Nov. 11, 1941 — April 12, 2018
Carol Lee MacKay was a success in the insurance business for decades. But as she rose through the ranks of the profession, excelling at sales and management, she had a nagging feeling that there was something more to life.
Her transformation started slowly, said her daughter, Debbie Ritz, who worked with her in the insurance business. Ms. MacKay joined a Toastmasters group to polish her speaking and social skills. She began to volunteer with Hospice to assist the dying, then learned Reiki, a form of energy work. Finally, she took a leap of faith and followed her calling, leaving the corporate world to teach and inspire students and friends.
The popular and respected teacher, mentor and healer who was known and appreciated by thousands will be remembered with music and stories Friday.
A Celebration of Love Concert in honor of Ms. MacKay, who was 76 when she died April 12, will begin at 7 p.m. Friday in St. Mary of the Lake Church, 4737 Lakeshore Road, Hamburg.
She was born in Tonawanda, the daughter of Mary (Tuman) Walters and the late LaVerne Walters. She attended Tonawanda schools.
As a young woman, Ms. MacKay started working in the office of Western Electric, then moved to insurance, where she earned licenses to sell property, casualty and commercial insurance. She later managed the Lockport office of Riedman Insurance, where she excelled in sales, said Ritz. But after 30 years in the business world, her daughter said, Ms. MacKay decided to see what else was out there.
"It started slowly," her daughter said. In addition to Toastmasters, she volunteered with Hospice in Niagara County, "where she was the end-of-life person to help people make their transitions if they had no family or their family was unable to be with them," said Ritz. "She was very intuitive."
As her involvement deepened, Ms. MacKay left the corporate world. She was ordained a minister at the Fellowship of the Spirit Lakeside Learning Center at Lily Dale. She became a Reiki master, one of few in the area at that time, and certified many students in Reiki energy work. She founded a company called Accelerated Healing, teaching classes, workshops and retreats on such topics as healing, personal growth and intuitive movement.
Ms. MacKay lived in Lockport until the late 1990s, moved to Bergholtz briefly, then lived in Williamsville for more than a decade. For the last year of her life, she lived in Fox Creek Estates in East Amherst.
After she became ill in November, her daughter said the two spent many hours together, talking. "We talked about everything, and I knew everything she wanted," said Ritz.
What Ms. MacKay wanted was to have her friends, Cory James Gallagher and his sister, Amy Gallagher, present one of their "Concerts for the Soul" in her memory.
Cory James Gallagher met Ms. MacKay about 15 years ago as a spiritual teacher, and he said she became both a friend "and an avid attendee of our concerts," since the concerts started about seven years ago.
"She was a gifted healer and visionary, and a powerful force in the Western New York holistic community for many decades, touching hearts, transforming lives, and sharing her many gifts," Gallagher wrote in an email inviting people to Friday's concert. "She brought joy and inspiration to all who crossed her path."
Shortly before she died, Ms. MacKay called Gallagher and asked to see him. They planned the concert, which she requested be called "A Celebration of Love Concert" and be open to anyone, whether they knew her or not.
"She didn't want anything traditional, she wanted something very specific to her, and unique," Gallagher said. "She brought a lot of people together, and touched and inspired many people. She was full of joy and really wanted to live life to the fullest."
"Even if you did not know Carol Lee personally, you are warmly invited to attend this evening," Gallagher said in the invitation. "Carol Lee had a wide open heart, and would welcome you with open arms."
The event will be a musical and poetic journey through Ms. MacKay's life, said Gallagher, with poetry by Amy Gallagher. A reception will follow.
Besides her mother and her daughter, Ms. MacKay is survived by a sister, Judith Sears; two brothers, Richard Walters and Jack Walters; a grandson and several nieces and nephews.
Ritz said she has been overwhelmed with emails, most of which say, "Your mother was amazing, she changed my life." She said the outpouring, including many communications from people she has never met, "has been quite heartwarming."