Cover photo for Carol Ornstein's Obituary
Carol Ornstein Profile Photo

Carol Ornstein

June 9, 1947 — May 15, 2022

Carol Ornstein

Carol loved life with such passion. She was a beloved mother, wife, a friend and an honorary aunt to so many, a carer and empathizer to all. 

She loved to be in nature, from her young adulthood when she built and lived in a yurt in the woods of West Danby; through decades of camping trips, hikes and bike rides with her husband and daughter; right through to the end, when she still found such extraordinary joy in small moments outdoors, seeking out trillium and skunk cabbage along the Bear Trail or the woods near Stewart Park. 

Born on June 9, 1947, to Ada (Scoll) Ornstein and Walter Ornstein, Carol was also especially close to her grandmother, Ella, and felt strongly connected to her Eastern European Jewish roots. Born in New Jersey, with a childhood in California and teenage years on Long Island, Carol found her deeply rooted home in Ithaca, where she made her home for 50 years. She first arrived in the Ithaca area in 1972, as part of a group that founded an alternative school called the Clearwater School. 

Over the years, Carol worked in many different roles, especially in libraries and schools after obtaining her Master of Library Science in 1989, and what she always loved best was helping and nurturing others. She eventually ended up as the library clerk at the Alternative Community School (now Lehman Alternative Community School), where she led such activities as bike trips and hiking groups, and provided a gentle, mothering presence to a generation of middle schoolers.

Carol always befriended and enjoyed the company of children, and when she had her own child, no one could have been happier to be a mother. Her love for her daughter Ella was enormous, and included great generosity: Carol always encouraged her daughter’s independence and curiosity, and delighted in hearing about Ella’s adventures around the world. The love between them endured no matter where they both were, and Carol loved the travel opportunities that came with visiting her daughter in the various countries where she lived over the years. When Ella moved back to Ithaca to take care of Carol for the past four years, they grew closer still.

Carol met her husband Richie Holtz in 1988, and together over the decades they created around themselves a circle of friends that was both broad and deep. Their community formed especially around a shared love of music, hiking, and social gatherings such as dish-to-pass meals—for example, at Richie’s sing-along gatherings held every month for the past 30 years. Throughout her life, Carol loved singing and was a great appreciator of music, taking part in many different choruses in Ithaca through the decades. 

Carol was passionate about social justice and equality; a deeply ethical person, she always strove to live her values, and she never stopped questioning and learning. 

As Carol fought hard against cancer these past four years, acquaintances commented over and over on her courage and strength. She wanted nothing more than to stay with her beloved family, and succeeded in sticking around for several additional years despite her worsening health. It was worth it to her—she had an incredible capacity to still enjoy the moment even when things were at their hardest. Friends knew Carol for her care and attention, her good listening ear, and her big, bright smile that lights up all our memories of her.

Carol was predeceased by her parents and by her brother, Michael. She is survived by her husband, Richie Holtz; her daughter, Ella Ornstein; and a widespread web of not only family but also friends she considered family. We are so grateful to have been touched by her boundless love. May her memory be for a blessing. 

Donations in Carol’s honor can be made to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes ( which has taken such good care of Carol, Richie, and Ella for the past four years; or to the Friends of Stewart Park ( which stewards not only the park at the foot of our beautiful Cayuga Lake, but also the Waterfront Trail that Carol loved so much. 

A celebration of Carol’s life will be held at a later date online, so friends and family from near and far can attend.



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