Job: Retiring as owner of Carolyn’s Fashions in Evansville
Hometown: Evansville and Henderson, Ky.
Her Story: Thirty-six years after opening Carolyn’s Fashions, 76-year-old Carolyn Barnett will retire Aug. 31, closing the door on one of the Tri-State’s iconic shops for women’s wear. Much more than a storeowner, she remains a vibrant, energetic supporter of nonprofit organizations, notably the Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra, Mental Health America of Vanderburgh County, Evansville Association for the Blind, and Vanderburgh County Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA). Her final “Passion For Fashion” Easter Seals style show, entitled “The Best of Carolyn’s,” takes place Nov. 8 at the Scottish Rite Community Center.
Her Resume: The Evansville College (class of ‘57) cheerleader and Chi Omega sorority president went on to teach school in Henderson, Ky., for 20 years, and raised three children with husband Owen before opening Carolyn’s Fashions in Henderson in 1976, then expanding to Evansville a decade later. She was honored as the 2012 recipient of the Changing Lives award at the Easter Seals Tribute Dinner. In her 17 years of producing the Easter Seals’ “Passion For Fashion” style show, the event has raised $444,000 to underwrite therapy for individuals who could otherwise not afford it.
Her Perspective: “If you love what you do, and you love to help people, then it’s not work.”
On her life as a small business owner: I have never, ever been bored in this business. I am still as excited about it today as I was when I opened my store. I was going to retire after my husband Owen passed away (in 2006), but two days after the funeral I went back to work. I love being around people. I personally know most of my customers, and I’ve had wonderful girls help me in the store. I have enjoyed the people more than the fashions. I’ve been through wars, recessions; I’ve just hung in there because of my loyal customers.
On retirement: I hope there is life after Carolyn’s. It’s just time; I don’t want to die measuring somebody’s body. I am sure I will continue to be involved with the wonderful organizations here in the Tri-State, and I hope I have time to plant my flowers now. I have children living in North Carolina and Kentucky. I love being around people, and fortunately I have dozens of friends.
On staying busy: I think staying busy keeps us younger, and I feel so blessed that I have had my health all these years. I never smoked, I don’t get out in the sun. Those are the two worst things women can do for their skin. I eat healthy and I exercise — I walk three times a week, a mile or two. The two careers I’ve had, teaching and the retail shop, have forced me to be on my feet all day. That burns a lot of calories.
On getting out: I’ve been dating a wonderful man, Jerry Newhouse, for nearly five years. I’m glad I have someone in my life. We’re both widowed, and I encourage people to get out there and meet people after they have lost their husbands or wives. We were in the same graduating class at Evansville College, but I had not seen him for 51 years. He lives in Indianapolis, and he loves it there. I love my home in Henderson, but the nice thing is, we have all the same friends when he comes down here. It’s wonderful.
On sports: Most of my family members are University of Kentucky alums, and Jerry’s kids and grandkids are Indiana University graduates. Here we are watching this UK-IU basketball game, and I said to him, ‘Do you think this relationship is going to survive?’
On her bucket list: I have three children and four grandchildren, and Jerry has eight grandchildren. So we’re excited about visiting them. As an Evansville College (now the University of Evansville) graduate, I want to go to Harlaxton (UE’s campus in Grantham, England). And I want to spend more time with Jerry. Some of my friends are worried about me now that I’m retiring, but I’ll have plenty to keep me busy.
For more information on the “Passion For Fashion” Easter Seals style show, visit www.in-sw.easterseals.com.