Kim (Thomann) Friese and Karen (Ronfeldt) Van Osdol, were two incredible women who inspired this event, just as they inspired so many of us in the years we were blessed to have them in our lives. Their lives, while separate, share many common threads throughout. You can read below about these inspirational women. We hope you feel their passion and radiance as you read, and are inspired by their strength.
Kim (Thomann) Friese
November 30, 1968 – November 26, 2014
Kim radiated beauty from the inside out. Most would have never known that she was fighting an uphill battle for her life. She was diagnosed with renal (kidney) cancer in June of 2008, and battled courageously until her passing on November 26, 2014. When faced with setbacks in her fight, she would always look forward to the next step and felt that if one door closed, another would open. It was Kim providing strength and comfort for family and friends, instead of the other way around. She fought her diagnosis with courage, grace, hope, and positivity.
Kim inspired family and friends not only during her battle with cancer, but with everything she faced in life. She enjoyed life to the fullest, and her zest and fight for life made many normal, everyday challenges pale in comparison when considering her fight in the short time we had her with us.
When asked to describe Kim, family and friends struggled to find words that truly captured her very essence. If summarizing her in one word, “radiant” would immediately come to mind, but radiant only scratches the surface. Consistent with family and friends in their descriptions were:
- Family-focused (Favorite moments were spent watching her boys’ sports or any activity they were involved with)
- Fun-loving, compassionate, loving, caring, positive, tenacious, determined, passionate, smart, strong, witty, full of humor and orneriness
- Great at giving advice (so much so, that it has created the desire in her son Alex to become a counselor)
- Always considerate of others needs before her own
- Loved animals, horseback riding, helping on the farm, cooking, gardening and the color purple
- Loved riding her bicycle, exercising, and being outdoors (including long walks with her dog, Chewy Lewis)
- Wonderful hostess (serving home-cooked meals and hosting her famous porch parties, which always ended in an abundance of laughter)
It only makes sense that she met her husband, Dave, on RAGBRAI, with their mutual passion for riding bikes. After they met, dated, and were married in August of 1999, they continued the tradition of riding RABRAI until she became pregnant with their son Ryan. Kim and Dave were married when Kim’s son Ben was 8, and Alex was 7, and Ryan was born in November of 2001. It brings those who were close to Kim much comfort when they see Kim in her children’s features and mannerisms.
Kim’s was known for greeting each family member and friend, always aware of what was happening in his or her lives. She was known for randomly sending texts to loved ones that would say, “I’m thinking of you and missing you today,” or for texting updates concerning her sons’ latest activities. She never realized how these messages would always come at just the right moments and the resulting impact that they had on people.
Family and friends described Kim’s farm kitchen as a magical place. They remember how great it felt to walk through that sliding door into the warmth of one of her hugs. Few memories can embody all five senses, but the memory of Kim in her kitchen does just that. The aroma and taste of home cooking, sounds of laughter, and little boys chasing each other around adult legs, the sight and smiles all around, and the feel of those reunion hugs. She made her home into such an inviting and comfortable place to gather. She would be so happy to know that those memories will remain with loved ones forever.
It was always evident that Kim had the “best hands.” She was a massage therapist for years, and her joy and excitement in helping her clients feel better, caused them to come back time and again. With her warmth, humor, and honesty, she endeared so many to her, and her to them.
A couple years before Kim’s passing, she, Dave, and her three sons enjoyed a trip to Colorado. She loved the scenery and spent a lot of time outside the cabin they rented in the higher altitude. Functioning at a higher altitude is difficult for many people because of the thinner air, but Kim never alluded to having any trouble due to the elevation. Instead, she took in the beauty of the nature around her with her radiant smile and created memories with her family that they will hold dear forever.
One memory Dave shared from this trip was about a hike to a nearby mountain. Kim walked outside and pointed at the mountain and told Dave she wanted to hike to the top of it. He agreed and they started climbing.
When they reached the top, Dave and Kim stood together soaking in all of the beautiful scenery before them. Kim then walked around for a few minutes enjoying her surroundings. Dave left her to her thoughts and sat down for a rest. A couple of minutes later they began hiking back down the mountain.
This would prove to be one of Dave’s favorite memories of their time together. The morning of Kim’s funeral, Dave went upstairs to their bedroom to retrieve some jewelry for Kim’s mother and sister to wear. Many of her jewelry items were already strewn across her dresser, but in the corner sat a beautiful silver jewelry box.
Most would assume that Kim would store her most precious jewelry in this box. Instead, when Dave opened the jewelry box, he found only four rocks inside. He knew immediately where the rocks came from. They were from their hike to the top of the mountain in Colorado when Kim said she wanted to look around for a little bit. She had chosen four rocks from her trip to symbolize the time she spent with her husband and three sons, who she considered the “rocks” in her life.
Dave proceeded downstairs and asked for each of her sons to join him to look at the rocks. He explained to them that their mom had picked them out in Colorado and asked them each to choose one to carry with them to her funeral so they could have something from her with them throughout that day. He never knew they were sitting inside her jewelry box for that long, and to this day he keeps his rock and looks at it often to reminisce in one of his most treasured memories.
Kim asked one of her best friends to make sure her son’s never forgot their mom because she loved them so much. She didn’t care what they wanted to become when they got older, she just wanted them to be happy and to know she loved them. She was so very proud of them.
Kim was the epitome of the word ‘inspiration’ by the way she led her life. Many feel like a piece of their heart is missing, but she will forever live in the hearts of those who loved her. Everyone who was in her life, no matter the amount of time, would agree that they are forever blessed for having loved her.
Please help us celebrate Kim’s life and the memories she created. She lives on through those memories and through her children. She would be proud that we are so inspired by her legacy that she left behind, and that we are carrying on the fight to find a cure.
