- Kari Bierbaum
The family of Kari (Stolpestad) Bierbaum recently gathered in Islesboro, Maine, to remember her. Kari died by suicide on December 2, 2018, in Burlington, Vt.
Our Kari was born on February 11, 1967, in Bryn Mawr, Pa., to Bonnie and Arthur Stolpestad (of Brunswick, Maine, and Lynn, Mass., respectively). Standing together in love and courage were her beloved husband, Bruce, and son, Gunnar “My Boy” Bierbaum (Burlington, Vt); mother, Bonnie Stolpestad (the late Arthur Stolpestad), now of Crossroad’s Village, Portage, Mich.; brother Lars Stolpestad (Kari) and their children, Annika and Bjorn (Kalamazoo, Mich.); sister Rev. Kerrie Harthan (Gloria Korsman) of Cambridge, Mass.; aunt Candy Dorscheid and her Donofrio family (Madison, Conn.); godmother Gunta Hirsch (the late Bruno Hirsch) of Canton, Mass.; and cousins Ginny Drew and Earl and Bonnie MacKenzie of Islesboro, Maine.
Hailing from Brunswick, Maine, Kari graduated from Brunswick High School in 1985. She met Bruce at the University of Maine, Orono, graduating in 1989. They set up home in Burlington, Vt. Kari loved working in the University of Vermont’s Research Protection Office and coming home to tend to son Gunnar and his friends, as well as her vibrant garden. She was an athletic outdoorswoman and certified as a diving instructor and master gardener, perfectly reflecting her spiritual connection to nature. She was happiest when camping on Warren Island, swimming and kayaking off Leadbetter Island (both in Penobscot Bay), snowshoeing and skiing in Stowe, hiking the Green Mountains, and sailing on Lake Champlain with family, friends and Ebb, her chocolate lab, who still looks for her.
Kari was an engaging woman whose sidesplitting antics grew out of compassion, mischief and wry humor. Whether flamboyantly dancing to ABBA on a schooner bowsprit or pouring red wine on your white kitchen floor and tossing all your clothes around your house as her way of saying "Thanks for your hospitality," she endeared herself to you. You knew that she cared. Blessed with empathy and appreciation for the shenanigans of youth, she relished opening her home to her cherished neighborhood family, especially the young people now in college. She wanted you to feel at home, understood, content. Kari was kind.
If desired, a tribute to Kari can be made to the Vermont Suicide Prevention Center. She struggled with depression and anxiety, intensely, these last two years. Our family is committed to bringing heartfelt awareness, research and effective public health policy to bear on this widespread, treatable disease. We thank the St. Lawrence University football team, staff and faculty for their superb, loving support of Gunnar. We thank the Cremation Society of Chittenden County, a division of Ready Funeral Services in Burlington, Vt., for its compassionate aid, including a perpetual web portal through which you can reach us and VSPC: cremationsocietycc.com.