Carol Harstad, 1936-2018

Published 1:04 am Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Carolyn A. Harstad, 81, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, July 24, 2018, at her home with her sister and brother by her side, holding her hands. She was preceded in death a year ago by her husband, Dr. Peter T. Harstad, who she described as “My husband, my confidant, and my best friend.”

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Heritage Lutheran Church, 13401 Johnny Cake Ridge Road in Apple Valley. Visitation will be at 10 a.m. Her ashes will be interred next to Peter in a private family graveside service.

Carolyn Harstad

Carolyn was born Oct. 25, 1936, in Albert Lea, the first of four children of Walter and Emma (Frankson) Schneider. She was born in the apartment above the family business, Schneider’s Hatchery, and lived in Albert Lea until she graduated from Albert Lea High School in 1954.

Email newsletter signup

Carolyn married Peter Harstad on Aug. 10, 1957. The two met at Bethany Lutheran College in Mankato, a few years earlier.

Always driven and goal-oriented, Carolyn earned her associates degree at Bethany Lutheran College and her Bachelor of Arts degree at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in just three years. She tied the knot not long after graduation.

Carolyn and Peter started their careers as teachers in Flint, Michigan, from 1957 to 1958. While Peter earned his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin in Madison from 1958 to 1963, Carolyn became a mother to Linda, and helped put bread on the table by typing and editing dissertations. Peter’s career as an historian took them to Pocatello, Idaho, from 1963 to 1972, where the family grew by three: Karen, Mark and Kristen. The family later headed to Iowa City, Iowa, from 1972 to 1981, and grew by one: David. The journey next took them to Mankato from 1981 to 1984, and Indianapolis, Indiana, from 1984 to 2001. Peter and Carolyn retired to Lakeville in 2001.

Along the way, Carolyn had a wide circle of friends, with whom she enjoyed many laughs, as well as some tears. On her 54th birthday in 1990, she began intensive treatment for breast cancer. With tremendous help and support from Peter and from her quilting, gardening, and symphony friends, Carolyn bravely fought and won her battle. Her oncologist called Carolyn “my miracle lady.” About the experience, Carolyn said, “If were to name two things that helped me get through it all, the first would be faith in God and prayer. The second was my attitude. I forced myself to remain cheerful and happy and positive, even when I didn’t feel that way at all.”

Carolyn was a passionate gardener, and a committed native plant activist. She was a master gardener, nature photographer, popular lecturer and a regular contributor to several garden newsletters. She co-founded the Indianapolis Hosta Society in 1986, and the Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society in 1993. Indiana University Press published her three books, “Go Native! Gardening with Native Plants and Wildflowers in the Lower Midwest” in 1999; “Got Shade?: A Take it Easy Approach for Today’s Gardener” in 2003; and “Got Sun? 200 Best Native Plants for Your Garden” in 2013. Carolyn’s gardening ethic was to plant gardens in places where they can be seen and enjoyed by the gardener both outside and inside the house, and to plant what will flourish in the spot where it is planted — natives, sun, shade.

She is survived by her five children, Linda Becker (Vance) of Mankato, Karen Scislow (Jim) of Lakeville, Mark (Tiffany) of Stuart, Florida, Kristen (Tim) of San Jose, California, and David (Chris) of Bloomington, Indiana; plus 10 grandchildren, Carol, Eric, Kristen, Jonathan, Kathryn, Jennie, Jake, Alex, Elisabeth and Annika; and one great-grandson, Mark Joseph.

Carolyn was preceded in death by her husband; parents; sister, Kathryn (Schneider) Lederer; and a great-grandson, Peter Matthias Yenish.

Both Carolyn and Peter believed firmly in salvation through grace with faith in their Savior, Jesus Christ, and are now eternally reunited in heaven.

The family encourages flowers be brought or sent to the memorial service. The family asks that individuals make any memorial contributions to the Peter and Carolyn Harstad Scholarship Fund at Bethany Lutheran College, 700 Luther Drive, Mankato, MN 56001; or to Heritage Lutheran Church.