Karen (Ronfeldt) Van Osdol
March 25, 1969 – April 20, 2010
A Tuesday child is said to be full of grace. That was Karen, born on a Tuesday and leaving us on a Tuesday. Karen was a ray of sunshine who brightened the lives of everyone she touched. Through her caring and compassionate ways, she lived and shared her faith with boundless enthusiasm and HOPE. She not only fought her own fight, but she led countless others in their fight through her example.
Karen was able to describe herself in just one word, which she shared with her husband on their third date, “Passionate”. Karen was passionate about so many things:
- Her faith in the Lord
- Being the best mom possible to Jacob and the best wife possible to Mike
- Helping and encouraging others
- Spending time with her family and friends
- Rescuing and caring for animals (Karen’s home was kind of a sanctuary for “misfit” animals as she found purpose in every living creature.)
- Volunteering with Relay for Life, at her church, St. James School, the local animal shelter, and for countless other organizations throughout the community
- And, ultimately, battling cancer.
The manner in which Karen embraced her many passions was even more amazing because she did it ALL while fighting the fight of her life. Karen was diagnosed with bile duct cancer in December of 1999. You would have never known she had cancer, and that is what so many admired most about her. She did not let cancer define who she was. She instead defined herself through her caring, passionate, and nurturing spirit. She took her battle with cancer head on and used it to not only draw closer to God herself, but to also share her faith with others. It takes a truly special individual to be able to go through what she went through, fight the fight, and yet still be a pillar and source of inspiration to others.
Outwardly, most people saw Karen fight this disease with grace, tenacity, courage and hope. That was just her way. Inwardly, many times, she was scared, angry, tired, and hurting – who wouldn’t be? This was a side very few ever saw, and she wanted it that way. She would have moments where she had these feelings but they were short lived and she would not allow others to see it. She wanted to exemplify hope. You would never hear her say, Why me? In some of her deepest, darkest times, she would be lifting others up with her smile, prayers, and words of encouragement. She exemplified what Jesus instructed in Matthew 6:16-18 when He said; “when we fast, do not look gloomy or miserable but instead wash your face and comb your hair.” In other words, do not show your suffering in order to receive sympathy or praise from others. Smile and be genuine.
She loved the Lord and wanted others to experience that same connection she had (and still has) with our Savior. Although she often called Mike her “Rock”, her true Rock was Jesus Christ and any contribution Mike extended to make her feel that way was only because of Him.
As voiced from everyone who contributed to this inspiration story, there are not enough words that could ever begin to describe Karen’s love for her son Jacob and for her husband Mike. They were true gifts from God, and were her daily inspiration. Karen would stop at nothing to spend time with both Jacob and Mike, QUALITY time, day in and day out. She made every minute count! She did this for everyone she was close with, family and friends alike. It was said that Jacob spent more quality time with his mom in 10 years than most kids do their entire life. After a day of chemo, being in pain, feeling sick and totally exhausted, she would sometimes lay down briefly at Mike’s request, but only if he promised her that he would wake her as soon as Jacob was home from school so that he would not see her like that. At one point, when the cancer had invaded her bones, the pain was so great that she couldn’t use her right arm very well. Still, if Jacob wanted to play catch during the day, she would be out there throwing with her left hand – she refused to miss anything with him. She carried his picture in her bible, which was always with her during treatments, Dr. appointments, and pretty much everywhere she went. She would never use the word hopeless but would say that she, Mike, and Jacob just needed time to adjust to all of the news and that the three of them would find their “new normal” and then “keep moving forward,” and that is exactly what they did.
Karen was described as strong, beautiful, graceful and full of life! It was her smile that stood out the most to everyone. It would light up the room. Her friends didn’t see her as their friend who was battling cancer. She was just their dear friend who they could laugh with, share stories with, lean on, and go to for advice, which they often did. Karen had a way of making whomever she was with truly feel like they were the most important person. She even said often “the most important person is the one who needs you right now.” She unknowingly taught her friends many things, which they still draw on for inspiration today. What stood out as unique and special was how she made everyone feel, and that so many considered Karen their dearest friend. Many people would say that you can only have one best friend, but she was truly that best friend to many. All of the people she brought together as friends serves as a true testament to the type of person she was.
Things associated with Karen were: passionate, the color yellow, smiley faces, kindness, virtuous, optimistic, daisies, dimes, pink flamingos, the bible, courageous and faithful. Because of her unselfishness ways, she gave all of her friends the gift of remembering her just as she was, a beautiful little blond girl who simply loved life and everyone and everything in it.
She shared with one of her friends that, “the Lord says we are to be his hands and feet,” and that is exactly how she lived her life. Always taking care of others, even when she wasn’t feeling well. She never thought of herself as a victim, and just being around her made you want to be a better person. It was felt that she was placed on this earth for a higher purpose. Her life, although way too brief, was a perfect example of what a Christian should be.
During her last days here with us, she had begun to develop fluid around her lungs and breathing had become increasingly difficult. She would be winded from just getting up out of a chair. Air is essential for life and she was struggling to get enough to sustain her. The night before she went home to be with the Lord, her last words to Jacob were, “I love you more than air,” the very thing she needed most – so much was her love for her son.
Karen did not lose her life to cancer, but instead lived her life in spite of cancer. Like Christ, Karen found strength in her sufferings as a servant to others. In this way, she was truly an angel of GRACE. Those that were fortunate to have been a part of her life in ways big or small will never be the same.
We want people to celebrate Karen’s passionate spirit and to be inspired by her faith and by the way she reflected the love of the Lord with her infectious smile and her genuine concern and love for her family and for others. Her favorite scripture, which is on her headstone, was Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” This is what she would want us all to know and how she would want us to live, and to do it with a smile.