Carol Urner, 2012

Remembering My Mom

Kirby Urner
4 min readJun 16, 2023


Carol Reilley was born April 21 1929 in Chico, California.

Her dad, Thomas Dewey Reilley was a Linotype operator for various newspapers; they moved around. Her mother: Margaret Golden, and the genealogist in our family.

She attended Garfield High in Seattle, and much later in life received a lifetime achievement award therefrom, which I, Kirby, received on her behalf.

Carol developed her early political consciousness during meetings at the YWCA, when an undergraduate at the University of Washington, where she met her future husband, Jack Urner. That’s when they both decided to become Quakers. Bayard Rustin, a civil rights leader, was influential.

Carol supported Jack through his academic programs at Johns Hopkins in Washington DC, and University of Chicago, where he got his PhD in urban and regional planning, with an intent to live overseas serving developing nations.

However his first planning job was in Portland, Oregon, which is where the family gained its two children (Kirby and Julie).

Carol and her lifelong friend Mary Bolton became active with the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), and with Women’s Strike for Peace in particular.

In the early 1960s, she campaigned against the spread of nuclear testing (radioactive toxins were first showing up in the food chain), and against the normalization of “duck and cover” type civilian defense drills.

She wrote an op ed for The Oregonian against the ongoing escalation of military activity in Vietnam.

Carol’s focus on American-Japanese friendship started with citizen diplomacy and a trip to Japan. She joined others in organizing an annual commemorative ceremony around the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the intent to ban any future nuclear weapon use. These ceremonies have continued to the present day, at the Japan-America Friendship Park along the waterfront in Portland.

Congressional Award

Once Jack was able to launch his career overseas, at first working in Libya, then over subsequent decades in the Philippines, Egypt, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Lesotho, Carol found ways to exercise her talents working with the poorest of the poor in each country.

During the Libya chapter, when the family was based in Rome, she tried her hand as a novelist, writing two works of historical fiction, Seven Days to Judgement (about a Black activist) and The Lions and the Lamb (about Jacoba of Settesoli, late 1100s) both unpublished.

In the Philippines she worked as a volunteer for the rights of indigenous peoples, resurrecting an NGO (named PAFID) that had been shut down at the start of martial law. She received an award from the US Embassy for her work. She obtained her masters degree, in history, from Ateneo de Manila, a Jesuit university.

She also worked with impoverished shanty town women to help them develop a handicrafts and quilt making cooperative, work she continued in Bangladesh.

She and Jack worked with Right Sharing of World Resources (RSWR), a Quaker program, to establish micro-lending programs in both Cairo and Dhaka.

In Lesotho and surrounding South Africa, the Urners were active Quakers, attending the Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town in 1999 and becoming co-clerks of their Yearly Meeting.

Both were involved in a car crash in South Africa in October of 2000, fatal to Jack, and very injurious to Carol. She made it back to the United States to live another 23 years, wherein she again joined with Mary Bolton, Ellen Thomas and many others to continue her WILPF work against militarism, and against weapons in space especially.

Carol’s Walker

She was also active with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), serving at both the local and national level in volunteer roles (her son Kirby following in her footsteps). She was also a lifelong supporter of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) and Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR).

She and other WILPF members have their names included in Walk of the Heroines, a monument on the campus of Portland State University dedicated to the memory of Portland’s women peacemakers.

She attended WILPF’s hundredth anniversary in The Hague, and a subsequent WILPF Summit at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Quaker Meetings of which Jack and Carol were at one time members:

Florida Avenue Meeting, Washington DC
57th Street Meeting, Chicago
Multnomah Monthly Meeting, Portland
Southern Africa Yearly Meeting, Republic of South Africa
Sarasota Friends Meeting, Florida
Whittier First Friends Church, Whittier

Carol died on January 30th, 2023 in her Portland home. She is remembered by many Friends for her heartfelt sharing in Meetings for Worship. She is survived by her two children and grandchildren.

Walk of the Heroines (Portland State University)
Carol Urner (with C6XTY)