Kari Taylor Jellema passed away on Monday, October 28th, 2019 at the John F. Keever Solace Center at the age of twenty-five. After 11 years of courageously battling rare autoimmune diseases, she decided her fight was over and was ready to meet her Lord and Savior, Jesus.
She was born in Fletcher, NC in 1994 and lived in the area her whole life. She was predeceased by her stepfather, Ronnie Rice; aunt, Deborah Jellema; her grandfather, Philip Jellema; her great-grandmother, Irene Sluder; her uncle, Jimmy Horan and her furbaby, Jake.
She is survived by her mother, Cheryl Rice; her father, John Jellema and step-mother, Debbie Carpenter; her brother, Brandon Russell and his wife, Saleena Russell and nephews Liam and Owen Russell; her sister, Chelsea Kennedy and nephew Jason Kennedy; grandparents, Bobbie Williams, William and Barbara Russell, and Peggy Jellema; aunts and uncles, Mark and Ricci Fender, Shane and Lynn Frady, Danny and Wendy Johnson, Steve and Marcie Jellema, and Shari Horan; cousins Steven, Tiffany, Josh, Katie, Michael, Erin, and Danny along with their spouses and children; and her furbaby, Harley. She is also survived by: her lifelong sister/friend Katlin Carithers and nephews Ryan, Nicky, and Walker; childhood sister/friend Misty Cates, husband David and nephews Dayton and Dallas; and niece Darlynn; childhood sister/friends, Lauren Graham and husband Matt, Miranda Jones and husband Tyler, Olivia Wright, and Corinne Homan; sister/friend Paulina Allen, husband Jason and nephew Gabriel.
As a child, Kari was always following her brother around. He was 8 years older than her and she looked up to him. They loved each other even through their many squabbles. His nickname for her was boostigoodal (made up by him when she was little) or c-whip because she liked to eat cool whip out of the tub by the spoonful. She had a few other nicknames, Kare bear, which was the most popular and what most close friends called her, boo-boo from a childhood friend, Kari May, Pooh bear that her Aunt Ricci and Uncle Mark called her, and baby because that’s what she was to her dad and I, our baby. When I would tell her I love you, she would say I love you more, then I would say I love you to infinity, and she would say back, I love you to infinity plus one. Kari was never a morning person. When she started school, we would have to get her dressed in the bed while she was still asleep, then scoop her up and put her in the car to head to school. At night she had to have her feet tucked under the blanket because she said there were monsters under the bed. This continued throughout her life, even into adulthood. It was silly but that was Kari. In her teenage years, she enjoyed going out with her friends to local stores and trying on hats and sunglasses, taking pictures, and just having fun. She also loved to go with her friends to Rita’s and get Italian ice every day after school or work. Her friends have told stories about how bad her driving was but they rode with her anyway and didn’t tell on her. The pool in our neighborhood was on the list of favorite things to do and you can tell from all the pictures they took while there. There are so many other great memories of her time with us and that is what we will cherish.
Her passion for photography began with her sister, Chelsea, who was a photographer in the Navy. Kari’s senior project was also based on photography and Chelsea was her mentor. They had spent countless hours ‘talking shop’ and developing her talent. Chelsea has said that Kari surpassed her in her photography skills.
Through her illness and many missed days and months of school, she was still able to graduate with her class at T.C. Roberson High School in 2012. She made three attempts at college, but had to withdraw each time due to complications with her illness. During and after high school she worked part time at Best Buy in the camera department. This helped further her love of photography due to the discount she received so she could buy all the things! She always had a camera around her neck it seemed, even taking the photos of her brother’s wedding while she was still in high school. She had to take a break from work because she was in and out of the hospital for about a year. Due to the many hospital stays, a normal job was not possible so she began to help her mom care for her nephew Liam, as well as Lyla, Gabriel, Abby, Izzy, River, Elizabeth Ann, Evie, and Ethan. This is when her talent for photography evolved by taking numerous photos of all her babies. She combined her love of photography and children to work at the hospital taking pictures of the newborns. Kari branched out at that time too, in creating her own business and website for family photography and pets. One of her favorite quotes was “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” During her most recent illness she was asked what is the one thing you wish you could do and she said, “Go back to work.”
In her shortened life, Kari was able to have a house built, purchase a new SUV (to hold all her babies), have excellent credit, and live independently. Unfortunately, she was only able to enjoy these things for a brief time. Kari loved all animals and even volunteered for the animal shelter, as well as fostering. She has two children named after her, Liam Taylor, her nephew, and Darlynn Kari, her niece. The one regret Kari had about leaving this world was that she would not be able to see the children she loved so much grow up and would they remember her. She will be remembered for her humor and quick wit in the face of all the trials. She dealt with everything with a smile on her face and a joke. Also her sassiness and bossiness, in Kari style, will be remembered by all her friends and family.
Kari had a strong faith and was very involved with her church family at Upward Christian Fellowship. This is where she was saved and then baptized. During this time, her relationship with God matured and she trusted Him completely, through all the ups and downs of her illness. In the margin of her Bible she wrote “Trust in God and worry about NOTHING”. Her love for God and her strength were an inspiration. She has touched so many lives and we believe she will continue to have an impact going forward. We are greatly comforted knowing that she is completely healed and in Heaven with Jesus. We will see her again one day!
A Celebration of Life will be at 3:00pm, Saturday, November 9, 2019 at Upward Christian Fellowship, 991 Upward Road, Flat Rock, NC 28731, officiated by Pastor Anthony Craver and Pastor Wade Zachary. A visitation for family and friends will be from 1:00 – 3:00 pm at the church.
Jackson Funeral Service is assisting the family with the arrangements. Condolences can be sent to the family at www.jacksonfuneralservice.comor cards can be mailed to the family in care of the funeral home. Flowers for the service can be sent to 1101 Greenville Highway, Hendersonville, NC 28792 the day before the services.
Memorial donations can be made to:
DIPG.org – This is an incurable childhood brain cancer that Kari was passionate about and doing fundraising for.
Anti-NMDA Receptor Encephalitis https://www.antinmdafoundation.org/– Kari was diagnosed with this in September 2017 and there is a lot of research that needs to be done.
Ronald McDonald House – Durham, NC – https://www.rmhdurhamwake.org/– This was a great blessing for our family when Kari had appointments at Duke and we had to stay overnight.
We want to thank all the doctors, nurses, nurse aids, therapists, home health workers, and medical staff that took care of Kari. We also would like to acknowledge all the friends and family who not only donated their time but helped with financial needs, physical equipment and incidentals needed for her care.