Cindy Trailer; wife of TV star shined out of limelight; at 77

By Katherine Landergan
Globe Correspondent / June 11, 2011

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Karoline “Cindy’’ Trailer was known publicly as the wife of television star Rex Trailer, but the two-time beauty pageant winner mostly avoided the limelight. She found greater reward in focusing on the needs of others.

She temporarily housed orphan cats, took psychiatric patients on day trips, and welcomed poor urban youths into her home.

Mrs. Trailer wanted desperately to save the world.

“She used to cry at night,’’ said her husband, star of the local hit children’s show “Boomtown.’’

“I would say, ‘What are you crying about?’ And she would say, ‘There is so much to be done, and I can’t do it all.’ ’’

Mrs. Trailer died of melanoma May 30 at her home in Sudbury. She was 77.

Born Karoline Waldron and raised in Gloucester, N.J., Mrs. Trailer was better known by friends and family as Cindy. She graduated from Gloucester City High School in 1951 and worked at Sealtest ice cream and Woolworth’s department stores before embarking on a career in singing, modeling, and competing in beauty pageants. Among numerous pageant awards, she was crowned Miss New Jersey State Fair and Miss National Air Show.

In 1954, Mrs. Trailer was asked to sing on “Rex Trailer’s Ranch House,’’ on WPTZ-TV in Philadelphia.

“When I met her, it was love at first sight,’’ he said with a laugh. “She wasn’t so sure about me, but I knew I loved her.’’

On June 1, 1956, the two married in the Boston Public Garden and celebrated nearby at the Ritz-Carlton hotel. One year later, Mrs. Trailer gave birth to their only child, daughter Jillian.

Between raising a child and attending charity events, Mrs. Trailer dedicated her time to helping people and animals. She volunteered in the pediatric unit at Framingham Union Hospital and as a case aid worker in the psychiatric ward at Metropolitan State Hospital in Waltham. The patients she cared for in Waltham were the ones who never had visitors, her husband said.

“Time after time after time, the patient wouldn’t talk to her, but she’d never give up, and she’d finally break through,’’ he said. “These were people whose relatives wouldn’t visit because of the stigma of being in a mental hospital.’’

During the summer months of the 1960s and 1970s, Mrs. Trailer opened her home to youths through The Fresh Air Fund, a New York-based organization that sends urban youngsters to host families or to camp to experience country life.

In addition, Mrs. Trailer volunteered for Friends of Animals, an international organization that works to reduce the cost of spaying and neutering cats and dogs, as well as for shelters such as Dog Orphans and the Buddy Dog Humane Society. From the 1960s through the 1980s, she opened her home to lost or abandoned pets, with an average of 13 animals in the Trailers’ house at a time.

“She could never do enough to help people in need or animals in need,’’ her daughter said. “So she did as much as she could to contribute, especially [to] those that were really helpless.’’

Mrs. Trailer enjoyed spending summers with friends and family in Rockport and Nantucket. She was an avid gardener and loved hunting for bargains at Building 19. In her spare time, she read Victorian novels and listened to Janis Ian, Neil Diamond, and Bon Jovi.

“Everybody loved her, and everyone who ran across her loved her,’’ her husband said. “Everybody wants to honor her, for her life and to celebrate her life. She touched a lot of people.’’

In addition to her husband and daughter, Mrs. Trailer leaves a niece.

A memorial will take place next Saturday at 10 a.m. at the First Parish of Sudbury Unitarian Universalist in Sudbury. Landergan can be reached at