What do you say when your leader is gone? Karl Vollstedt was a friend, a counselor, a cheerleader, a confessor, a mentor and a father figure to a group of world-wise adults: in short, he was our leader. I was stunned to read the sad message sent out by Karl’s brave and amazing wife Lorraine describing his final hours in the hospital. I’ve read it many times since because I have to admit that a big part of me refuses to believe Karl is gone.
The other day Barb Davis sent the group a message reminding us of Karl’s last meeting and his outlook on life. In it he broke the “bad” news that his eye doctor said he was slowly going blind, but also the “good news that I’ll be able to see light and dark and shadows”. Karl wasn’t trying to be funny or ironic. He was being Karl – the Eternal Optimist. I don’t think he was unrealistic and I certainly don’t think there was anyone else hiding behind that smiling face. He chose to focus on the positive aspects of his life: family, friends, faith, and, lucky for us, our support group.
Karl’s optimism was not only reserved for himself. He gave out more praise and positive reinforcement than anyone I have ever met. And that attitude encouraged people to respond to his requests. No one wanted to disappoint Karl and I can’t recall ever seeing him disappointed.
We are part of Karl’s legacy. By enlisting Barb, Bev Culy, Diane Zimmerhaki, and myself to share group responsibilities (meetings, speakers, outreach) he knew Stillwater would be left in good hands when he was no longer around to lead it. Our tribute to him is to continue grow the Stillwater Support Group and to make it better, more responsive organization.
Gerry Landy, website manager