Obituaries

Carolyn M. Mansell

Caroline M. Mansell online 061919Died in Palo Alto after a brief illness on April 3, 2018. A Palo Alto resident since 1973, she was for several decades a dynamo of the Silicon Valley residential real estate industry. The daughter of Frank R. Mayo and Eleanor P. Mayo, Carolyn was born in Chicago in 1937 when her father, having earned his PhD in Chemistry at the University of Chicago, was teaching there. Already doing cutting-edge research, Dr. Mayo became an internationally recognized polymer chemist, ending his career with three decades at the Stanford Research Institute. Carolyn was educated at the Lab School, Northfield School for Girls, and Brown University, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in history. Her freshman year she met Roger Mansell, an engineering student at Brown. He asked her to marry him on their first date; after four years, she finally agreed, and they were married in the chapel at Brown University.

In their first year of marriage, Roger, a U.S. Army Artillery officer, was stationed at a forward fire base on the South Korean DMZ. Carolyn was obliged to remain in the US, where she took a position as a social worker at Deaconness Hospital in Boston. Informed by the U.S. Army that it was impossible to travel to Korea as a tourist, with the help of a Japanese friend, she arranged to get a tourist visa-on-demand at the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo. She arrived in Seoul before Christmas 1959 to find an airport with one building, one light bulb, and one person in sight: her husband with a rifle, bundled up against the intense cold, in an open Jeep. After a brief stay in an army tent, they celebrated a delayed honeymoon at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. Roger was subsequently stationed stateside, and their first child, Catherine, was born at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas in 1961. Because Carolyn’s parents had moved to California for her father’s work at SRI, when Roger decided make a career in business, they relocated to the Bay Area. Roger took a job in San Francisco in printing sales; Carolyn joined her mother’s PEO chapter, and they bought a new house surrounded by cherry orchards in Sunnyvale. Their second child, Alice, was born in 1963. Carolyn was a hard-working and creative stay-at-home mom, organizing babysitting coops and neighborhood Fourth of July parties, leading a troop of Brownies and various Girl Scout activities, and for her girls’ iceskating club shows, designing and sewing costumes, ranging from a Martian to a glittering Chinese dragon to be carried aloft by a half dozen children. When Carolyn decided to make a career outside the home, it was Roger who encouraged her to go into real estate. In 1972 she began work as a realtor with Wright & Co. and quickly became the top producer in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. This was a time when most agents were men and overt discrimination against women was not uncommon. In 1984 she founded Mansell & Co. During this decade she was recognized by the Los Altos Board of Realtors as “Top Achiever for 10 Consecutive Years.” Over the decades with Mansell & Co. Carolyn mentored many other agents, most of them women, and including her own daughter, Alice, who, after earning her law degree, came to work with her as a broker. Carolyn pioneered or was a pioneer in many practices that are now considered standard in the industry. For example, with Roger’s help, she had the first brochures printed for houses listed in the area. She also did some of the first house staging and seller-financing deals. In other respects, however, she was unusual for a real estate agent of her time and place. She never allowed her photograph to be used in advertisements, and she refused to launch a website for her company, as she preferred to work with clients who came to her as personal referrals. Carolyn loved helping her clients, many of whom also became good friends. She relished not only finding homes for them, or as was the case, selling their homes, but negotiating contracts. Real estate was such a passion for her that even in her last days, from her hospital bed, she wanted to know every detail of the deals-in-progress, and that her clients were taken care of. At the time of her passing Mansell & Co. was the oldest female-owned real estate company in Silicon Valley. Roger Mansell died in 2010, one year after celebrating their 50th anniversary. Carolyn is survived by her sister and brother-in-law, Jean and Jack Howell; daughter Catherine and son-in-law Agustín G. Carstens, and daughter Alice Mansell.

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