June 11, 2015

By Kremena Spengler - Staff Writer , The Journal

NEW ULM - Her time was short, but she made it count.

When Christine Lynn Carmichael died on June 5 at age 56, the world lost a woman described as "a passionate advocate ceaselessly working to bring beauty and comfort to people's lives," an interior designer "who built on other people's visions, seeking the ideal environment to sustain their quality of life."

Some of the things she was most proud of were the buildings and interiors she revived, say those who knew her. Examples include the Grand Center of the Arts, Wanda Gag house, Lind House, several of the large houses on German Street, Dayton House in Worthington, a sunroom in the Governor's Mansion in St. Paul and many more.

"New Ulm is studded with her projects - the John Lind House, The Wanda Gag House, the Grand Center for the Arts, to name just a few ... She was a stickler for historic authenticity, and I think New Ulm is the better for it. Christine has left a true legacy in New Ulm and part of her creative spirit will always reside here."

"Christine may have been trapped within a body that limited her physically, but she wasn't trapped or limited when it came to her imagination," said Krzmarzick. "I was always amazed how she could visualize in her mind and bring to life a room or a building from thought, creativity, a pencil and a piece of paper. I loved to look at her drawings. They were like little works of art."

She had ‘a great attachment to preserving and interpreting history through the decorative arts and architecture.
— Vicki Pieser, who worked with Carmichael on the Wanda Gag House

"Christine was extravagantly generous with her talent in the restoration of the Gag House," said Vicki Pieser, who worked with Carmichael on the project. "She had a great attachment to preserving and interpreting history through the decorative arts and architecture. She was meticulous in her work, even though her energy was limited. Her gentleness and kind spirit made her a joy to work with."

"Christine was one of the most generous and giving people I have ever known," says Megan Rolloff, a friend and colleague. "Not only would she have given you the shirt off her back if she thought for a second that you needed it, but she was even more giving with her knowledge, her talent, and her spirit.

"I first met Christine 11 years ago when she hired me to put away fabric and wallpaper books at her then design business, Design Directions," remembers Rolloff. "I had no experience in interior design, but I really needed a job, and Christine gave me one. After a while she took me under her wing and showed me everything. I still work as a designer today and that is all thanks to Christine. Most of the practices and methods I still use are the ones that she taught me. She made it possible for me to do a job that I love every day."

"I haven't formally worked with Christine in six years, but we still remained in pretty close contact," continues Rolloff. "And two years ago we started heavy renovation on The Grand Center for Arts and Culture. Having worked with Christine on several historic design projects, I knew she was the perfect person to bring on board to make sure all the i's were dotted and t's crossed. So we got to work together one last time. Christine poured her heart and soul into that project. And it would be no where near the amazing place that it is if it hadn't been for her. She donated all her time and printed countless documents to make sure that The Grand was a building New Ulm could be proud of."

"But all professional projects aside, Christine was my friend," says Rolloff. "I will miss talking with her the most. I never felt like I had to hold back when talking with her. She never judged. I could share any crazy theory or dream with her and she would always act as though it were perfectly plausible and not silly at all. The idea that she would ever, or could ever, betray a confidence never once entered my mind all the years I knew her. It just wasn't in her. For all the pain and struggle that she had to endure everyday, she never acted as though her problems were any worse than anyone else's or that hers deserved any more attention. She was what a friend is truly supposed to be; supportive, loyal, and loving, no matter what...

"She was someone that I can honestly say made this world a better place just by being in it. She touched so many lives and gave so many of us who knew her a standard to try and live up to. Most of us will never have to summon the strength she had, or have to overcome as many obstacles as she did. And I highly doubt many could do it with as much dedication, heart, and spunk as Christine managed to, every day. She was simply one of the best people I have ever known, or probably will ever know. And I am thankful just to have been able to call her my friend."


Christine Lynn Carmichael was born July 5, 1958, in Kenosha, Wis., according to her obituary in The Journal.

Her funeral service will be 12 p.m. on Thursday, June 11, at Saint John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in New Ulm.

Carmichael struggled with many health trials along with severe rheumatoid arthritis, including ankylosing spondylitis, depression, hepatitis, ulcers, osteoporosis, calciphylaxis and, finally, bladder cancer, according to the obituary.

Having sustained four hip replacements, spinal fusion and more than 20 surgeries, Carmichael refined her focus on universal design to assure that "all of us can stay in the places we love, no matter what our age or ability." She was especially sensitive to those needing specialized design. She said she "strongly believed in maintaining a high quality of life and independence for those with limited abilities."

Respecting the buildings around us as "living documents of history," she had a zeal for enlivening decrepit structures, the obituary reads.


This article first appeared on the New Ulm Journal's website and print edition:
Spengler, Kremena."Carmichael remembered for her design expertise." The Journal. 11 June 2015: Web. 15 August 2015.