In Memoriam: Karly Madsen McDonald

May 15, 2019

Credit Family of Karly McDonald

Karly Madsen McDonald — known to her close family and friends as KarKar, Emerald Owl, Lulu, and Kmac — died tragically on May 9, 2019 in Unalaska, Alaska at the age of 16. 

Karly was born on Aug. 7, 2002 in Anchorage, Alaska, and is survived by her parents, Jimmer and Alyssa McDonald; her sister, Kala McDonald; her half-sister, Lavender Rambac; and her half-brother, Jarred McDonald. 

She is also survived by her maternal grandparents, Sandra and Richard Schwary of Camas, Washington; and her immediate extended family: Sharon McDonald and Nick McDonald of Anchorage, Alaska, Kris and Bob Hieronymus, Karin Fakler, Steve Schwary, and Aiden Christopher Schwary, also of Camas, Washington.  

Karly was an independent, kind-hearted, generous, and strong-minded young woman. Karly could be described as a "stubborn child," but in fact, she lived every moment of every day in her own unique way. She was the master of her world. Period. Tough as tough could be, but underneath it all, there lived an incredible, loving soul. She was always willing to help someone out, whether it be with sage advice, emotional support, or just a good makeover. A chorus of laughter was followed by Karly's contagious and unique laugh. Even though she spent three years down south near her grandparents attending school, her heart never left Unalaska. She loved her sister and family very much. She also loved her truck, her cat "Luna," camping, listening to music, and hanging out with her close friends. Karly had an artistic side that she used to create the most beautiful cards for special occasions. Much of her free time was spent with the love of her life, Dustin Ruckman.  

One of Karly's proudest achievements was completing a wilderness program in Utah called Redcliff Ascent. She spent 101 days in the high desert learning how to survive with just basic self-made tools. "It was most definitely the worst and the best time of my life," she wrote. There were eight challenging phases to complete in order to graduate, not unlike the process of becoming an Eagle Scout. She was awarded a "knife," which only one out of five members received. This was a sought-after and highly regarded possession in the wilderness, which represented trust and responsibility by the staff. This is where she earned her earth name, "Emerald Owl." The name represents strength, determination, wisdom, and the ability to see in the dark (the ability to see the good and the bad, and also to help others when they are going through a hard time).

A public memorial service for both Karly and Kiara Renteria Haist, who perished together that day, is scheduled for Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. in Unalaska's high school gymnasium, with former Mayor Shirley Marquardt, Mayor Frank Kelty, and special guest speaker Penny Legate officiating. We hope those who knew and loved Karly and Kiara will come join us.

Saying goodbye to our sweet Karkar seems impossible, but we know we must let her soul go free — and one day, we hope to meet her again in a place that knows no form, no time, and no limitations. God Speed, Lulu.

~  All our love, Mom, Dad, Kala, and all of the extended family