Karly Elizabeth Wahlin

Karly Elizabeth Wahlin was born on July 4, 1985, in St. Paul. Surrounded by her family and in her mother’s arms, Karly passed away at the age of 27 on Aug. 20, 2012, in her Stillwater home.

Karly was a loving presence in so many lives, accomplishing amazing things as a young woman living with Rett Syndrome, a neurological disorder. Through the long and often difficult journey of her life, she and her mother, Lois Swope, were driven by the challenge of finding Karly’s voice. Starting at age 10, Karly learned to communicate by typing on a keyboard and we discovered that this young girl, who was so physically challenged, was acutely aware of her surroundings and had a sharp, active mind.

In 2010 Karly released a CD of piano compositions, “In My Own Voice,” that she had patiently crafted over 12 years with the assistance of her music therapist. Although she never had an audible voice, Karly was an inspirational speaker to a variety of groups, maintained a blog that was read worldwide and had several publications to her name.

Karly Elizabeth Wahlin and Beau

Karly’s love of horses led to her participation in therapeutic horseback riding programs and getting her own companion miniature horse she named Beau.

Karly is survived by her mother and stepfather, Lois and Gregg Swope of Stillwater; her father and stepmother, Cleon and Cheryl Wahlin and their children, Olivia and Zackary, of Golden Valley; her loving sister, Leah Joy Wahlin of Columbus, Ohio; her step-siblings, Sara Hayden, Jed Swope and Daniel Swope, her grandparents and her many aunts, uncles, cousins and dear friends.

She loved us so well and we couldn’t love her more.

Karly’s memorial service is 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012, at Rockpoint Church, 5825 Kelvin Ave. North in Lake Elmo.

In lieu of flowers, Karly’s family requests that gifts be made to further develop and maintenance of Karly’s Spiritdances Memorial Garden at her parents’ Stillwater home. Karly’s dream was that her garden would be a place of peace and healing for everyone who visits it.


Bradshaw, 2800 Curve Crest Boulevard, Stillwater, 651-439-5511

  • Don Loe

    Lois, i just read of Karly’s passing. I know how close you were and am thinking of you. You gave her a voice in the school world and beyond. I’m pleased to have known you both.

    Most sincerely,
    Don Loe

  • Rosemary Bandura

    As a mother of a daughter with rett syndrome, karly has touched me, heart and soul. Karly has taught me so much about rett syndrome and she will forever be in my heart. Her body is finally free of the rett monster and her family has wonderful memories to help them through the loss.
    I feel so greatful to have been touched by Karly!

  • Lilly

    Oh, I am so sorry. She was a beautiful person.

  • Kellie Steinmetz

    We were Karly’s extended family for the last 10 years. For six years Karly would come stay at our home twice a month and then for the last four years she came once a month. For the last six months our home has been missing her and it is very evident the big hole in our lives without Kar Kar. Her room sits very quiet and empty. She will never be forgotten and we have been blessed to be her extended family and friends.
    All our love to Lois, Gregg, and Leah