Class of 1961 Fall 2018 Letter

Fall 2018

Dear Luther Friends, Class of 1961:

Since spring, I've been thinking about what saying YES can do to/for one's life. I won't give a listing of the times we all say yes and it goes well and we're glad we said it. You can each make your own list. I've been known to wish I hadn't said YES on some occasions, as the results were not at all what I had hoped or expected. I know you know that from experience, also. 

But in May I was asked by a couple if they could stay with me for two nights.  I said YES and then they told me they were coming in order to accompany a 51-year-old woman who was going to walk from Rochester to Bemidji to commemorate the distance her mother walked from North Korea to South Korea to escape during the Korean Conflict in the '50s. I asked where this walker was going to stay and they said they thought in a motel in Laporte, which has two bars, five churches, and no motels. Our conversation enlarged and, in the end, the couple, the walker, Kyong Juhn, her friend from Chicago, and the driver of the Vets for Peace Van all stayed with me for two nights and parts of three days. (I felt like I was running a camp again; it was such fun!). After being here, Kyong's walk ended on the Saturday of Memorial Weekend at the sculpture of Chief Bemidji on the edge of Lake Bemidji.

These three days have proven to be very valuable for me and those who came for supper one of those nights to hear Kyong talk about her experiences and how her life changed when she began community ed classes after launching her three children. One YES for her ultimately led to a degree in Art at the Chicago Institute of Art, with a focus on photography. Her walk was funded by the SE Minnesota Arts Council, with the end being a promised photography show at several galleries around SE Minn. Those shows will begin soon. You can read about her walk by visiting:

The 30 folks who came to hear Kyong talk were deeply affected by her story. Then, to my surprise, Kyong asked her friend to talk also. Shinhae, who is 27, told that she walked from North Korea to China to escape the difficulties in her home country. She met a missionary who helped her get from China to Chicago and she is now a citizen of the United States. She is a student enrolled in a seminary and helps orient international students coming to the seminary. Another benefit was that the 30 folks who said YES to an invitation for supper not only met Kyong and Shimhae, but they met each other as well. 

My YES to this couple has opened up my life  to two new friends I otherwise never would have  met. Their courage and determination have me pushing my limits more than I have been doing of late.

I hope these thoughts are useful to you readers. How YES applies to Luther College? Those early pastors and lay leaders decided to say YES to Luther College in 1861. In every crisis that came along after that beginning, those leaders could have said NO and given up on the college. But instead, they continued to persevere each time there was a challenge. We can now also say YES to supporting the college. Luther has changed in many ways over the years, but the mission of preparing young people to contribute to our world each in their unique ways continues.  Let's say YES to Luther and see what we learn as a result. 

Your friend and classmate,

Karen (Gulsvig) Johnson
1961 Class Agent
28311 County 93; PO Box 145
Laporte, MN 56461
[email protected]


Karen (Gulsvig) Johnson of Laporte, Minn., is a retired social worker.


Mons “David” Kaehler of Rochester, Minn., died April 15, 2018, age 79.

Barb (Kumm) Nelson retired as choir director in four congregations after 52 years and as community choir director and accompanist after 40 years.

The full obituaries of classmates listed in this letter can be found on the Luther College website at:

If you would like a printout of the obituaries listed above in their entirety mailed to you, please contact us at: [email protected], or 563-387-1509.