Joanna Karl
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KARL, Joanna


Joanna Karl was born on Aug. 18, 1951, in Cleveland. After completing a Bachelor of Science degree from Ohio University, she moved out west and completed a second degree in mechanical engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara. While living there, she spent much time building banjos, harps, and hammered dulcimers and traveling to outdoor fairs. She also managed a food co-op, typeset the local alternative weekly, and produced community radio programs

In 1987, she moved up to Portland and took a job at Metro, while pursuing a master's degree in environmental engineering. She was licensed as a professional engineer in 1993 and worked at Metro in solid waste management until the time of her death. She spent much of her time working on landfill closure, but was especially excited about working on projects involving water conservation, rainwater harvesting, and rooftop gardens.

For about 10 years in Portland she ran the Appropriate Technology Group which featured a speaker each month on technologies that reduced our ecological footprint by offering small-scale, practical alternatives. During this time she got involved in straw bale construction and helped to design and build a small experimental building on the campus of Portland Community College. Her particular role involved installing moisture sensors in the walls which would then be monitored regularly.

In 2002 she moved to Corvallis, but continued to work at Metro in Portland two days a week and took turns staying over various friends' houses on Monday nights. With her friend "Peace" John Helm she purchased a dilapidated house in south Corvallis and they worked on rebuilding it with straw bale insulation, earthen plaster, sustainably harvested lumber, recycled metal roofing, and an adobe floor with radiant heating. They also built a small well house with cob and prepared an extensive organic garden. Besides the physically hard work, Joanna specialized in creating colorful artistic windows and whimsical designs. Friends and neighbors joined in the project at a number of work parties. Joanna died on Friday, Feb. 29, when she fell while working on her house.

Her large number of friends will miss her dearly. They fondly remember her playfulness, generosity, and constant energy. For many years one of her favorite pastimes was contra dancing and she traveled to many events all around the area, including frequent visits to Camp Westwind on the Oregon coast. She loved hiking and cross-country skiing and commuted almost everywhere on a bicycle on which she could carry amazing amounts of stuff on various racks. In her spare time she took photographs and made calendars, colorful collages, napkins from cloth scraps, playful yet political buttons, clothing, quilts, sleeping bags and a variety of other items which she often gave away as gifts. She believed in making things, if at all possible, rather than just buying them.

She traveled with friends to Alaska, where she climbed the Chilkoot Pass, went up to the rim of Mt. Saint Helens, and rode her bicycle from Vancouver, B.C., to Cremona, Alberta, to visit a friend. She also spent time on the isolated coast of Washington where Peace and she carted out large amounts of trash.

She strongly believed in living by her beliefs and for over 25 years practiced war tax resistance. This involved filing her tax return yet redirecting the money to the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee and various social causes. In an autobiographical sketch written in 1993, Joanna wrote, "I try to live simply, respect life, and to impact the natural environment as little as possible. I attempt to be consistent between my personal belief system and my lifestyle choices (i.e. vegetarianism, bicycle commuting, and war tax resistance, etc.). I am also an activist in (hopefully) teaching by example and organizing around my convictions. It feels good when someone seeks me out either for information or to excitedly report on their own lifestyle changes." She succeeded remarkably in living according to her overall social and environmental values.

Donations can be made in her honor at or to a peace or environmental cause of your choice.

Her mother, Alice Karl, died in 2000. Survivors are her father, Nelson Karl, and brothers, Louis Karl and Michael Karl.

Published in The Oregonian on Mar. 9, 2008.
Memories & Condolences
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12 entries
March 19, 2008
Joanna was a special woman who will be missed by many people. I am so glad I had the privilege of spending some time with her when she was in Cleveland last November. It was great to see her in her glory when she took us Contra Dancing. I hope to go again in the near future and dance in her honor.
Marianne Nemeth
March 18, 2008
Please say hello if you can.I have in many ways come to know my sis since her death 2 weeks ago. Her death (in Engly;
michael karl
March 15, 2008
As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life’s routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
Alla and Alex Braverman
March 15, 2008
michael karl,I am proud to have been her brother and more than most she walked the walk and gave more than she took.
michael karl
March 14, 2008
I only met Joanna once - at Nelson's 80th birthday party - but I felt like I knew her forever. I've known the Karl family since 1978, and I felt I knew her through Nelson (we had the same birthday!). My heart goes out to the Karl family.
Vicki Stricker
March 13, 2008
Our thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of grief. May your memories bring you comfort.
Lina and Alex Feuerman
March 13, 2008
We are very much saddened by the loss of a dear friend who was a source of so much inspiration. We will always remember Joanna's great dedication for what she did, her bright, wonderful smile and her love for the color purple.
Ole and Maitri Ersson
March 11, 2008
I was honored to know Joanna when I worked at Metro for 4 years.
During this time, we shared our food, our thoughts our ideas on a variety of topics. Oh yes, we even exchanged cubicle chairs one day.

One day I was lamenting to Joanna about those pesky slugs eating my lovely hastas; serving them beer had been my lastest recourse.
I told her I hoped they had died happy. Joanna then turned to me and in a her gentle tone aid: "Olivia, all creatures have a purpose on this earth even slugs". As I reflected on what she had just said, I realized she was right!
Thanks to Joanna my slugs lived and my hastas thrived when I borderd the plants with coffee grounds.
And all flies, slugs and other pesky earthly creatures have been pardoned by me forever.

Mother Earth has truly lost one her greatest and dearest allies who had the most invisible carbon footprint around. Thank you Joanna for doing all that you did during your short stay on this Planet.
Olivia Jonason
March 10, 2008
Joanna was a driving force and inspiration in making Metro a more sustainable organization. We worked together on the green team at the Metro headquarters building for the past seven years, and Joanna was instrumental in getting so many projects implemented. She had so many good ideas and was always willing to do the hard work. I will miss the inspiration she generated, her good heart and warm personality.
Judie Miller
March 9, 2008
Joanna's lived a life dedicated to all that matters- a healthy planet, a peaceful world and nurtured friendships. Joanna's legacy will continue through all of the hearts she touched and minds she inspired.
Loriann McNeill
March 9, 2008
I was shocked and saddened to hear of Joanna's passing. She and I worked together occasionally at Metro in Portland. Joanna leaves a great legacy in the way that she walked her talk and inspired us all to greater integrity. I have known few people whose actions and values were so closely aligned. And I will never forget her clear eyes and brilliant smile. My life is richer for having known her.
Elaine Stewart
March 9, 2008
Joanna's life was one of energy and compassion. More than anyone I have ever known, she matched her lifestyle to her beliefs. Looking in from the outside, it always appeared that she had chosen a difficult path. To her, it was the only path.

Uncomplaining, she was passionate about everything she did and was an inspiration to us all.

There is a large hollow spot in remembering her that will take a very long time to fill.
Lou Karl
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