Kristi K. Downing, 77, of Grand Marais, passed away peacefully Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013, in Rochester after a brief but brutal recurrence of cancer.
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Kristi was a beloved free spirit who was an artist in the kitchen and in clay. She nourished and nurtured others with her incomparable hospitality and unconditional love. She was a teacher and a healer at heart.
Kristi was born Aug. 23, 1936, in Neenah, Wis. She graduated from high school in Eau Claire, Wis., and followed her mother and brothers to St. Olaf College. She was a stewardess at Northwest Orient Airlines and taught high school English in Bloomington. In 1962, she moved to Rochester with her then-husband, Lawrence Downing. A year later, they moved to Oronoco and raised their small family on the banks of Lake Shady. In 1980, she went back to school to get her masters degree in marriage and family therapy. After that, she moved to the Twin Cities and worked as a counselor and rehabilitation consultant, and eventually ran her own business.
At age 55, Kristi was diagnosed with breast cancer and it was a turning point in her life. She bought a small, rustic cabin and floated it in to a beachfront lot on Hut Point, her family's land northeast of Grand Marais on the shores of Lake Superior. She named the cabin KK Sera, reflecting her "what will be will be" philosophy of life. At age 62, she retired, sold her Minneapolis condo and moved to her beloved cabin "KK." A few years later, she built an adjacent studio, and KKD Pottery was born — a dream come true after decades of potting.
Kristi was a longtime member of the Crossing Borders Art Tour and participated in her 13th annual event late this fall. For more than a decade, she taught popular raku pottery courses at North House Folk School in Grand Marais and Grand Marais Art Colony. She was the subject of numerous TV, radio, magazine and newspaper features.
Kristi was an extraordinary mother and grandmother to daughter, Kyia (Kirk Horsted) and their children, Jesper and Elsa; and son, Christopher (Teri) and their blended family, Liz, Sue, Brit, Becca, Austin, Tia, Kylie and Jack; and great-grandchildren, Amelia, Becker and Eli. She is survived by her three big brothers, Oz (Jean), Joel (Louise) and Mark (Donna) Anderson; numerous nieces and nephews; and countless friends from Thunder Bay to Coral Bay (USVI).
Memorials should be directed to North House Folk School, where the family plans to establish a KKD mentorship scholarship to encourage and support promising artists.
Published in The Post-Bulletin on Dec. 10, 2013