The overhead clouds were dark and gloomy reflecting the mood of the people who came to say good-bye to the vivacious, energetic, always smiling, fun-loving, beautiful, compassionate young woman.
Caroline had been diagnosed on May 1 with acute myeloid leukemia and two weeks later complications related to the disease had taken her life.
Not many people have packed so much into so little time, or had affected so many people.
Caroline had won back-to-back state championships in volleyball in 2007 and 2008 at Jacksonville High School being named to the All-State teams both years.
Upon graduation from JHS in 2010 Caroline accepted a volleyball scholarship to the University of North Alabama. After playing three years at UNA she transferred to Samford University, where older sister Elizabeth, who just graduated, had played. Caroline wanted to be closer to home and wanted to play with former JHS teammate and good friend Taylor Palmer, her last season.
While volleyball was so much a part of Caroline’s life, she will be remembered for so much more.
JHS Head Volleyball Coach David Clark remembers Caroline for the person she was, not just the player. “What made Caroline exceptional wasn’t volleyball, wasn’t her ability to play, it was who she was as a person,” said Clark.
“It was just the brightness and the smile and the energy that she brought to whatever she did. She attacked life that way. She was very special for us because I never saw her be mean or cruel in any way. She was always welcoming.
“She was the type of person that people wanted to know and be around. She had that quality about her.”
Clark went on to say that Caroline was a very good volleyball player but she was so much more.
“Her strong faith in the work that she did missionary-wise was a small part of what kind of person she was. I hate that more people won’t see that and won’t get a chance to meet her and let her have an impact on them.”
Over the years, Caroline has made four mission tips to Honduras with her church and her family.
Best friend, Taylor Palmer, who played with Caroline at JHS and on traveling volleyball teams, was a roommate with Caroline when she transferred in January to Samford. Palmer is finding it hard not to have her best friend around, “laughing at the top of her lungs or singing along with me to all our favorite songs.”
“Caro was the most wonderful friend anyone could ask for,” said Palmer. “She never complained or had a mean word to say about anyone. Anytime I needed help or anyone she knew needed help, she was the first one there.
“Her parents raised her to be a respectful, diligent and hard-working young lady. She worked for everything she owned and every achievement that she made. She never gave up on anything; it wasn’t in her blood to quit. She was even working out with the team at 6 a.m. the day she got diagnosed. She was mentally and emotionally stronger than any person I know.”
Palmer went on to talk about plans the two had made, like getting their moms to go with them on a cruise for Spring Break, and of going to Spain to see the world. They had plans on when they got married of Caroline having five children and Palmer three so they could start their own volleyball team. Caroline would go into business and Palmer would be a sports reporter and they would start their own TV reality show.
“She loved cooking and baking,” continued Palmer. “I got her addicted to chocolate chip cookies dipped in rainbow chip icing and almost every night after spring practice we would come back and make some to eat. She loved music too. She made me tons of mix tapes in high school and she knew almost every song on the radio. Country music was probably her favorite.
“There’s just so much to tell and so few words to describe Caro. She was terrific and I’m going to miss her more than anyone could ever know. She was my best friend…she’s still my best friend.”
The love that the very close-knit Neisler family had for each other was always evident. Parents David and Merry, son Allen, and sisters Elizabeth, Caroline, and Katie constantly supported each other. You could always see the sisters together laughing, having fun, enjoying each other and enjoying life.
When playing at UNA, Caroline would try to get away as much as possible to see her two other sisters play.
During high school David and Merry didn’t have to split their time to watch their daughters play and the parents were always courtside, encouraging, supporting, and loving.
Also watching the girls, filled with obvious pride were two loving grandparents, Dan and Millie Neisler of Jacksonville.
In a loving tribute to her sister, made shortly after Caroline’s death, Elizabeth wrote, “”The world lost a beautiful, strong woman this morning. The grief we feel is beyond words, but we know that she is in a wonderful new place having the time of her life. She is no longer suffering, no longer hurting, no longer worried…she laughs without fear of the future. I have not only lost a sister and best friend, but a part of me. She is in a better place and we will celebrate and cherish the life she had.”
The Neisler family comforted those that came to comfort them at the funeral services. The family’s faith was very evident that Caroline was in a better place.
As Pastor Derek Staples delivered his remarks about this “smiling, hustling, energetic,” young woman, a ray of sunshine broke through the clouds and came through the stained-glass window, shining down on the Caroline’s casket.