Jeff and Karen Stoelk, a Love Story

Jeff and Karen met when they were both twelve years old, at church and dated through high school. After graduation Jeff wanted to marry Karen, her goal was to attend college. They kept in touch her first year of college then drifted apart. Forty-two years later their paths crossed again and Jeff asked Karen out for dinner and on October 13, 2012 they were married in Portland, OR. Now here’s the rest of the story!

Jeff-Karen-01.jpg

Jeff was born in an elevator, he just couldn’t wait, in Manning, IA on June 25, 1952. His dad worked for the railroad and the company transferred him to Portland when Jeff was twelve. Jeff’s dad was his childhood hero. Three years later his dad passed away, Jeff became the main support for his mother, two brothers and a sister working three jobs to help the family survive. Jeff graduated from Milwaukie High School in South Portland in 1970.

Mustangs.jpg

Jeff attended Southern Oregon College in Ashland, OR completing a four-year degree in just three years. He didn’t have much money or a college scholarship so at the beginning of each month he would pay for the next month’s tuition. He lived in a tent his first year and rode a bike to work and college classes. The school hired him as a Dorm Resident Assistant (he was responsible for one floor of students), which gave him a free room. The next year Jeff was promoted to Head Resident (responsible for all students in the building), which awarded him more perks. He graduated debt free, receiving two degrees, Criminology and Sociology.

Jeff joined the Oregon State Police Department as a trooper in 1974. He married in 1979 and was blessed with two daughters, the marriage lasted twenty years. Jeff ended his career as a trooper after twelve years of service and opened his own business working with the logging industry where he provided safety and security for various large companies. The Spotted Owl became an environmental issue, which killed many jobs in the logging industry, and Jeff’s business.  Jeff’s friend, an orthopedic doctor, advised him to look into the pharmaceutical industry for work.

spotted_owl_07.jpg

A side note regarding Jeff’s service as a police officer that highlights his true character. In December 1976 a family was heading to their home in Northern California, going over the Siskiyou Mountains when a drunk driver, going the wrong way on the freeway hit the family car head on, killing half the family. The drunk driver survived and Jeff found out this individual had 30 DUI’s over the previous five years! To this day when Jeff tells this story he gets very emotional. He was instructed, by his superior to visit the drunk driver in the hospital and complete the paperwork for another DUI, Jeff refused. Jeff wanted to charge the man with vehicular manslaughter, but the bureaucracy of the department and the sentencings for DUI’s were quite different from today. Jeff took his case to the Oregon State Attorney General who eventually sided with his position and the drunk driver went to jail for 20 years, charged with vehicular manslaughter. Because of Jeff’s efforts, many of the DUI laws in Oregon were changed and the DUI threshold went from .15 to .1 and currently is .08.

OSP-01.png

Now back to our story. Jeff was hired by G.D. Searle a pharmaceutical company.  He relocated to Las Vegas and began a thirty-year career.  Prior to its 1985 merger with Monsanto, Searle was a company focusing on life sciences, specifically pharmaceuticals, agriculture, and animal health. Searle is most notable for having developed the first birth control pill, and Ambien, a sleeping aid and the artificial sweetener NutraSweet. Jeff was a Sales Representative covering four states, Nevada, Utah, California and Arizona. With his focus on military and the Veterans Administration, he transferred to Phoenix, AZ. In 2003 the company offered a buy out for several employees and Jeff jumped at the opportunity.

Jeff was next offered a position with Cubist, a start up company with 70 employees worldwide. Cubist Pharmaceuticals was a U.S. biopharmaceutical company with activities spanning from research and development to commercialization of pharmaceutical products. Its main products target pathogens like MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) infection that is caused by a type of staph bacteria that has become resistant to many of the antibiotics used to treat ordinary staph infections. In December 2014 Cubist was purchased by Merck, Jeff’s territory included Phoenix, San Diego, Hawaii and Guam. He retired in 2015.

Karen Krafve was born in Portland, OR on August 26, 1952 but not in an elevator!! She is the oldest in the family with two brothers and one sister. Her dad worked for an electronic manufacturing company his entire career; her mother was a stay at home mom. She took part in the Portland Rose Festival her senior year and was a contender for princess. Karen graduated from Cleveland High School in Portland in 1970 and then continued her education at Oregon State University where she graduated with a pharmacy degree in 1975. “Even though I was good at math and science, this was more than a challenging major for me, I had fifteen terms of chemistry! I was so relieved when I passed the Oregon Pharmacy Board exam in 1975,” Karen said.

