Alumni Profile: Doug and Marie Carlson Kyllo

June 5, 2014

It began with two painfully shy junior highers.

Doug had left behind the corn fields of rural Illinois, which he loved, for urban Chicago where his father, Pastor John Kyllo, had accepted a call to a small inner city Norwegian Lutheran church. He wasn’t finding Chicago to his liking... that is until one Sunday when a grandmother, mother and daughter returned to church after a trip to Norway.

After laying his eyes on Marie Carlson, he thought, “Perhaps this won’t be so bad after all.” She took note of him as well.

Marie recalls a time when the youth group was traveling for a weekend retreat.

“Somehow I ended up riding with Doug and his dad, so there we were in the back seat being our painfully shy selves, but then impulsively I grabbed his hand. I was so embarrassed I didn’t talk to him the rest of the weekend!” Marie said.

Eventually the Kyllo family was on the move again—this time to a church in a tiny South Dakota community—and thus Doug and Marie’s quiet crush diverged.

The LBI heritage runs deep in both families. Marie's father, Art, was a student and staff member at LBI. Numerous Kyllos attended LBI through the years, including Doug’s parents, graduates of the Lutheran Bible Institute in California. Through the influence of Doug’s father, a core of students from his former church in Chicago set out for LBIS, including Marie. Doug set out for LBIS as well from South Dakota, and their paths intersected again.

They had exactly one date—Winter Banquet. After the dinner they went to Carkeek Park, where their shyness re-emerged and they sat in silence. Doug thought, “Well, this isn’t going anywhere,” and that was that.

Each went their own way upon graduation, eventually marrying others, as well as going through the pain of ended marriages.

Doug worked in the banking industry for a time, but he had always loved woodworking. He began working for a building contractor and went on to establish his own construction business in the Seattle area.

Marie’s career path wound about a bit going from radiology to accounting and ultimately becoming a CPA. Her work at a CPA firm included doing feasibility studies for a senior living client. She is now Senior Vice President of Corporate Strategic Development for Lutheran Life Communities, a growing company with six comprehensive care communities for seniors based in Illinois.

Over the years, Doug and Marie’s families stayed in touch. In 2002, Marie’s mom suggested that Marie renew contact with Doug. She declined but then she received a group email from LBIS classmate, Willi Krajecki ’74, that was also sent to Doug.

Marie took the plunge, resulting in a stream of email exchanges.

“We could be very honest, direct and real through those emails,” said Doug. Emails led to phone calls and eventually while Marie was on a business trip north of Seattle, they finally met for dinner, ironically at Anthony’s here in Everett.

They married in 2004 and will celebrate their 10th anniversary with a trip to Prague in September. Both are adventurous souls. Doug enjoys boating, motorcycles, fishing and being a glider pilot, while Marie adores travel and new experiences.

As they recall their shared, albeit somewhat separate LBI experiences, Doug says that he still gets chills as he recalls the meaningful benedictions that President Conrad Lund shared with the community.

Pastor Bob Rismiller’s “wealth of scriptural wisdom” comes to mind for Marie. She says, “I made some bad choices when I left LBI, but the grounding in the Word left an indelible place in my heart. The reality of grace, of God’s love and that God wouldn’t give up on me were embedded in my core.”

In their lives with God, Doug finds himself thinking about life’s seasons and the gift of learning to sit and grow in between the seasons, saying, “Get comfortable with the season you are in.”

An interview of a man whose wife has Alzheimer’s disease has Marie pondering covenant relationships, both God with us and the living out of that covenant relationship with her husband.

Looking back, they realize they each chose the same LBI graduation verse, Psalm 37:4 (NRSV)—“Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Little did they know God had blessed them with a desire for each other back when they were painfully shy teens, only to be finally and fully embraced many seasons later.

Photos: The Kyllo fmaily owned the bicycle featured in both photos. The top photo was taken with youth at the Chicago church. (Far left, Al Hyland '72; Marie Carlson Kyllo '74 (in basket), "driving" Doug Kyllo '74; second from right, Marie's father, Art Carlson '50 from Minneapolis LBI and former LBIS staff; far right, Marie's brother, Les Carlson '74.) With the bicycle still in the family years later, Marie and Doug recently recreated the photo as a married couple.