Cover photo for Carolyn Odell Hardin's Obituary
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1933 Carolyn 2023

Carolyn Odell Hardin

January 11, 1933 — May 31, 2023

Mrs. Carolyn Odell Couch Hardin, passed peacefully on May 31, 2023 following an extended illness. Carolyn was born on January 11, 1933 to the late Coyette Odell Couch and Margaret Maynard Couch in Durham, North Carolina. Predeceasing her was husband, James Edward “Jim” Hardin, Sr., her son, David Odell Hardin, and daughters, Margaret Elizabeth Hardin, and Carol Lynn Hardin.


As a child, Carolyn showed extraordinary talent in the vocal arts. Her love of music allowed her to excel while performing as a lyric coloratura soprano in theater productions, choral groups, local church events, and weddings. Following graduation from Durham High school in 1951, she chose to attend Duke University in order to stay close to home (Carolyn grow up on Gregson Street about three blocks from Duke East Campus) and to become an elementary school teacher. As a student at Duke, Carolyn was known as one of “The Three Angels” during the time she performed with the Duke Chapel Choir. During this time, she also distinguished herself as the only female vocalist to perform with the Duke Men’s Glee Club. Carolyn graduated in 1955 from Duke University with a A.B. in Education. Carolyn and husband, Jim were huge Duke fans and very proud that Jim played four years of football for Duke during which he was a member of the 1955 Orange Bowl team. Carolyn and Jim enjoyed recounting that one reason for their love of Duke Football was due to the train ride they shared back to Durham following the 1955 Orange Bowl Game when, at the end of it, they were engaged.


Upon graduation from Duke, Carolyn and Jim were married and she began work as an elementary school teacher at the Bethesda Elementary School. Not long after beginning as a teacher, the couple started a family having four children: Jimmy, David, Margaret Elizabeth, and Carol. During this time, the family was actively involved with the Asbury United Methodist Church where Carolyn continued to pursue her musical interests by participating in the choir and appearing as a guest soloist in many local churches. Having a “green thumb” and being able to grow just about anything, anywhere, Carolyn participated in the Durham Council of Garden Clubs where she served as president of the organization for several years. Carolyn also devoted enormous energy to the Durham Junior League where she held numerous leadership positions throughout her association with the organization. Always one to volunteer, Carolyn was constantly involved in school activities related to her children. Booster Club responsibilities, PTA, sporting events, and hauling her children all over Durham County always kept her on the go. These efforts were always a challenge since, at some points, her children were in four different schools.


Initially beginning their interest in horses as an avocation, Carolyn and Jim began raising thoroughbred horses for their children to ride and enjoy in northern Durham County. In 1971, three of Carolyn and Jim’s children tragically perished in a house fire. Helping to fill the void of this loss, they immersed themselves in raising thoroughbred horses for sale and racing on tracks all over the eastern U.S. To foster and support the sport of horse racing in this state, Carolyn and Jim joined together with like-minded horsemen and women to form the North Carolina Thoroughbred Association. As charter members of the organization, Carolyn, and Jim each held various leadership positions over the years. They each also served on the North Carolina Horse Council for many years. When not involved with her family, the horses, and other civic activities, Carolyn found time to express her artistic talents by painting concrete statuary figures and marketing these in her small business called “Creatures by Carolyn”.


Known as “Nana” to her family, she was the happiest preparing Sunday dinner for the family, watching her grandchildren participate in sports, cheerleading, theater/musical productions, playing with “her babies” on the horse farm, and attending Duke sporting events. Carolyn will be remembered for her devotion to her family and friends, a quick wit and sense of humor, friendly warmth, and beautiful smile.


Carolyn Couch Hardin is survived by, son Jim Hardin, Jr. and wife, Lori, her grandchildren Carolyn A. Hardin-Robinson (David Robinson), Maren M.E. Hardin, and James E. “Jesse” Hardin, III., and a great-grandson, Thomas C. Robinson. Consistent with her wishes, a private memorial celebration of Carolyn and internment of her ashes in the family columbarium will be held in early fall so that family members currently not available may attend.

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