Caroll Cordts, age 84, of Madison, died on Tuesday, October 13, 2020 at Bethel Lutheran Home in Madison.

Mass of Christian Burial will be 10:30 AM on Saturday, October 17th at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church with Father Anthony Urban as the Celebrant.  Visitation will be noon – 7 PM on Friday at Rustand-Weiland Funeral Chapel with family present from 5-7 PM and will conclude with a prayer service at 7 PM.  Visitation will continue from 9:30-10:15 AM on Saturday at the funeral chapel followed by procession to the church.  Burial will be in St. Thomas Cemetery.  Online condolences can be sent at  While attending either day, please wear your mask.  We will livestream the funeral on our Facebook page.

Caroll was born on June 17, 1936, in Watertown, SD, to Marvin & Helen (Trankel) Swenson. Caroll always told the story how her dad thought for sure he was having a boy and had already picked the name Carroll out. When they had a little girl, they forgot to drop the second “L” so she would laughingly tell everyone she spent her whole life spelling her first name when asked for it. Her sisters affectionately called her “Ceebsie.” She graduated from Watertown High School in 1955 and attended Northern State Teacher’s College (now University) in Aberdeen, SD, where she graduated with an Associate Degree to teach elementary school. While at Northern, she met her husband James Edward Cordts who was nicknamed “Tim” by his Northern State varsity basketball coach. She loved to tell the story how he got his nickname because there were multiple men named James on the Northern Wolves basketball team but only found out Tim was not his given name when they took out a marriage license. They married right after they graduated from Northern in 1957. She called her husband “Tim” throughout her life or “Dad” after they had children.  James preceded her in death in November 2014.

Caroll and James started their married life teaching in Wessington, SD, for five years before moving to Howard, SD, where they continued to teach.  A life-long supporter of James’ coaching career, Caroll was instrumental in his success by serving as confidante, cheer-leading fan, and sometimes referee’s “helper,” during the undefeated 1964 South Dakota State B championship season. Shortly after the championship, their first son, Bradley, arrived. After the 1965 school year, the family moved to Madison where Caroll left teaching for several years to focus on raising her new child and then the family added Robert in 1966 and then Jean Marie in 1969. Caroll successfully sold Avon in addition to her homemaking career, often taking orders and making delivery on her bicycle with a very young Jean Marie along for the ride.  In 1977 Caroll decided to go back to teaching, but found she had to now have a four-year degree. She completed a Bachelor of Science in Education, graduating Cum Laude from Dakota State College (now University) in 1979 at age 42.  She spent some time teaching at Lincoln Grade School, but she taught the majority of her 18 years as a teacher in Madison at Garfield Elementary School. She retired from teaching in 1997, but she served as a substitute teacher for several years after retirement. 

Caroll loved being a member of the Catholic faith, and she sang in the choir for many years at St. Thomas Aquinas. She was the lead soloist during several Easter Mass and Christmas Mass celebrations. She was a member of the Master Singers for several years. She loved being a member of the Entre Nous book club, her bridge club, and she was a passionate golfer for many years. She started golfing at Howard Golf Course, but golfed mostly at Madison Golf and Country Club, which was her favorite course.  She and James enjoyed many years of golf together, and she golfed in women’s tournaments and league play. In their later years, Caroll who was always a big hitter could hold her own against James who would jokingly remind his children that she got to tee off from the ladies’ markers. Mom was a constant gardener and extremely patient. She once waited over 5 years for one rose bush to bloom. Once she got it blooming, it produced dozens of roses each year. Caroll was the travel planner coordinator for an annual family summer vacation, usually in a station wagon or sedan with never fewer than five people and often six that rivaled the fictional movie family “the Griswold’s.” The summer vacation usually involved travel to the east coast at Frostburg, MD, or Los Angeles, CA, to see relatives, with stops always to see family and friends in places like Chicago, Ill, Denver or Aspen, CO. What made these trips so memorable were Mom’s infectious laugh and historic sensibilities to see important historical cities like Gettysburg, PA, Harpers Ferry, WV, Washington, DC, and of course, Disneyland. After retirement, she and James travelled extensively to see their children as well as sight-see all over the country.  As Grandma Cordts, she upped her travel planning game to take Jean Marie and her husband Michael and their three children to Disney World. She loved spoiling her grandchildren, and she proudly wore her Mickey Mouse sweatshirt to the end. Caroll was also the original human “MapQuest” as she often convinced James not to take his famous but ill-advised short cuts.  Caroll served as a Cub Scout Den mother for several years, but for years before and after, she opened her home to every friend of her children in the neighborhood and in later years their friends from college. She hosted the annual post-race party for dozens of runners after the famous Madison Egan Avenue Mile. She went to almost every football game, basketball game, wrestling match, track meet, cross country meet or band event that her children participated in, but she went to all things Madison Bulldogs even after her children had graduated. She especially enjoyed watching her son Robert coach cross country and track for Madison. She and James were inseparable in life and sports, and she became an expert track meet official serving often as clerk of the course.  Mom’s ability to find humor in any situation quickly made many enduring friends in every place they lived or visited. She was especially proud that she and James were able to send all three children to South Dakota State University, where they all graduated, and she and her children would jokingly say her kids were three Jackrabbits raised by Wolves.

Caroll was preceded in death by her parents and her baby brother John who died as a toddler, and she is survived by her two sisters Ruthann Balas of Denver, Colorado and Ginger Swenson of Carbondale, Colorado, her three children, Bradley (Christine) of Germantown, Tennessee, Robert of Madison and Jean Marie Glanzer (Michael) of Vancouver, Washington and their three children, Sam, Emily and Ruth.  


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