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Kari FeldmannThe Globe and Mail

Kari Feldmann: Born Nov. 17, 1967, in Listowel, Ont.; died April 29, 2018, in Waterloo, Ont., of an aneurysm; aged 50.

Kari grew up in Southern Ontario with one foot planted on his family’s farm, and the other exploring the world. His childhood stories often featured Finland or Germany as backdrops, where his parents would take him and his brothers to visit family whenever they were able, and where he continued to return throughout his life.

At school, he was a math whiz, taking particular pleasure in cracking problems that stumped his classmates. Before he finished high school, he met Sharon, a quiet, kind-hearted and goofy girl a grade below. Before he finished his degree in civil engineering, they were married.

They built a life in Waterloo, but he was never done exploring. Kari was determined to show his daughter, Gabrielle, and son, Erik, the world he had experienced growing up: jam-packed with vibrancy and wonder, and big enough to do whatever they dreamed. He took special care in curating this world – when they begged to go to Disneyland, he took them instead to Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, the castle that had inspired Disney’s (much to their chagrin).

As an engineer, he spent most of his career quietly managing projects for the Region of Waterloo: a courthouse, public daycares, a paramedic headquarters, police detachments, a transit hub – always advocating for future-oriented changes he believed would better the community. Colleagues and friends knew him to be a quiet leader, a voice of reason and someone who they could trust to have answers.

He was quietly generous with his time. He used his professional expertise to guide the design of a new building for Knox Church in Waterloo, and spent nearly a week every spring at Cairn Camps, making repairs and upgrades, but mysteriously disappearing when credit was due. He took care to carry extra bus tickets in case anyone ever asked, and whenever someone engaged him on the street, he would unfailingly stop to talk, sometimes sitting and listening for the better part of an hour.

Despite his calm demeanour, Kari was maybe best known for his wit. He was a bad joke aficionado; one look at his mischievous smirk would expose the “comedy fest” playing inside his head. The uninitiated could rarely distinguish his deadpan humour from his serious façade. Kari’s rapier wit – always unexpected – was nearly impossible to counter with a comeback. A joke had to be shockingly funny to break Kari’s composure, but when it did, his delirious, incredulous laugh was always funnier than whatever had caused it.

In life, as with his humour, Kari was quick on his feet. Childhood health issues made him acutely aware that life is finite and fragile, and he lived rooted in the present. He prioritized his family and friends, and made a point of experiencing everything the world had to offer.

The day before he died, he bought a sailboat; although he was never able to sail it, he would never have any regret of a life not lived to its fullest.

Gabrielle Feldmann is Kari’s daughter.

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Lives Lived celebrates the everyday, extraordinary, unheralded lives of Canadians who have recently passed. To learn how to share the story of a family member or friend, go online to tgam.ca/livesguide

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