Profile: Carol Napoli

March 3, 2017
By Marcy Shortuse

■ BY SUE ERWIN.    
Retired licensed professional counselor Carol Napoli has been coming to Boca Grande seasonally for the past 20 years.
Carol spent 18 years of her career in the Washington, DC area sharing her expertise on suicide and the effects it has on family and friends. It is her wish to bring this mental health issue to the forefront and help reduce the stigma around it in order to prevent the loss of life to cherished people in the future.
She led a discussion on the topic in February as part of the “Lessons Learned from Living” series offered by the Friends of Boca Grande Community Center.
“I wanted to provide a safe place for people to come and share their stories. Sometimes it’s too hard to talk – and that’s okay. There is as much growth in silence as there is in speaking,” Napoli said.
She was born in New Jersey and attended elementary and high school there. She attended Syracuse University in New York and earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing.
“When I was 10, my grandmother was very sick. I remember my mother saying that she wished the nurses would have treated her better. So I knew right then that I wanted to become a nurse, so I could provide good care for sick people,” she said.
Syracuse University was the only school Carol could find at the time that offered an on-campus nursing program. Plus, she wanted to be involved in a sorority. So, when she was 18 she joined Alpha Chi Omega. “That was a really lot of fun,” she said.
After working for 20 years in the nursing field, Carol was ready for a change.
“When my kids reached adulthood, I signed up as a hospice voluntee,r and later I was hired to work full time,” she said.
She loved that job, because she was able to work directly with patients in their homes.
“When I worked in the hospital I was appalled by how sick so many of the patients were when they were discharged. It was like they didn’t get a chance to heal.”
After experiencing several personal losses, she left the field of hospice after five years. She decided to go to graduate school when she was 50, taking classes in the evenings.
She went to George Washington University to study community counseling. “I was one of the oldest students in the class, but also popular among the younger ones. They always wanted me in their group, because they knew I’d do the majority of the work,” she said with a laugh.
After earning her master’s degree, she went on to specialize in grief counseling. “It’s really funny how it happened. I stayed in hospice as a volunteer in the children’s program dealing with bereavement, and the kids showed me how to heal. Kids have a remarkable way of healing,” she said.
While she was doing that, she heard about an organization called the William Wendt Center for Loss and Healing in Washington, DC. She worked with that agency for nearly 20 years, leading the children’s program doing play therapy and a host of other support groups.
She and a colleague started the Washington DC area’s only suicide support group in 1990, and they led that through 2010.
Carol met her husband, Louie, when she was a freshman at Syracuse University. They were both in the medical library one afternoon, when Carol and a female friend were skipping through the library, holding hands and catching the eye of Louie. He asked her out on a date the next time he saw her and they went to a Halloween party. They were married in 1967.
After graduating from college, they moved to Washington, DC, where Louie completed his internship and residency and eventually opened his own radiology practice in the area.
They have three children: Christina, 47; Eric, 45; and Ryan, 41. Christina has four children: Margaret, Thomas, Benjamin and Evie. Eric lives in Spain with his wife and three children, Kamil, Ilian and Lina. Ryan is an attorney in New York. Christina and her family will be coming down to visit Carol and Louie in March.
Carol and Louie have been coming to Boca Grande seasonally for more than 20 years.
At first they rented a place and then ended up purchasing property in Boca Bay. They were introduced to the island when a friend of Louie’s who worked for CSX railroad invited him down for a visit. “He came and checked the area out and liked it very much, so we started vacationing here,” Carol said.
Much to Carol’s dismay, Louie still works full time, seven days a week as a radiologist in Washington, DC. Carol and Louie split their time between Boca Grande and their home in Potomac, Maryland.
Carol spends most of the winter on the island, while Louie takes a week off now and then to come down.
When she is not keeping busy with family and her work as a volunteer, Carol enjoys fishing and kayaking. She has helped organize the Whidden’s Back Bay fishing tournaments for the past five years. The next one is planned for April 2, 2017, and she’s planning to participate again this year.
“The tournaments are actually fundraisers for the Gasparilla Island Maritime Museum, so I’m happy to help support that,” Carol said. She’s also a member of the Boca Grande Camera Club and enjoys photographing wildlife. An avid shell collector, she has thousands of them at her island home.
Although she thoroughly enjoys life in Boca Grande, she said she misses gardening up north and planting different kinds of flowers that don’t do well in Florida’s tropical climate. She once worked in a garden center and said it was one of the most rewarding things she’s ever done.
“Just being around all those beautiful flowers all the time, it’s easy to lose yourself in the beauty of it and forget about everything. It’s very healing,” she said.
Carol will be hosting a support group on the first and third Thursday of each month from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Boca Grande at Fourth Street and Gilchrist.
For more information, contact Carol via email at carolnapoli@aol.com or contact Hope Hospice Bereavement.