Groton – Carol Kimball, considered by many to be the definitive source on the history of Groton and the shoreline, died this morning. She was 94.
"She was the collective memory of our town. She knew everything," said Hali Keeler, director of the Bill Memorial Library in Groton. "If anyone ever had a question – we would often get requests from people from out of town about not just genealogy but things that happened in town, events that might have occurred – and we had exhausted all our resources, we would say 'Call Carol,' because Carol knew everything."
Kimball had been in failing health for much of the last year, stepping down from her post as Town Historian – one she held since 1985 – last fall. She is the only person in town history who has held that post.
She was a prolific writer on the town's history, penning several books and writing a regular column for The Day about historical topics, often explaining their connections to modern-day life.
She began her historical work in the 1970s, when she was a teacher in Groton, said Marilyn Comrie, with whom she had written several books and worked on historical projects. Though she grew up in Quaker Hill, Kimball was asked to teach a class on Groton history.
"And Carol said 'Where's the book?' and they said there wasn't one," Comrie said. "So she wrote one. And that was the first basic history of Groton and it's been used ever since."
To Kimball, Groton's past was chock-full of interesting topics. She continued her work up until her death, even saying she would be available to answer questions on town history from her nursing home bed if necessary, Comrie said.
"She just thought that Groton has such a rich history and I think she was just fascinated by all the different facets of it: the shipbuilding, the Indian part of it," Comrie said. "If you think about it, she would say, we had clipper ships being built on one side of town, on the Mystic River, and submarines now being built on the other side. And she found all of it so fascinating."
Jim Streeter, the mayor of the Town of Groton, worked closely with Kimball on historical topics. He co-wrote several books on the town's history with Kimball and dedicated his most recent book, "Groton: Historical Bits and Pieces," to her.
"Carol's tireless efforts and dedication to document and report local history places her among the elite of area historians, including Charles R. Stark, Frances Manwaring Caulkins, Mary Virginia Goodman and Eva Butler. She has been my mentor of sorts and has provided me with the inspiration to continue to document Groton's history," Streeter wrote.
"Our community owes a debt of gratitude to Carol W. Kimball, and dedicating this book to her is a small way of saying 'thank you,' " he continued.
Kimball, who was predeceased by her husband, leaves two children: Barbara, who now lives in New Hampshire, and Paul, who now lives in Maryland.