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Memorial ceremony celebrates life, legacy of DNR's Carol Comer

by Ryan Pivoney | October 21, 2021 at 4:05 a.m. | Updated October 21, 2021 at 10:01 a.m.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson remarks on the life and work of the late Department of Natural Resources Director Carol Comer on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 at the Lewis and Clark State Office Building in Jefferson City, Mo. (Ethan Weston/News Tribune photo)

Commemorating the life and legacy of Carol Comer, a new bench and tree were unveiled Wednesday behind the Lewis and Clark State Office Building in Jefferson City.

Comer, the late director of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, died June 9 after a hard-fought battle with cancer.

As a gentle rain picked up, dozens of staff, friends and DNR family gathered outside for the ceremony while more peered out from office windows.

The bench and tree are located behind the building in plain view of a patio Comer visited during her last team member appreciation event.

"That girl was nothing but true grit," Gov. Mike Parson said at the ceremony. "True grit to go through what she went through."

Parson also spoke about his admiration for Comer's leadership in fighting for the DNR workforce and constantly showing up, even when it became more and more difficult.

He recalled seeing Comer after she took leave for cancer treatment.

"I thought, 'Boy this don't look good at all,'" Parson said. "And lo and behold, a few weeks later, here she is again at another event and another event and another event, and then she's in Cabinet meetings and she's doing her job - staying the course on that."

Parson said he was proud Comer was on his Cabinet, and it was an honor and privilege to meet and work with her.

DNR Director Dru Buntin said she was an inspirational leader who had a clear vision for the agency and always found a way to uplift and care for team members.

"Nothing, and her team will attest to this, that Carol ever did lacked enthusiasm, excitement or passion," Buntin said.

Katie Jo Wheeler, DNR deputy director and a close friend of Comer's, shared personal stories that helped capture the personality and values of the late director.

"Carol was committed to her principles, she was stubborn as an ox and authentic to her core," Wheeler said. "So, it's really no surprise how eagerly she embraced the state of Missouri and its people."

Comer, who came to Missouri from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, joined DNR as its director in January 2017.

"When she set her mind to something, she did it," Wheeler said. "Whether that was visiting 91 state parks and historic sites within 10 months of becoming department director or baking cheesecakes and cream puffs to deliver to her team. She was not deterred when I moved to Kansas City last year - she simply got in her car and drove five hours just to leave holiday treats on my doorstep."

By the end of the ceremony, the rain had cleared. Comer's legacy, however, continues to live in the many lives she touched.

Print Headline: Memorial ceremony celebrates life, legacy of DNR’s Carol Comer


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