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For Karla Hult, a new beginning after so many goodbyes

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For Karla Hult, a new beginning after so many goodbyes

The first sign that something was wrong came after Bob Hult’s shoulder surgery at Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park in 2010.

While under the influence of pain medication, Hult, the father of KARE-11 reporter Karla Hult, became delusional and inarticulate. “He thought it was a conspiracy — that we and the hospital staff were trying to keep him there,” Karla Hult said. “He was really mad, very frustrated and irritable. He would lash out and try to get away.”

That episode foreshadowed what was to come later that year: a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

For nine years, Bob Hult, of Forest Lake, lived with the disease that robbed him of the ability to walk, talk and think. He died on March 28, 2019, at the age of 80.

Hult’s wife, Marlys, and his three daughters initially cared for him at the couple’s home on Clear Lake. Later, at-home caregivers were hired to help. In 2017, Bob Hult moved to a nearby memory-care facility.

Karla Hult likens dealing with her father’s Alzheimer’s disease to running a marathon, a race her father used to run. “We were overwhelmed by the hidden grief and practical decisions we had to make,” she said. “It’s a cruel disease.”

In June, Hult, who lives in Minneapolis, started a business devoted to mentoring families dealing with Alzheimer’s. The business, So Many Goodbyes, also offers workshops for long-term care centers to help bridge the communication divide between families and caregivers.

“I don’t want other families to go through what we went through,” she said. “I want people to know they’re not alone.”

Hult said she relies on her reporting skills to research options and local resources to help families. “That could be anything from Memory Cafe meetings to cleaning services,” she said. “I had one man whom I’m mentoring share with me how lonely it is to slowly lose his partner. He broke down crying and said he didn’t realize how much he needed to talk about what he was going through. That was pretty affirming for me.”

Caregivers are encouraged to “look for the person beyond the disease,” she said. “That that will help them connect with the person, honor the person and make their work more rewarding.”

Hult also speaks publicly about Alzheimer’s, regularly emceeing events for the Alzheimer’s Association and speaking at conferences. “Anything to help people understand more about this disease that, sadly, touches all of us — as family members, friends or simply taxpayers,” she said.

‘CLASSIC MINNESOTA DAD’

Bob Hult grew up on St. Paul’s East Side, the grandson of Swedish immigrants. He and his twin brother, Bill, were hockey, baseball and golf standouts at Johnson High School, graduating in 1956.

The Hult twins — William and Robert — grew up on St. Paul’s East Side and attended Johnson High School, where they played hockey, baseball and golf. Both men died of complications related to Alzheimer’s disease. (Courtesy of Karla Hult)

The Hult twins — two of five siblings — loved spending time at their grandparents’ cabin on Clear Lake. “He was pretty much the classic Minnesota dad,” Karla Hult said. “He loved the lake and loved his state and his community, and absolutely loved his family.”

Bob Hult graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1960 with a business and engineering degree and spent most of his career at 3M Co., where he was a manager of inter-systems and data processing.

In 1962, he went on a blind date with Marlys Nelson, who lived in Minneapolis. They double-dated with Bill Hult and his wife, Jane, who was Marlys’ cousin. The couples met in the parking lot of Schwietz Saloon on Payne Avenue and went to a baseball game in Somerset, Wis., where “Bill was the pitcher, and Bob was the catcher,” Marlys Hult said.

“I was dating someone else, but by the next day, I was thinking, ‘Well, I think I’m going to break up with the other guy and stick with him,’ ” she said.

The couple married in 1964 at Brookdale Covenant Church in Minneapolis. They lived in Roseville and had three daughters, Kim, Kari and Karla.

A year after Karla was born, Bob Hult found a house for sale on Clear Lake. “He bought it before my mom even saw it,” Karla Hult said. “She had just finished decorating the house in Roseville to exactly the way she wanted it.”

Bob Hult loved to boat and fish, play golf and run marathons. He also was active at First Covenant Church in St. Paul, serving as director of the church’s refugee-resettlement program.

After he retired from 3M, at the age of 58, Hult devoted himself to helping others. He supported Hmong immigrants, helped seniors in Washington County with their tax returns and worked to preserve the Rice Creek Watershed District.

“He had a servant’s heart,” Marlys Hult said.

THE FIRST SIGNS

In the fall of 2010, about six months after Bob Hult’s episode at Methodist Hospital, he traveled with Karla Hult and her husband, Gary Frenkel, and their 5-month-old daughter, Grace, to Morocco to visit Kim Hult and family, who were on sabbatical. Marlys Hult had traveled ahead of them to spend more time with her eldest daughter.

