Margy Kitley Carlsen

Our Mom – chemist, botanist, biologist, teacher, expert in flower arrangement, judging and design, so incredibly intelligent, who teared up with the beauty of nature, passed away December 26, 2020 surrounded by her family’s love in her home.

Margy Kitley Carlsen (Kit to family and friends) is survived by daughters Karen Carlsen, Kathy (KC) Carlsen, and Kristi Jewell, son-in-law Jim Jewell, grandchildren Kitley Jewell and Kelly Jewell, and cousin Pat Patterson.

Mom was born February 20, 1924, in Little Rock, Arkansas, the only child of Lila Mae (Patterson) and Thomas Edward Kitley. After graduating from Little Rock’s Central High School, she attended Little Rock Junior College before transferring to Iowa State University where she majored in Chemistry, graduating in 1945.

There she met Vern. They married April 28, 1946, in Clinton, Iowa, where Vern began his career with DuPont. DuPont took the family to Kenmore, New York, Circleville, Ohio, and finally in 1958, Lawrence, Kansas. Mom and Dad were married for 54 years. They provided us with a “Leave it to Beaver” childhood.

It was family first for Kit. When her youngest could finally eat lunch at school, Mom attended KU to complete the requirements for science education certification. She taught at Central Junior High. Kathy took over her classroom when she retired. To “Mama” and “Papa,” their grandchildren were always “ssssomething sssspecial.” Our parents so enjoyed being a part of Kelly and Kitley’s lives.

Mom had many interests. She often said she loved “birds, books, bridge, and being”. We know her passion was gardening and flower arranging. Mom was a charter member of Prairie Acres Garden Club and belonged to the Kansas and National Associations of Garden Clubs in which she held local, state and regional offices and board positions. In 2006 Mom was presented the National Garden Clubs Member Award of Honor in recognition of her long-time service. Mom helped to develop landscaping at both the entrance to Haskell University and KU’s Audio Reader Sensory Garden, and with others she devoted hundreds of hours to maintaining them. She helped Girl Scouts earn gardening badges and held design workshops for seniors. Mom loved making arrangements, and if she wasn’t entering her own into flower shows, she was judging those of others as a Master Flower Show Judge. Mom loved the renewal of Spring. More than once she was moved to tears by the beauty of nature. While some people break into song, Mom would “break into poem,” reciting a verse or two that she had learned in school so many years ago.

Mom enjoyed attending the theater with friends. She was a Spencer Museum docent, a Master Gardener, and a Lawrence Library board member. For years Mom and Dad hosted friends for the summer holidays at their Lone Star Lake cabin.

After Dad’s death in 2000, Mom undertook her first solo travel adventure. She joined an Elderhostel birding trip in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. That lead to many car birding trips to Oregon, Arizona, Nebraska, Texas, Florida, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and North Dakota over the next eighteen years, and twice annual pilgrimages to Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas. Many hours were spent watching the birds at her feeders along with jaunts to Baker Wetlands, Lone Star Lake, and the surrounding countryside. Every bluebird sighting was quickly followed by her saying “It’s always a good day when you see a bluebird.”

Mom loved puzzles — jigsaw, crossword (always done in ink) and sudoku. She loved reading and would sometimes finish her latest book as the sun came up. Mom learned to play bridge at the age of 14 and played regularly with several social groups until COVID forced us all to isolate. She joined Karen in playing competitive bridge at the young age of 82, doing well in several sectional tournaments.

Mom had a long life, well-lived. We love her, miss her, and will remember her at her best. We will picture her working in her yard, creating her latest floral design, playing games with us, or zipping across Lone Star Lake in her sailboat.

Mom requested no public service. You may honor her by being with family, reading a good book, reveling in Nature’s glory, visiting a museum or Baker Wetlands, gardening, arranging flowers in a vase, playing bridge with friends. We suggest donations in her name to The Nature Conservancy or Douglas County Visiting Nurses in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.

7 Condolences

  1. Patti Benson on March 14, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    May the love of those around you help you through the days ahead. So sorry for your loss.

  2. Linda Mets on March 14, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    What a lovely tribute to your mom. She led a vigorous joyful life and provided a great role model for all of us. So sorry for your loss.

  3. Susan Metzger on March 14, 2021 at 4:47 pm

    What a lovely life she had! We should all be as fortunate. So sorry for your loss.

    Lynn, Susan, Hilary and Emily

  4. Mary Whitaker Davidson on March 17, 2021 at 7:53 am

    What a beautiful and full life! Thank you for sharing your mother’s story. You have honored her well. I plan to visit the Wetlands soon. My thoughts and prayers are with your family. Mary

  5. Tom Bell on March 21, 2021 at 11:26 am

    So sorry to hear about this

  6. Martha Branson Berger on March 23, 2021 at 11:00 am

    I love looking at this picture of your mom – bright eyes! Such intelligence. She loved her girls, and Vern, beyond measure. And she was ever so gracious and forgiving to this awkward neighbor girl. May she rest in peace.

  7. Jeff Hambleton on March 23, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    Nancy and I were sad to see that Kit had passed. She was such a good friend to my parents, and she will be missed, as was Vern. Your wonderful memories will sustain you during the days of grief, and then will take over as this time recedes into the past. God Bless.

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