In Memoriam: Carolyn Weinberger (1943-2019)

Carolyn Weinberger
Carolyn Weinberger

By Bob Jones and Jim Brace-Thompson

The organized mineral collecting hobby lost a stalwart and major contributor with the passing of Carolyn Weinberger on March 25, 2019, after a long and difficult battle with leukemia.

Remembering An Icon

In the words of Carl Miller, past president of the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical Societies describing Carolyn, “We have witnessed the passing of a giant.” Bob Livingston, another past president of the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical Societies, described Carolyn as “The greatest ‘go-to’ person in our times.”

Carolyn at Awards banquet
Carolyn and husband Steven at the Awards Banquet during the 2017 CFMS-AFMS Show & Convention in Ventura, California.

A member of the Gem Cutter’s Guild said, “She was the glue of the club for many years.” And Jim Brace-Thompson, creator and continuing supervisor of the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies Future Rockhounds of America, credits Carolyn’s help in getting the AFMS/FRA Badge Program going by publishing monthly articles throughout 2003 that led to the first edition of the AFMS/FRA Badge Manual in 2004—an effort that both Carolyn and her husband Steve have supported and championed through four editions of that manual to date. Said Jim, “I—and at least 4,518 kids—owe a huge debt of thanks to both Carolyn and Steve!”

These comments give you important insight into Carolyn, whose entire mineral-collecting life, which began in the 1960s, was devoted to all aspects of the mineral hobby. As one friend said, “She had her hand in everything.” Yet another club member compared her to the Energizer Bunny: “She keeps going and going and going.” As both of these writers have seen, Carolyn’s “hand” was always one of guidance, information and education to help support and mentor the people in our hobby and our organizations.

An integral and intricate part of Carolyn’s success in helping and promoting our hobby and its organizations is her partner-for-life, Steve. We know of no other couple as closely knit and supportive of each other who worked as a team to enjoy their mineral interests and devote their collecting careers to the betterment of their chosen hobby. Mike Seeds said it best, “Steve and Carolyn Weinberger, although involved in slightly different aspects of the mineral and micro-mount hobby, formed together an inseparable unit whose influence has been felt from coast-to-coast”.

Elevated Ambassadorship

Their accomplishments are legion. Steve is past president of the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical Societies and the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies. Carolyn served AFMS Vice President and was editor of both the AFMS and EFMS newsletters for years. This brought her recognition and awards. She was given the coveted Citation Award in 1984, the Wildacres Appreciation award in 2004. In 2012, Steve and Carolyn received the AFMS Honorary Scholarship Award. Honorees also have the responsibility of granting scholarships to worthy college students.

Steve and Carolyn Weinberger

Carolyn also applied her skills to edit the newsletters of her local clubs, the Chesapeake Gem & Mineral Society and serve as former director of the Baltimore Mineral Society as she operated websites for both clubs. She also served as a judge of bulletins submitted to the several regional Federations and the American Federation, which gave her ample opportunity to encourage and mentor new club bulletin editors to improve their work.

In 2008, Steve and Carolyn were both presented with the American Federation of Mineralogical Society award for “Outstanding Service to the AFMS and the Hobby.”

Carolyn also served as 5th vice president in 2017 and 4th vice president in 2018 and was elected to the Bulletin Editor’s Hall of Fame and helped produce the Federation’s 50th and 70th Anniversary Celebration booklets. Carolyn edited the award-winning newsletter of the Baltimore Mineral Society Further recognition of Carolyn’s contributions included induction into the Micromounter’s Hall of Fame.

Producing Inspiring News

My favorite newsletter courtesy of Carolyn was “The Prospector,” a news sheet she produced each day during each one-week educational retreat held twice a year at Wildacres near Little Switzerland, North Carolina. I served as resident lecturer every third year for about thirty years and so had ample exposure to Carolyn and Steve’s efforts to make this wonderful retreat a success.

Carolyn and Steve first attended Wildacres in 1976 where she took a class in

Carolyn with leaders
Carolyn joins in a group photo of AFMS officials during the 2017 CFMS-AFMS Show & Convention in Ventura, California. Although the most diminutive in the group, Carolyn always stood as a true giant among her colleagues. (Photos courtesy Jim Brace-Thompson)

faceting, a hobby in which Steve was already involved. They had developed an interest in minerals when they visited a local club show put in by the Gem Cutter’s Guild in the 1960s. They joined the club and their interests grew from there.

Their 1976 visit to Wildacres started a long tradition that resulted in the couple emerging as leaders at Wildacres, organizing the retreat, selecting teachers, managing the housing, and doing all the important details that make the retreat a success.

As time went on, their interest in minerals grew. They joined other clubs and expanded their collecting interests to include thumbnail and micromount minerals so their collection now contains about 10,000 mounted and catalogued specimens. Steve also developed a skill in microphotography which, in his words, was ‘to capture the essence of many of these micros.”

Steve and Carolyn’s involvement in the noted Rochester Mineral Symposium each year has been important. Since micro mount minerals are among their interests, they would bring microscopes to the symposium so that people could enjoy minerals during free time. To tell you how dedicated she was to the symposium, when Carolyn was really ill in her fight, she browbeat her doctor (that sounds like the school principal she was) to allow her to make the long five-day effort to Rochester with Steve.

Contributions Of Perpetual Influence

Carolyn’s efforts locally would overwhelm many of us. As a member of local mineral clubs including the Baltimore Mineral Society and Micro-Mineralogists of the Capitol area, she held board positions taking notes and minutes, maintained mailing lists, did club flyers, ran a booth at club shows, and even devised a rock hound quiz all while holding offices and committee assignments for her clubs. In all her activities and associations with clubs and collectors she was always mentoring and offering guidance. To quote Steve, “Her long history was the reason she was called on frequently to help solve problems and give advice.”

It was important to Carolyn and is important to Steve to carry on the work they did as a “unit.” What they have accomplished is beyond significant.

Carolyn at EFSFMS show
Carolyn hobnobs while her husband takes photos at the 2011 Eastern Federation-AFMS Show & Convention in Syracuse, New York.

To all who are in our hobby, Steve offers this observation: “Like so many endeavors, the world continues and other people have to pick up the duties that Carolyn performed. She did them without complaint and with a spirit of advancing our hobby, not with any need for recognition or glory.”

Thanks to Robert Livingston, Carl Miller, Michael Seeds, David Nock, Bernie and Lynne Emery, and most especially Steve Weinberger for their much appreciated help in honoring this great person.

Editor’s Note: At the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical and Lapidary Societies Show in Monroe, New York, May 31-June 3, a proposal to create a scholarship in Carolyn’s name will be made


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