1633806672 31 For Karla Hult a new beginning after so many goodbyes
Karla Hult and her father, Bob, on Karla’s wedding day, Jan. 5, 2008. (Courtesy of Karla Hult)

“All that summer, I had had suspicions that something was wrong, but they started ramping up during that trip,” Karla Hult said.

Bob Hult was unable to navigate the security line and passport checks at the various airports, she said. “He was completely incapable of knowing how to present his passport to be checked,” she said. “It was like traveling with a child. I’d have to say, ‘This is where you show your passport. This is where you show your ID.’ ”

Bob and Marlys Hult traveled home together, and Bob Hult was convinced that the graphic on the seatback TV screen showing the airplane’s progress showed that the “plane was going down into the ocean,” Karla Hult said. “He became so agitated and concerned that he was talking to the flight attendants about it, and they had to reassure him. It was very alarming for my mom.”

That incident and concerns raised by other family members led Karla Hult to contact the Alzheimer’s Association’s Help Line in November 2010. The next day, acting on the association’s advice, she called her father’s primary-care physician to share the family’s concerns. “I asked him to bring it up with him,” she said. “I said, ‘Can you request that he see a neurologist? Can you request that he get the scans?’ ”

Bob Hult was diagnosed a few weeks later. “I’ll never forget when my dad then called me and shared what he thought was a revelation, that he had Alzheimer’s, but, of course, I knew,” she said. “I had been suspecting and working behind the scenes for months for him to come to that realization.”

A PUBLIC LIFE

Karla Hult, 49, graduated in 1991 from Forest Lake High School, where she was captain of the track and tennis teams, served on the student council, competed on the speech team and was crowned homecoming queen.

“I loved Forest Lake,” she said. “I loved my community there. I still feel very attached both to the community and my childhood friends.”

1633806672 560 For Karla Hult a new beginning after so many goodbyes
Karla Hult, right, and her mother, Marlys, plant flowers at Bob Hult’s gravesite at Union Cemetery in St. Paul, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. Bob Hult died after nearly a decade of living with Alzheimer’s. (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

Hult majored in English and political science at St. Olaf College in Northfield, graduating in 1995. She then took a reporting internship at States News Service in Washington, D.C.; worked as a reporter at the Journal newspapers in Virginia; worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service; and was a freelance reporter and substitute teacher in Juneau, Alaska.

While working on her master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University in New York, she took a couple of journalism classes.

“I went from Manhattan to Mankato,” she said, referring to her first broadcast journalism job, at KEYC-TV. “It doesn’t matter what kind of degrees you have; you need to start in a small market and pay your dues and really learn the job from a basic level. As one person once described to me, ‘Make fewer mistakes in front of a smaller audience.’ ”

Hult worked at KAAL-TV in Austin, Minn., WNWO-TV in Toledo and WCCO-TV before taking the job at KARE in 2007. She went part-time in 2013, just a year after her second daughter, Isabella, was born.

Her new work schedule also allowed her to spend more time with her father. She helped hire caregivers to care for him — some of whom became lifelong family friends. But others were the cause of much heartache, including one who stole Bob Hult’s wedding ring and another who left him walking alone on U.S. Highway 61 in Forest Lake at rush hour when her shift ended.

Hult publicly shared information about her father’s illness on social media and with viewers of KARE. In an Instagram post on March 23, 2017, she wrote about moving Bob Hult into Cherrywood Pointe of Forest Lake.

“I lost count of the times my Dad helped me move: Washington, D.C., Alaska, Ohio, back to Minnesota …,” she wrote. “But last week and for the first time, I moved him. Moved him from the home that overlooked his beloved lake. Moved him from the home where he’d raised his three strong daughters. Moved him from the home he’d shared with his wife of 53 years. It was a move he didn’t want … nor did we. Worse yet, he doesn’t understand. He looks for the familiar — finds only pictures of faces he may recognize, but can’t name. He’s lonely and confused, and he struggles.”

SAYING GOODBYE

Two years later, she shared that her father didn’t have long to live.

1633806672 174 For Karla Hult a new beginning after so many goodbyes
Marlys and Bob Hult pose with their three daughters, Kim, Kari and Karla, in this undated photo. (Courtesy of Karla Hult)

“I thought we knew the course, but it turns out, neither one of us has run this marathon before,” she wrote in a Facebook post on March 26, 2019. “We’re stumbling forward now, falling. I’m supposed to help pick him up. Lessen his pain. Give him water. But now I remember. He always carried me. Even these last years, he was still carrying me. Without words. Unknowing. Just by being. And so I’m falling. And the water I offer, he can no longer drink. And the finish line — once so in focus — now fades away. We’re at Mile 26. I’m stumbling. And shattered. And so lost.”

