Karen Viola Sallila Kelly, 77, was born on January 22, 1943 to Elmer “Al” and Viola Hanka Sallila in Astoria, Oregon and died on December 23, 2020 in Pullman, Washington. Karen’s mother died when she was 9 months old so she was raised for the first seven years of her life by her Finnish speaking maternal grandparents, Gregorious and Mary Hanka, on the family homestead outside of Embarrass, Minnesota. Al married Mae Peldo and Karen moved to Astoria to be with them. She graduated from James Madison High School in Portland, Oregon. She graduated from Suomi College in Hancock, Michigan where she met Jack Kelly—her husband of 54 years--on choir tour. Karen and Jack had three children—Rebecca “Becky,” Diane, and Philip. She was a lifelong member of the Lutheran church: first in the Apostolic Lutheran church and then the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.
Karen was a wife and mother while Jack served as a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Jack and Karen served congregations in Tacoma, Auburn, Renton, and Everett, WA; Helsinki, Finland; Gresham and Portland, Oregon; and Circles Pines, Minnesota. She also held many other occupations throughout her life: a teacher’s aide, an administrative assistant, a medical credentialing specialist, and an insurance agent. She and Jack retired to Moscow, Idaho in 2009. In retirement, she started her own business, Gifts from the Heart by Karen K, making soaps and lotions which she enjoyed selling at the Farmers Market in Moscow, Idaho.
Karen loved to sing. She began singing as a child. Karen and Jack sang in church choir and chorales and often traveled with these groups. They were members of the Everett (WA) Chorale and the Palouse Choral Society. They traveled to China, Europe, and New York with these groups. Karen sang lead in polka bands in Washington and Minnesota.
Karen loved to travel. Jack and Karen went on multiple mission trips to Africa with the ELCA. The northern Oregon coast was one of her most favorite places on earth. She drove the children across the US from Auburn, WA to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to the family cabin one summer while Jack had to work. Karen was also a talented seamstress and a gifted baker. She especially took delight in making Finnish baked goods every Christmas. She was also a gifted gardener. She loved her pets—Bonneville the cat; Sandy, Sisu, Kulta, and Sini were her beloved dogs.
As an adult, Karen lived with diabetes. In her later years, she also developed dementia. Jack and Karen moved into Bishop Place in Pullman, WA in late 2017. Many Bishop Place staff provided Karen kind, professional, and loving care—especially during the difficult days of the pandemic—they experienced personal disruption and losses and continued to care for Karen.
Karen was preceded in death by her husband Jack. Karen is survived by her three children and five grandsons: Becky (Kelly) Keran, husband Tim of Inver Grove Heights, MN, and sons, Peter of Minneapolis, MN and Sam of Duluth, MN; Diane Kelly-Riley and husband Michael Riley of Potlatch, ID and sons Will of Davis, CA and Steffen of Portland, OR; and Philip Kelly and son Austin of St. Paul, MN. She is also survived by her step-brother, John Peldo of Springfield, VA. She has many cousins, nieces, and nephews in the US, Finland, and Sweden.
Burial will take place at Freeze Cemetery in Latah County, Idaho at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family encourages you to make a donation to your local humane society or to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Global Mission.
Kramer Funeral Home of Palouse, Washington is caring for the family. On line condolences may be left at www.kramercares.com
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of KAREN VIOLA (SALLILA) KELLY, please visit our floral store.
HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE PALOUSE
2019 E. WHITE AVE., MOSCOW ID 83843
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (Global Mission)
P.O. Box 1809, Merrifield VA 22116-8009