Karen Schoeld was born January 12, 1965, to Rachel and James Schoeld in Circle, Montana, where Jim was pastor at First Lutheran Church. She joined an older sister Kristi.
When she was two, the family moved to Carrington, North Dakota, after her father accepted a call to Trinity Lutheran Church there. Two more children were born to the family, a brother David and a sister Susan. During her years there, Karen sang in the church choir, performing solos beginning at age 4. She also was in Campfire Girls, and was selected as the School Patrol captain, attending the School Patrol Camp. She was extremely bright and vivacious. When she was in the middle of the 3rd grade, her father accepted a call to First Lutheran Church in Albert Lea, Minnesota, so the family moved there.
In Albert Lea, Karen was active in Community Theatre, church choir and played on softball teams. She also became certified in life saving and became a proficient pianist and flutist, accompanying the school choir and playing first chair in band. She was in the figure skating club, and she was a cheerleader for football and basketball.
Her family moved to Miles City, Montana in January when Karen was a senior in high school. She stayed in Albert Lea until the basketball tournament was over in late February, and then during spring break drove herself from Albert Lea to Miles City, choosing to finish her senior year there so she could meet people her age in this new community. She made many friends and went through graduation there, although it wasn’t a real graduation as she hadn’t been there long enough to graduate, She returned to Albert Lea for her official graduation, graduating # 5 in her class of over 500 students.
Following high school, she attended St. Olaf College, where she planned to major in International Relations with a minor in Russian Studies. She became very proficient in Russian, and she sang in a Russian Choir as well as the Cantori Choir. During her sophomore year she began to show signs of mental illness, but still continued her studies. The following year was difficult as she experienced auditory, olfactory and visual hallucinations. She kept going to classes, but she had to watch the professors’ mouths to see which voices she heard were actually coming from their mouths. In the middle of that year she checked herself into a Minneapolis hospital as she was having so much difficulty. She was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and hospitalized for many weeks before returning home to Miles City. There she attended junior college and was placed on medications which returned her to a stable mental status. Her senior year she returned to St. Olaf, and she managed to graduate with degrees in Psychology and Russian Studies. However, she relapsed the end of her senior year, when the doctor decided she no longer needed medication. During that year, the family moved to Seattle, WA when her father accepted a call to Bethel Lutheran Church.
In Seattle Karen became part of a trial study for a new drug called clozaril. She did well enough on the drug to be able to work part-time jobs for temp agencies, get her own apartment and car as well as volunteer for Maritime Ministries, meeting Russian ships and taking sea captain shopping at Costco, translating for them. However, her dream of a career in International Relations was stymied due to her diagnosis.
In 1999 her mental health providers made the decision to change Karen’s medication, which proved to be a disaster. Because of that failed experiment, Karen spent 10 years in Western State Hospital and then was moved to West Seattle Psychiatric Center, where she lived in a housing unit with three other women who also had mental illness. During this time she periodically was estranged from her family, due to the voices in her head.
Karen died unexpectedly September 3, 2020 after a brief illness. She is survived by her mother Rachel Schoeld; her siblings Kristi Schoeld (Neil Jorgensen) and children Marin and Sikeli Jorgensen; her brother David Schoeld (Nyla) and children Kaija, Anya, Noelle and Sophie; her sister Susan Schoeld (Steven Ball) and children Sabina Schoeld, Ashley Ball (Matt) and daughters Marlo and Nina; and Jessica Hawtree (Adrian). She is also survived by uncles David and John Almlie, aunt Kay Schoeld Gunning, their families, and a multitude of cousins. She was preceded in death by her father Jim Schoeld.
Her family loved her deeply, and we will miss her warm smile and her sense of humor.