Two days later, Bob Hult died. Marlys and their three daughters were there, along with Hannah Price, the caregiver who had cared for Bob at the house and then was hired by the family to help him at Cherrywood Pointe.

“I hoped that it would be a peaceful passing, but it wasn’t,” Karla Hult said. “It was so hard for me to see him go, but yet I wanted him to know that he could go. I was sitting on the bed with him saying, ‘You can go. You’ve done a good job. We love you so much.’ He would take a breath, and then we’d wait, and then he’d take another breath.”

After he died, Hult said she fell onto his chest and sobbed. “I expected to feel complete relief,” she said. “I expected to feel gratitude that he was at peace, and he was in heaven. Logically and objectively, I could feel happy for him, but I just missed my dad. I didn’t realize then how much still having him physically present gave me comfort. Holding his hand, even if he doesn’t know you as his daughter, it makes a difference.”

A documentary she produced about her father and the disease, “So Many Goodbyes: The Alzheimer’s Journey,” aired on KARE in September 2020. The series won two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards and a local Emmy.

Bob Hult is buried at Union Cemetery in Maplewood, right next to Bill Hult, who died last year of complications related to Alzheimer’s. “I guess it was inevitable … that in sharing each other’s genes, they’d also share the Alzheimer’s diagnosis,” Karla Hult wrote in an Instagram post in 2019. The twins’ father, their older brother and older sister all died of complications related to Alzheimer’s, she said.

A FATHER’S LESSON

During a trip to the cemetery last week, Marlys and Karla Hult decorated Bob Hult’s gravestone with red, yellow and purple mums. As Karla dug in the dirt, Marlys directed their placement. “Move that one to the left just a bit,” Marlys Hult said. “Now you can see it. You couldn’t see where it was before, honey. That’s so much better. It shows everything now.”

1633806672 479 For Karla Hult a new beginning after so many goodbyes
Karla Hult brushes dirt from the headstone as she plants flowers at her father Bob Hult’s gravesite at Union Cemetery in St. Paul, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021. Bob Hult died in 2019 after nearly a decade of living with Alzheimer’s.  (Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press)

The gravestone, designed by Marlys Hult, lies flat in the ground in a site she selected under what she calls a “storybook tree.”

“It’s for the kids,” she said. “I wanted them to have a place to come to.”

As she wiped dirt off the red-granite gravestone, Karla Hult said her father taught her to work hard, be humble and pay her blessings forward.

“In his toast to my husband and me at our wedding, he said, ‘Three things, especially in marriage — and in life, are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.’

“He honored that,” she said. “He lived that. I hope I’m doing the same.”

TO KNOW MORE

For more information about So Many Goodbyes and Karla Hult’s work to end Alzheimer’s disease, go to somanygoodbyes.com.

 

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Controversial St. Louis County mask mandate back in court today

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Controversial St. Louis County mask mandate back in court today

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – The controversial St. Louis County mask mandate will be back in court Thursday morning for more debate.

Lawyers for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt will square off with attorneys from St. Louis County before Judge Ellen “Nellie” Ribaudo.

Schmitt filed a lawsuit alleging that the second St. Louis County mask mandate announced by County Executive Dr. Sam Page in late September violates state law. A spokesperson for Schmitt said he wants a preliminary injunction to officially stop the mandate.

The last hearing in this case happened not long after the Cole County court ruling by Judge Daniel Green. That decision says COVID-19 health orders issued by local health authorities are unconstitutional and that all existing health orders are null and void. The St. Louis County case was continued until Thursday so attorneys could review Green’s ruling.

Now, attorneys for Schmitt could come with more legal ammunition after Schmitt sent letters Tuesday to school districts and public health agencies across Missouri saying they must rescind and stop enforcing health orders like mask mandates because of Green’s decision. On Wednesday, Schmitt reached out directly to Missouri parents for help in identifying school districts that are continuing to enforce COVID-19 health orders in violation of the Cole County ruling. Schmitt wanted families to reach out to his office with information.

It’s unclear if Judge Ribaudo will make any final rulings Thursday. The hearing is set for 8:30 a.m.

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Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic explains dominance vs. Pelicans: “I just did a lot of spins”

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Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic explains dominance vs. Pelicans: “I just did a lot of spins”

NEW ORLEANS – Nikola Jokic picked the Pelicans apart like it was NBA2K.

Though Jokic copped to playing the wildly popular NBA game, the reigning MVP said he never plays as himself.

“Anybody else,” he said with a grin after dropping 39 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists in Wednesday’s dramatic overtime win over New Orleans.

