maryland and Marissa E. Massey also of Laurel, Maryland. In addition, she leaves an extended family comprised of relatives, close cousins, close friends, her NSBC family, colleagues and well-wishers. Often referred to affectionately as ‘Mother Massey’ by many, Carolyn loved ‘love’ and she enjoyed sharing all of her love with those that could benefit from knowing that someone cared. She will be missed, but she will always be cherished and her memory and legacy will live on forever. Job well done, thy good and faithful servant.
Service Work/Honors/Community Collaborations
Commissioner, Anne Arundel County HIV Commission
Commissioner, Washington DC HIV Commission
Chair, Greater Baltimore Ryan White Health Services Council
Chair, Place of Worship Advisory Board, District of Columbia Department of Health
Director, Positive IMPACT Ministry, New Samaritan Baptist Church, Washington, DC
Member, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Health Planning Group
Member, Positive Women’s Network
Maryland Cleo Service Award, Baltimore City Department of Health
New Samaritan Baptist Church Ministry Leadership Award
Subject Matter Expert Panelist, CDC/HRSA Advisory Committee (CHAC)
Subject Matter Expert Panelist, US Senate Special Committee on Aging and HIV
Subject Matter Expert Panelist, US White House Conference on HIV and Aging
HIV Metrics in Faith-based Environments. 2009
A Critical Lens on HIV and the African American Church, Achieve HIV Policy and Prevention Journal. Winter, 2010
With Eyes of Compassion: The Deconstruction of Stigma. 2010
Stigma Through Eyes of Compassion. 2011
Carolyn, Let’s Face It: Older Adults Speak About HIV-AIDS Booklet, HIV Health Literacy Program (HHLP), ACRIA Publication. 2011
An Oh-Well Moment, Blog Older Women Embracing Life Website. 2017.
Leadership & Professional Endeavors
Older Women Embracing Life (OWEL), Inc., Executive Director (2011-2018)
Massmer Associates LLC, Founder/CEO (2008 – 2018)
MD DC Faith-Based Collaborative, a SAMSHA Initiative, Co-convener (2011 – 2012)
Bristol-Myers Squibb Corporation, National Traveling Lecturer (2009-2014)
David C. Driskell Center for the Study of African American Art and the African Diaspora (2005-2007)
University of Maryland, College Park
Philadelphia Informal Science Education Collaborative (1999-2003)
Prudential Insurance Company of America (1984-1988)
Monmouth County Employment and Training Agency/EEO Compliance Officer (1977-1980)
US Department of Labor Contract, Eatontown, NJ
In Her Own Words…
My primary professional focus is to affect systemic changes that will result in lessened impact of HIV on the health and well-being of aging persons in the United States. Over several years and as a life-long learner, I received formal education that prepared me to fulfill increasingly demanding and successful roles as an employee and business owner. I am equipped with training to operate human service programs according to federal guidelines, manage human resources, monitor agency and program compliance and evaluate program effectiveness, develop program and projects. My qualifications include actual work experiences over several years during which I directly and demonstrably improved the efficient and effective operation of organizations in public and private sectors. I provided direct management services in the areas of personnel administration, grants, projects, disease prevention and management, cultural competence in service design and delivery, community relations, health services planning, and organizational development. Finally, living to purpose despite an AIDS diagnosis for more than two decades provides an advantage of unique insight into the issues and concerns of others who face similar challenges. My work and education histories reflect my determination to develop professional capacity in my chosen fields of endeavor and my commitment to service. I am an active social justice advocate particularly focused on enhancing the health and wellbeing of aging individuals.
Carolyn Lynn Massey (2017)