“Lori Mann Carey was a mother and a friend to so many in the Madison community it is hard to discern the line of relation by blood or by love. Whether it was at an athletic field or a tutoring program or the annual Mann Scholars Celebration, Lori was there to see the beauty and potential in each child,” Amy Wallace tells Madison365. “She spent her life carrying the spirit of her parents as she advocated for all children to have access to an equitable education that allows them to be responsible, creative and contributing members of our community. It is now our turn to carry the love and light of Lori in our hearts and continue to make Madison a better place for all.”
As the Mann Scholar Program Coordinator, Wallace worked closely with Mann Carey in the Mann Scholars Program for more than 22 years to help Madison-area students achieve and succeed. Mann Carey passed away on Nov. 16, and the greater Madison community is mourning the loss of a well-known village mother on Madison’s south side, a mentor, and a trailblazer who spent a lifetime fighting for all students to have access to educational opportunities.
The Mann Educational Opportunity Fund was started more than 30 years ago by a small circle of family friends, along with Mann Carey and her siblings, to honor their parents, the late Bernard and Kathlyn Mann, long-time Madison African American parents and strong advocates for high-quality and equitable educational opportunities for all students enrolled in MMSD.
The Mann Educational Opportunity Fund provides mentoring support and educational tools primarily, but not exclusively, to students of color in the Madison Metropolitan School District who show potential for academic achievement but face significant economic and personal challenges in reaching their full potential. The program has grown over its 22 years in Madison.
For many years, Mark Richardson has been the co-chair of the Mann Educational Opportunity Fund’s board of directors along with Mann Carey.
“Lori was a loving soul and will be missed greatly – she already is,” Richardson tells Madison365. “She embodied the trait of compassion. If she could have helped ensure every child succeeded, she would have. Lord knows she wanted to. She and [husband] Vince made sure their children are ready to succeed and to pay it forward. But what I will miss most about Lori was her sense of humor – and that laugh! It was infectious. When we are done crying, we should make sure to laugh.”
The Mann Scholars Program is coordinated by Wallace and Pahoua Thao, the Mann Scholar’s program assistant and a former Mann Scholar herself, who spend countless hours working with the students.
Thao’s journey with Lori Mann Carey and the Mann family began in 1999.
“I was a high school freshman and newly selected Mann Scholar when I first met Lori. She had a gentleness about her that welcomed me with open arms and tight hugs every time we saw each other. She often asked how I was doing and then would genuinely listen,” Thao tells Madison365. “As an active teen, slowing down and being present for conversations took some learning. As an adult, I still find it difficult to slow down but when I do, those conversations make the personal connections even more meaningful, especially with young people. When I started working as staff with Mann Scholar Program in 2016 and after years apart, Lori embraced me with that joyful smile and contagious laugh without missing a beat.
“She made me feel right at home and happy to be back with family. I saw Lori’s activism for quality education and belief in young people exude through the Mann Scholars and their families until this day,” Thao adds. “As she keeps guiding and watching over us, we will keep her dreams of helping others and building community going, one conversation at a time.”
Achemsa “Cleo” Kum is a Mann Scholar and a 2020 Madison West graduate who is now a freshman at UW-Whitewater.
“I am glad and thankful to Ms. Lori for letting me be part of her life and a Mann Scholar. She has been not only been a mentor to me but like a gifted mom to me and I could not have had it any other way,” Kum tells Madison365. “Her impact on my life has enabled me to do more good. I know she is in a resting and peaceful place right now and she will forever be missed by everyone. Her name will be honored and remembered always.”
Halil Ahmed is a Mann Scholar who graduated from Madison Memorial in 2009 and UW-Milwaukee in 2013.
“The Ahmed family extends our condolences to the Mann family. She always greeted us with an extraordinary smile and beautiful spirit,” Ahmed says. “I didn’t truly understand the significance of being selected to a part of this wonderful organization many years ago; I still am realizing the significance. Her legacy lives on through the countless number of people her beautiful spirit has touched. Thank you for everything.”
Mann Carey’s son, Vincent Carey Jr., tells Madison365 that his mom saved his life.
“I grew up struggling with school. Just being misunderstood. She really saw my potential before anybody else and she was my continuous advocate,” he remembers. “Many saw me as a troubled student with a low GPA, but she saw me as a young man with untapped potential. She never missed a meeting, sporting event or opportunity to show me that she was in my corner.
“For example, I entered high school with a .7 GPA. That meant I was academically ineligible for my whole freshman basketball season. My mom did not let that define me, instead, she used it as an opportunity to teach me about perseverance,” he continued. “She pushed, advocated, and did not rest until I had all the resources I needed to have a fair chance. With her help, I graduated on time and with all the credits necessary to pursue my dreams.”
Carey started his own trucking business in mid-September and remembers when his truck broke down on his very first day.
“I called her flustered and angry. She calmed me down and told me, ‘We got you, but most importantly, God got you.’ And just like she had always done, she gave me everything she had to help me get back up and running,” Carey remembers. “This is just a testament to who she was all the time and not just to her five children but to everyone. She continued to support us all until she passed.”
Mann Carey was the founder of TaxMann Tax & Accounting Services and for many years she was an active member in the African American/Black Business Association and the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce, serving as treasurer on its executive board.
Mann-Carey was also a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., an organization that does wonderful things, especially for young people, in the Madison community. Yolanda Shelton-Morris was her Delta sister and a longtime friend and admirer.
“She knew me before I knew her,” Shelton-Morris tells Madison365. “My mom had lived in Madison all of my life and back in that day, the south side of Madison was a small community and everybody knew each other. I remember growing up hearing about the Mann family and the scholarship that was established in their honor. When I became an adult and had children of my own, I naturally developed my own relationship with the Carey family through our children.”
The sons of Mann Carey and Shelton-Morris played basketball together from third grade all the way to high school, so they spent an incredible amount of time together.
“Mama Carey would literally cheer from the beginning of the game to the very end and there were games where we were getting blown out!” Shelton-Morris laughs. “It reminded everybody that no matter what it looked like, we still need to encourage our young people.
“So we spent a significant amount of time together traveling to tournaments and games. My daughter also played with her daughter at [Madison] West, too,” she continues. “We became family through our children playing sports but I remember the direction that Mama Carey always gave me and the words of encouragement and advice in helping me with my sons. She was able to share her experience – at that time it was her fifth child coming through school – of being an advocate for students and making sure that their voices were being heard and getting the support that they needed.”
Shelton-Morris says that there are so many great things she can say about Mann-Carey that it’s hard to narrow it down.
“She was everything. I really learned a lot from her – about family, about being a wife, about being a mother. I really admired her,” she says. “I watched her from afar many times and watched her actions. She really left a lasting impact on a lot of people, including myself.
“You know you could always get a smile and a hug from Mama Carey. You could always get an encouraging word from Mama Carey,” she adds. “I really feel like she left a lasting impact on those that she came into contact with – especially the children. And through those generations of making an impact on young people, she made an impact on Madison.”
“I will miss her kindness and her gentle words. I will miss her laugh and her hugs,” Thao says. “I cannot thank her enough for supporting me as a Mann Scholar and guiding me to help many other young people and families. I am honored to be a part of the legacies that she and her parents began. We can venture on because of the belief she instilled in us and the guidance she will keep giving from afar. May she find peace and comfort. Thank you, Mann family, for sharing Lori with us.”
A service will be held for Lori Mann-Carey on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 9 a.m. at Mt. Zion Baptist Church, 2019 Fisher St.