Changing Aging Blog

Irene Carlson's Dream Come True
Date: Nov 19th, 2013 8:00am


Ben Taylor

 Irene Carlson had a musical, infectious laugh and a wonderful sense of humor.  When she walked around Ecumen Parmly LifePointes in Chisago City for most of her life-- first as a volunteer then later as a resident-- her laugh warmed the halls.  Both she and husband Wally were dedicated volunteers. 

Irene loved rolling residents to their doctor’s appointments and doing their hair in the campus salon.  Once her pastor came to the salon when she was volunteering, and she offered to do his hair. While she was shampooing him, he fell asleep in the chair.  Irene woke him up, but not before she outfitted him in a hideous curly wig.  He thought she had given him a perm.  Irene laughed and laughed, and they’re still talking about that day so reminiscent of her fun-loving spirit.

Irene and Wally, who ran the BP service station in Lindstrom, were known throughout the community for their generosity and community service.  In fact, Wally was on the Parmly LifePointes board for 19 years.  Their sons still run the service station.

About three years ago, Irene had some health problems and moved into Parmly LifePointes.  And not long after, Wally followed.  The day Wally moved in, Irene fell and broke her back.  It was a long recovery, and during that time Irene loved going along the prayer walk outside the chapel, as she had done so many times before her injury.  But the walkway was gravel and it was hard to maneuver her wheelchair.

Back in March of this year, she mentioned to Wally now nice it would be if the prayer walk were paved.  It was so beautiful and calming and uplifting, weaving through the pines and stopping at the plaques and reading the Bible verses.  She had walked it many times before her fall.  How she wished she could use it now.  Wally remembers that they talked about it several times.

But then in April, Irene died. 

Wally talked to the kids, and they all decided Irene should have that paved prayer walk she dreamed about.  Last Friday, November 15, 2013, the newly paved prayer walk was dedicated in Irene’s memory, thanks to the generous donation Wally made.

“This is a wonderful day,” Pastor Ron Gerls said at the ceremony. “Now this cathedral in the pines, this serene and holy place, is open to all, whether they are in wheelchairs or walking.”

Wally cut the ribbon and led family, friends and staff along the path that Irene cherished. Several wheelchairs made the trip.

The path circles 300 yards through the dense pine trees and about halfway through is a bench dedicated to Irene. “There was no resting spot there, and this was where she liked to go,” Wally said.

After the ceremonial walk, the group gathered at a reception with cupcakes, punch and coffee.  Wally, who is 92, decided that, on this very special occasion, he would go all-out and have a cup of coffee, even though his doctor would not approve.  So Wally drank his coffee, ate his cupcake and remembered Irene and all the joy she brought him.  He summed it up this way: “sixty-eight wonderful years of marriage, four children, nine grandchildren and 14 great grandchildren.”

Irene would enjoy this very much, he said.  She would love this new prayer walk.

“I know she would,” Wally said. 






About Ecumen Parmly LifePointes

Ecumen Parmly LifePointes is a nonprofit senior housing and community services campus located in Chisago City, Minnesota, just north of the Twin Cities, offering independent and assisted living, memory care, care center, rehabilitative, and innovative, holistic wellness services for vital aging.  Gifts from friends, families, neighbors and area businesses will continue to impact and enhance the services and amenities provided. Thank you for support and commitment to Parmly’s Mission of “Service to Seniors.” To consider a gift for Parmly, click HERE, contact us at 651-257-7332, or email.

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