One of my closest friends died Thursday night. Karl Vollstedt was the most generous and positive person that I’ve ever known.
I met Karl–and his lovely wife, Lorraine–at the first multiple myeloma support group meeting I ever attended in the summer of 2007. Karl had founded the Stillwater, Minnesota group three years before. Don Wright, who many of you know as “Minnesota Don,” the marathon runner recently featured on CNN, was a charter member of the same group; he still rarely misses a meeting, always accompanied by his wife and daughter.
The group was relatively small back then. It has since grown to close to 100 members.
Karl had a number of medical issues. Almost 80 years old, he had been battling myeloma on and off for a decade. His heart and blood pressure had become a concern recently. Karl hid all of that; you wouldn’t have ever known he was ailing.
One thing he couldn’t hide: Karl was going blind. It was unclear if his macular degeneration had anything to do with his myeloma–or the drugs he took to help control it–or not.
Regardless, Karl was always smiling. A big bodied German, his laugh and positive attitude were overwhelmingly infectious. If you were having a bad day, it was impossible to stay down when Karl was around.
And Karl was always on the move. Unable to drive anymore, Lorraine stepped in as the couple continued to attend the grand kid’s school events and gatherings with friends and family. The couple never wasted a minute, yet somehow it always felt like all of their attention was focused on you.
Another good friend, Barb Davis, stepped in a few years ago to help Karl manage the group. She called me Thursday to let me know Karl had collapsed and been taken to Mayo Clinic for emergency treatment. Barb felt his condition was dire.
Karl dying? It didn’t seem possible. He was literally and figuratively larger than life. Karl was a true myeloma hero. I couldn’t imagine a world without him. I was flying up this summer to see a Twins game with him. I would be staying with Karl and Lorraine at their welcoming Hastings, Minnesota home. We would snack together, laugh together and reminisce over myeloma friends alive and lost–just like we had when Pattie and I visited in November.
Now he’s gone.
I wasn’t with Karl when he died; I couldn’t have made it up from Florida in time. But I told him I loved him when we spoke last week. Karl knew. He knew he was loved.
Rest in peace, dear friend. Rest in peace. Pat and Pattie