By Thomas Sellers Jr.
The year 2020 was hectic and full of chaos.
Through several cancellations, postponements and virtual versions of traditional events, Millington resident Karroll Warberg kept plugging along with her normal approach. While COVID-19 shook up the world and Flag City, Warberg kept praying, cooking, serving and being vigilant. The wife of James Warberg and mother of Lauren, Erik, Darrell and Geoffrey dedication to the Parent Teacher Student Association and Millington Education Foundation impressed the readers of The Millington Star earning her the 2021 Woman of the Year Award.
“It’s a gracious things that people see you that way and a kind thing for them to do this,” she said fighting back tears. “I appreciate the kindness of people to do this. I’m very humbled. The idea of fitting in where you are and doing what you can.”
Karroll said her mother Marilyn preached that philosophy and the service of her father Darrell taught her other value lessons.
Growing up as a military child, Karroll spent time in and out of Millington growing up. In 1980 she graduated from Millington Central High School. After earning her degree from college, Karroll went into the education field teaching first grade at the former Millington East Elementary.
That same year Karroll met James while he was part of the Marine Corps.
When the couple got married and was living in Hawaii, they formulated a plan for James to complete his education.
The two choices were either Washington state or Tennessee. It was time to return home for James to finish his degrees and start his career at Memphis Light Gas and Water.
“He has made career choices along the way that kept them from being uprooted,” Karroll noted. “It was good for our children to know their cousins and take advantage of the pros of being home grown children.”
With Lauren heading to school, Karroll kicked off her PTSA career. By the time Geoffrey was preparing to graduate from MCHS in 2020, mother Warberg had a defined niche’.
“Generally because my children were in school, I was involved with the PTSA,” she recalled. “Primarily I do just the food part. I would always laugh and say, ‘I don’t want to do the fundraising part.’”
Her signature cookies, treats and food trays were a favorite of parents, students and faculty for years. Ms. Karroll Kookies also became a traditional part of MEF events including the annual check presentation to E.A. Harrold Elementary, Millington Elementary, Millington Middle School and Millington Central High School.
Warberg has set on the board of MEF since it’s reforming back in 2014, a few months before the launching of Millington Municipal Schools.
“Our greatest asset and resource in Millington are our people,” Karroll said. “We are so blessed with the people willing to serve our children. I am so fortunate to build relationships with our teachers and encourage them.”
Warberg said the little part she does with her cooking and kind words comes from her experience as a mother and teacher.
“I can’t change the hard things in your life but I can show I do care,” she said. “And I do care and food is a good way to do that.
“I love serving others,” Warberg continued. “Everything you do, do it out of love I think. Be where you are, there’s always a way to reach out to the people where you are. Build relationships, friendships and encourage one another to do that. You’ll be surprised of what happens. It doesn’t take a lot to make somebody’s day.”
Warberg’s teaching career extends from Millington to Hawaii and in fields like piano and GED preparation.
“I never had any great calling to education,” she acknowledged. “All I really did want to do is raise children. That’s all I really wanted to do. And I thought, ‘What goes well with that?’ And so the education part I felt gave me an insight to what teachers go through. I always considered myself an ally to them. Education is a great tool for guiding you to a career choice.”
For the final time, the home of James and Karroll prepared to send a Warberg off to college. The baby of the Warberg household provided Karroll with the highlight of her 2020, graduating as the valedictorian.
Through Geoffrey’s journey, life lessons he learned from his parents helped him in the classroom, community and soccer field.
“To God be the glory, I’m thankful,” Karroll said of Geoffrey’s integrity. “I think children watch more than they listen. They’re little sponges. I think the Lord they’ve learn and follow Him as well.”
The jewel of Karroll’s 2020 was in doubt for a moment because of COVID-19. But the administration of MCHS made a way for the Class of 2020 to have their day once the Tennessee Department of Education gave the clearance.
“I was very, very thankful they did a traditional graduation,” she said. “Whatever they had to do to make that happen, I know that was not easy on their part. A lot of logistical decision making and time, as a parent I appreciate that.”
Karroll said Geoffrey’s special moment of giving the valedictorian speech gave her personal gratification.
“His head injury his junior year, I think the Lord I wasn’t at that game,” she recalled. “His dad was there and he took great care of him. I meet them at the hospital. In light of that injury, I was thankful that the Lord blessed him with no lasting damage. To see him as a young man, and I say this for all four of my children, just to see him finish out his course I was very thankful. What might have been.”
Now the 2021 Woman of the Year is moving on to her next chapter for the rest of the year and will continue to serve her children and the children of Millington.
“Geoffrey’s season of changing is sort of my season of changing just like my other kids,” she concluded. “I’m thankful, just incredibly thankful for the teachers they had and been there. I’m thankful to live here in Millington and build those relationships with people.”