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Obituary: Caroline Robinson Risk, West Lafayette

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Caroline Robinson Risk, 100, died peacefully surrounded by family members at 11:38 p.m. on October 3, 2012 at her residence in Westminster Village, West Lafayette, Indiana.

Caroline was born on July 13, 1912 on her grandparents’ farm near Wadena, Indiana, the daughter of the late James Edward and Alice Mitten Robinson. She had one brother, the late Russell Robinson.

Survivors include her children Carol (Jim) Lankton of Belleair, FL; Sherry Stark (David Tiede) of Columbus, IN; Jim (Mary Jo) Risk of Lafayette, IN; and Julie (Mark) Pope of Lutz, FL; grandchildren, Steve (LeeAnn) Lankton; Julie (Tom) Moll; Anne Lankton; Dr. Eric Stark (Jon Smith); Chris (Ann) Stark; Brian Stark (Dr. Lydia Breunig); Carrie (Joe) Hart; Jamie (Stephanie) Risk; Emily (Doug) Winters; Brent (Michelle) Pope; Brad Pope; great-grandchildren, Sarah Lankton, Austin Stark, Sam Stark, Ella Stark, Kirby Hart, Carly Hart, Owen Hart, Maia Stark, Clarabel Stark, Dash Pope, Mackey Pope, and Josie Winters.

Caroline, who was an excellent student, attended schools in a number of Indiana towns, skipping third grade and graduating early from high school in Boswell, Indiana. In 1929 she entered Purdue with just enough money for one year of education. She packed as many experiences into that year as possible. She was elected secretary of the freshman class and sang in the girls’ Glee Club, now known as the Purduettes. Musically gifted and an accomplished pianist, she went on to be a well-regarded singer, performing for her church and community and with dance bands in the Indianapolis area.

When 20 years old Caroline was selected as one of the Queen’s Court at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. In a marriage described by many as a match made in heaven, Caroline married James Kirby Risk, Jr. on the last day of festivities for the court, June 3, 1933 in the Rose Room of Chicago’s Sherman Hotel. The two were blessed with over 55 years together before Kirby died on February 4, 1989. Her proudest title was always Mrs. Kirby Risk.

Following their marriage Caroline and Kirby moved into the Lafayette home in which Kirby had been born. The two were deeply involved in Junior Achievement and led Epsilon Theta, a Presbyterian youth group. She was actively involved in the development of what is now Kirby Risk Corporation, working at the company for many years and serving as an officer and board member. Caroline resided in their Owen Street home for nearly 60 years.

In addition to being a strong supporter of Kirby’s business and community endeavors, Caroline had an active social and civic life. She was an Elder at Central Presbyterian Church and volunteered for the YWCA, Boy Scouts and Tippecanoe County Historical Association. She also held memberships in Delta Gamma Sorority, Chapter AY of the P.E.O. Sisterhood, Current Topics, Delta Chi, Tri Kappa and the Lafayette Country Club. Her most treasured past time of all was being with family.

One family friend referred to Caroline as an icon for her generation. She was a gracious hostess known for entertaining everyone from Cub Scouts to Junior Achievement students to Purdue Glee Club members to business and civic leaders while providing a home away from home for Cuban refugees and Purdue’s International students. Her husband relied on her to provide lavish spreads for everything from early morning breakfast meetings to late night kitchen table gatherings. Her beauty, charm, grace and warm interest in others will be deeply missed by all who knew her.

In 1984 she received the first Marquis de Lafayette Award from Mayor James Riehle during a community-wide tribute to her and her husband. The Robert L. Griffiths Leadership Award was presented to her in 2003 by Leadership Lafayette.

The family will receive friends Friday, October 19, one hour prior to the 4:00 p.m. Celebration of Life Service at Central Presbyterian Church, 31 North Seventh Street, Lafayette, Indiana. Earlier in the day there will be a private burial at Spring Vale Cemetery in Lafayette.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts honoring her life may be directed to the Kirby and Caroline Risk Scholarship Fund at Heritage Fund or the charity of your choice.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Soller-Baker Funeral Home.


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