If you work at Waunakee schools, you probably know about the Banana Bread Lady. That’s Carol Maas. Three times a year Maas makes and delivers her mother’s special-recipe banana bread to all schools “to thank them for all the love they give to our kids,” she said.
But she’s even more proud of her other title: Grammy. With her infectious smile and fashionable, short hair, Maas seems like the perfect grandma. She is devoted to her four children and nine grandchildren. Only 20 months apart, Nancy was born in 1976, Tom in 1978, Mary Kay in 1980 and David in 1981. Three are teachers: Nancy and David who work in Hudson, Wisconsin, schools, and Mary Kay who lives in Oviedo, Spain. Tom is regional sales manager for Hellenbrand Water Center and lives in the original Waunakee family home on River Road.
Maas, 74, beams when showing photos of grandkids. Some live in Spain, but all get together as a family at least twice a year at a “Christmas in July” celebration and a week-long Cousins Camp. To celebrate Tom’s 40th birthday in 2018, all the family did the WaunaFest Run.
Maas was raised in Hales Corners with two siblings, living over an appliance store owned by her parents. When only 14, she lost her father to a heart attack when he was 48.
After high school, she completed Saint Luke’s School of Radiologic Technology and worked in various clinics in Wisconsin until taking 14 years off “to be at home with my beauties,” as she says. After moving to Waunakee in 1990, she went to work at the local Dean Clinic, and still works there several days a week.
She was married to Ed Maas for 27 years, wistfully noting the eventual end of the marriage led to two of the greatest lessons she learned in life.
“One of the things my husband and I did wrong was we never really went and did things just the two of us. Everything was family. By the time the kids were grown, we had grown apart. It was too late. I encourage my children to get away—to reconnect—and leave the grandkids with me,” she said.
The second learning involved rebuilding her self-esteem.
“When we separated,” she said, “I read a lot of books to learn what all we had done wrong. We both made mistakes. The books said if you can get out of your comfort zone—accomplish something you are afraid of—you’ll feel better about yourself.”
She always loved riding motorcycles. The new philosophy set off an unexpected chain of other pursuits that would give the average person pause, let alone someone of her age. To conquer her fear of being underwater, she took scuba diving lessons. To overcome fear of heights, she went hang gliding twice, braved ziplining in the Dells, rode in a glider, flew in an open cockpit biplane, and at ages 65, 66 and 70 conquered (tandem) skydiving, She took a kayaking class and paddled the 6.5-mile Appleton Locks event. She mastered a half-marathon, then completed a 100km trail in northern Spain known for its spiritual experience and a 5.3-mile trail in Tenerife, Spain, rated as “difficult.”
At 64, she took up running, in a New Year’s Eve race in Oviedo with Mary Kay.
“We were last to cross the finish line,” she said. “Everyone was cheering. I didn’t know if that was because this gray-haired woman and her daughter were running or because they could finally go and get cervesa [beer] because the race was done.”
In 2012, she finished second in her age group in the WaunaFest Run.
“I was so proud I immediately called my siblings and my kids. Then I found there were only two of us in my group. We’ve had many good laughs about it,” she added with a chuckle.
Maas’ life has quieted down for the moment. She is enjoying her 20th year volunteering at the Overture Center and in all her younger grandchildren’s classrooms. But who knows about the future?
“My daughter once told me, ‘I don’t think anything you do would surprise me’,” she said.
“God has blessed me, and I’m extremely grateful for all the people in my life: my family, my work family, my patients, and everyone who readily returns my smile!”