OSU.png

In 1983 Karen married and had three sons and one daughter. In 1994 her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor and passed away in 1995. At that time her children ranged in age from six to ten; this was a very difficult time for Karen. She belonged to a caring Christian church and had many great friends who helped her through this difficult time. Fortunately, financially she was in good enough shape to stay home with the kids while they grew up.

  All Karen’s children - Mike, Jerry, Karen, Scotty, Cheryl, Jeff.  Picture taken 2015 during Princess Alaskan cruise which began in Anchorage and ended in Vancouver BC.

All Karen’s children - Mike, Jerry, Karen, Scotty, Cheryl, Jeff.  Picture taken 2015 during Princess Alaskan cruise which began in Anchorage and ended in Vancouver BC.

Karen remembers very well receiving a letter from Jeff, out of the blue! Jeff had located Karen’s brother and wrote him a letter asking about Karen. Since Karen’s brother was a detective I’m sure he checked Jeff out thoroughly before providing the information requested. Karen was interested in seeing Jeff but she was on vacation in Peru with girlfriends. When she returned they connected and Jeff asked her out for dinner on November 3rd, 2011. Karen remembers getting lost on the way to the restaurant and that Jeff was a good kisser back in the day! They fell in love again!

 Jeff and Karen's wedding day October 13, 2012

Jeff and Karen's wedding day October 13, 2012

Jeff and Karen made their first trip to Chelan in 2013. Jeff was attending a convention at Campbell’s Resort so Karen jumped on her bike and rode down the south shore of Lake Chelan.  She fell in love with the area. Back from the ride she told Jeff they needed to consider the Chelan area for their home. Each had their own home and they placed them on the market. They looked at a lot on the south shore but that wasn’t God’s plan for them. In December 2013 they found the perfect spot, a property they admired before it went on the market, a two-acre building site on Loop Avenue. They designed the home together and Jeff took on duties as contractor starting with his shop. Unfortunately, part way through the build Jeff broke five ribs. They lived in their 5th wheel on the property during the building process. Finally, they moved into their beautiful home on November 20, 2017.  Karen says, “It’s still a work in progress.”

 An amazing view uplake from their home.

An amazing view uplake from their home.

Even though busy with the build, Jeff and Karen decided to join Craig and Chris Rayment and a group from North Shore on a trip to Israel in April 2018. “It was an amazing trip and the Bible came alive for us! We walked where Jesus walked and were baptized in the Jordan River by Pastor Rayment,” Jeff said. He is looking forward to more spare time and their next adventure.

 Pastor getting ready to dip Jeff in Jordan River

Pastor getting ready to dip Jeff in Jordan River

Karen loves riding her bike and Manson is a perfect riding area. She’s been an avid bike rider for fifteen years and has tackled “Cycle Oregon” a week-long 500-mile bike ride several times. She tries to ride 40 miles a week and is looking for a biking partner. Karen also fills in from time to time at Lake Chelan Pharmacy.

 Karen is looking for a biking partner

Karen is looking for a biking partner

They both love the Chelan Valley because of the seclusion from the big population areas, its beauty and wonderful caring people. They’ve attended North Shore Bible Church since 2014, shortly after the start of building their new home. They both said they love the people, the fact the church is Bible based and Pastor Craig’s sermons are amazing! Jeff and Karen volunteer as Ushers and Greeters, a very important ministry at North Shore and also help out at the Connection Café.

Together Jeff and Karen have seven children, a God daughter and five grandchildren. LaTangella’s (Jeff's God daughter) mom watched Jeff’s daughters when he traveled while living in Las Vegas.  She died suddenly, while pregnant with number ten.  She left behind her children and a husband (a Baptist preacher who was unable to help the children). Jeff paid for the funeral and burial and then began taking care of the children and getting them ready for school.  This continued until most of them had moved on, but to this day LaTangella calls Jeff, and introduces him as her dad.  My daughters consider her their sister.

  Jeff, Ashley (daughter), LaTangella (God-daughter), Lyndsay (daughter).

Jeff, Ashley (daughter), LaTangella (God-daughter), Lyndsay (daughter).

If you’ve not met Jeff and Karen be sure to introduce yourself the next time you see them in church.

By Norm Manly