Carol Elizabeth Leach McGhee entered the world on August 28, 1958. Proud parents, Billy and Betty Leach of Middleburg, VA, quickly learned a valuable parenting lesson: no two children are alike. Carol, the curly-haired chatterbox, pillaged her mother’s makeup supply and high heels from a young age, parading around the house in front of her parents and older sister Nancy, declaring herself “Me Lady.” Strong-willed and a master debater like her father, Carol often tested his patience and the rules of the house. Fortunately, the child labor laws were different in the 1960’s, so Billy put her to work in his hardware store around age 5 in the hopes of lessening her resolve. As kids, Carol and Nancy spent endless hours playing Barbies in their basement and torturing Billy and Betty on long car rides with off-key renditions of the 1954 White Christmas classic, “Sisters.” 

Carol adored animals, including the family dog, cat and her brief legacy as the proud owner of “Carnival Queen,” an untamable pony whose bullheadedness was second only to Carol’s and Billy’s. Given the right rodent, Carol was also a natural predator. Not infrequently, she and Billy could be found in the side yard, blasting unsuspecting groundhogs with a rifle. 

When it came time to apply for college, Carol and Billy found themselves in two very different camps. Despite Billy’s clearly-stated intention for her to enroll at an all-girls college an hour from home, Carol plotted her escape to Virginia Tech, spending four years there making lifelong friends, waiting tables, and earning her B.S. in Sociology. Billy was less than thrilled, but found a silver lining in the Blacksburg restaurant leftovers she brought home on school breaks. 

After college, Carol and her first husband Ed decided to raise a family in her hometown of Middleburg. At the age of 23, Carol became a mom to daughter Katie and four years later to daughter Erin. Carol’s love and devotion as a mother was clear from day one, making time to puree homemade baby food, cheer from the blustery sidelines of the soccer field on Saturday mornings, and once tail behind her daughters’ school bus during a hail storm to ensure their safe passage home. 

The family’s running joke was that Carol had worked every job in town. Despite Middleburg’s commercial strip stretching barely a quarter mile long, Carol managed to work at eight different businesses in town ranging from caterer to clothing store clerk to bank teller. Years later, Carol discovered her beloved work family of 14 years at Toth Financial in Leesburg, VA, working as their Director of Client Services until her retirement in 2019.  

Carol met the love of her life, Doug “Roe” McGhee, beneath the fluorescent lights of the Middleburg Safeway’s produce aisle. The two married in 2001 and enjoyed many incredible years together traveling to their Highland County cabin, raising their beloved black lab Gunner, and belly laughing with friends and family. 

Stretching as far back as her days at Middleburg Elementary School, Carol collected friends from every stage of life and poured herself into those friendships over the years. Many of their origin stories begin in much the same way: yard sales. These weren’t your casual Saturday morning drives to see who might have a few trinkets laid out on their front lawn. Carol cut her teeth on annual neighborhood-wide yard sale events, working her way up to a 43-mile highway sale through the Shenandoah Valley with her dozen closest and most unruly girlfriends. A master of her trade, Carol was a formidable haggler and persuasive bidder to many a clueless husband when wives were out of earshot. 

Embodying the values instilled in her by both Billy and Betty from a young age, Carol was fiercely devoted to her family. As their parents aged and faced illness, Carol and Nancy ensured both Billy and Betty were able to live out their lives in the comfort of their own home in Middleburg. With both her daughters living in Seattle, Carol never hesitated to jet across the country to explore the city and mountains with them, attend both their weddings, and embrace her role as “Grandma” to her curly-haired grandchildren upon their arrival.

In 2018, Carol received a challenging cancer diagnosis and began her heroic and unflinching battle against her disease. With Roe standing by her side every day for nearly four years, and family and friends supporting her from near and far away, Carol surpassed every timeline predicted by her doctors. As was Carol’s unique skill, she formed community and friendships in every medical facility she entered. During a particularly long stay at Fairfax Inova Hospital, Carol built a fan base of nurses, doctors, and cleaning crew teams alike. Nurses could be found in her hospital room visiting during their breaks, giving her a pedicure and in the days leading up to her release, showering her with goodbye cards and handmade gifts. Over the course of her illness, Carol shared a mantra with friends and family that she very much lived and breathed: “So much of a situation is what you make of it.” 

Carol made it clear that she didn’t want to be defined by or remembered for her disease. In honor of her wishes, we would instead like to turn your attention to everything else that made Carol a treasured mother, wife, daughter, grandmother, aunt, and friend. There is no debating that the first thing everyone noticed about Carol was her knockout smile. A genuine, warm, electrifying smile that could melt the frigid exterior of a DMV worker. A self-proclaimed clotheshorse, Carol was effortlessly stylish and could whip together an outfit befitting any occasion. For those who knew her well, it was clear that the way to Carol’s heart could be achieved with a Bloody Mary, lobster, or her mother’s double-cream cherry pie. Carol never knew an awkward silence. She extracted life stories from people whether seated next to them on a 5-hour flight or standing in line at the post office. Roe and the family regularly referred to her as the “reporter” for the minute-by-minute detailed updates she shared looking out the window on car rides. While Billy would debate this detail, Carol saw herself as less of a rule breaker and instead as someone who saw the rules as open to interpretation. Sometimes this played out in the form of blowing past “no trespassing” signs when she wanted to explore rural parts of Loudoun County or unsuccessfully sneaking a flask of tequila into her daughter’s wedding, earning her the prized nickname “Tequila Carolita.” 

Making good on Carol’s wishes to keep the party going in her memory, the family will be organizing a “Celebration of Life” in the spring of 2022. 

Carol passed away peacefully at home on October 9, 2021. She is survived by her husband Doug “Roe” McGhee of Middleburg, daughter Katherine Leach-Kemon and her husband Mark Johnson of Seattle, and daughter Erin Leach-Kemon and her husband Matthew Logalbo also of Seattle. She was the exceptionally proud grandmother of Mateo and Neah Johnson and Adrian Carroll Logalbo. She leaves behind her sister Nancy Olson and brother-in-law Dan, along with nieces Sarah Caras (husband Jeff) and Becky Olson, as well as other dear family members. She was predeceased by her parents, William and Elizabeth Leach. 

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to Capital Hospice (capitalcaring.org) or St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. 

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