Carol Canner, class of 1959 (interview 2 of 2)


In this interview, Carol Canner, Brown University class of 1959, describes the difficulty of mourning the death of her husband, Atle Gjelsvik, during the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Canner begins by remembering how she and her husband met at Friday Club while she was pursuing her undergraduate degree and he was pursuing his PhD. This fateful encounter led to their marriage in June 1960 and subsequently their two children. Canner explains that Atle fell in September 2019 which caused doctors to identify metastasized prostate cancer despite having previously received negative test results. She recalls caring for him and having many visitors in the months leading to his death. She notes that she was aware of the coronavirus in China, but that it never became part of the conversation as she was consumed with her responsibilities at home.

Canner goes on to remember that Atle passed away on March 13, 2020, just as the world was entering various stages of lockdown due to the pandemic. She explains that it was clear that she could not plan any sort of funeral due to travel and gathering restrictions. She goes on to share how she decided to have her husband cremated and spread his ashes in various locations. Canner laments that American culture does not prioritize preparing for the death of a loved one and elaborates upon the challenges of finding secular support. She closes by encouraging researchers to also listen to her first interview conducted in 2017.

See also: Carol Canner, class of 1959 (interview 1 of 2)


Recorded on November 18, 2020 via Zoom
Interviewed by Amanda Knox, Pembroke Center Assistant Archivist

Suggested Chicago style citation: Canner, Carol. Interview. By Amanda Knox. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. November 18, 2020.


Carol Canner was born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 11, 1937. She grew up in Newton, Massachusetts where she graduated from Newton High School in 1955. She attended Pembroke College and graduated in 1959 with an A.B. in English literature. Canner went on to obtain an M.A.T. from Harvard University in 1960, and an M.S.W. from the University of Connecticut in 1967. She married her husband, Atle Gjelsvik, in 1960 and together they had two children, Erik and Annie. Canner retired as the Assistant Director of Head Start of Rockland County, New York, and moved to North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Her husband, Atle, passed away on March 13, 2020.