Jokic served up 11 points in overtime, seizing complete control of the game and overwhelming his counterpart, Jonas Valanciunas, on numerous occasions. Among his tricks, Jokic drained floaters, finished put-backs, buried open jumpers, baited defenders and deked his opponents into the ground.

“He’s just the best big,” said JaMychal Green. “He really is. He’s so skilled. It’s just crazy.”

When pushed to describe that skill, Green hammered the point in virtual terms.

“Man, I feel like 2K gotta add him in 99 everything,” Green said.

Late in the fourth quarter, Jokic pulled off a double spin move to free himself from Valanciunas’ strength and length. The deft bucket gave the Nuggets a temporary 105-103 lead before Valanciunas’ put-back tied it once again.

“What spin move?” Jokic said. “… I just did a lot of spins.”

Never one to reveal his secrets, Jokic had little to say when asked how he processes opposing defenses and decides which vulnerability to attack.

“I don’t want to tell you that,” he said wryly.

At least Green would. The veteran big – whom Jokic adores for his energy and toughness – cited a play late in the fourth quarter where Jokic flattened out their offensive set, ran a pick-and-roll and went to work. Jokic reads opposing defenses like Broncos legend Peyton Manning, only his audibles come during live sets.

“He knows what’s coming,” Green said.

As do opposing defenses, yet they seem to have little or no chance of stopping it. Nuggets coach Michael Malone left no room for interpretation when asked about their fourth-quarter offense.

“When the game is on the line, when we need a basket, the ball is going to go to him,” Malone said. “It’s no longer going to be that equal-opportunity offense.”

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Column: Justin Fields is set to return against the Green Bay Packers — and the rookie quarterback is in search of a little respect for the Chicago Bears

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Column: Justin Fields is set to return after missing 2 games with cracked ribs — and the Chicago Bears and their rookie quarterback are in search of a little respect

Justin Fields has the same vibe that most Chicago Bears fans have come to experience.

They’re not getting any respect.

The only thing the rookie quarterback and the Bears (4-8) can do to change the narrative is to win some of their five remaining games, beginning Sunday night against the Green Bay Packers (9-3) at Lambeau Field.

Fields this week was medically cleared to return from three cracked ribs and will start against the Packers after being knocked out of the Nov. 21 loss to the Baltimore Ravens and missing the next two games.

“I just think a lot of the times teams maybe don’t respect us or don’t give us credit,” Fields said. “I mean, you can’t blame them. We messed up sometimes in the games and we’ve pretty much messed up in a lot of games. … We’re going to attack every game like it’s our last game and we’re going to play through it all.”

The Bears are not getting much respect from the oddsmakers in Las Vegas as 12½-point underdogs, but that comes with the territory in this series. The Packers have won the last five meetings and 20 of the previous 23.

Maybe the Bears can sneak up on the Packers or other remaining opponents — the Minnesota Vikings (twice), New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks. The Bears figure to be favored only against the Giants.

“It feels good,” Fields said. “I like being the underdog. It just gives me an extra chip on my shoulder. I like when people doubt me. That just gives me a little extra motivation. So I love it.”

Being an underdog is new for Fields — he was 20-2 as the starter at Ohio State — but it’s all part of his maturation process in the NFL. The most important thing: He was cleared, meaning the Bears do not believe he’s at risk for more serious injury.

Fields said he’s still not certain when the injury occurred against the Ravens and didn’t believe it was on his final play. He said he normally wears protective padding on his midsection and will do so against the Packers.

“I’m going to have to be smart this upcoming game with not taking as many hits as I usually do,” he said.

“There’s pain there, but I mean, the pain’s just not unbearable. I know there’s going to be pain there, but it is what it is. As long as it’s just not crazy pain where I can’t bear it, I’m going to play and practice.”

Fields threw for 174 yards and a touchdown with one interception and four sacks when the Packers defeated the Bears 24-14 on Oct. 17 at Soldier Field. That started a five-game losing streak, and the organization has been in turmoil since.

The best way to calm the storm, if only temporarily, would be to stun the Packers, and the only chance the Bears have of rolling off some victories in the stretch run is getting their offense rolling.

“We really feel like he was improving as the games went by for him individually, our team, our offense,” coach Matt Nagy said. “There are still places where we can certainly improve. As a staff, we felt like we were really getting a good feel for where he was, and then he gets injured. So then for him to come back against a big division opponent and rival, I know that he’s excited for it.”

Meanwhile, Nagy was cryptic when describing a left hand injury that kept Andy Dalton out of practice Wednesday. Nagy declined to say whether Dalton suffered a broken hand, which a source said was the fear. The team plans to evaluate Dalton’s pain tolerance and possible swelling to determine if he or Nick Foles will serve as the No. 2 quarterback in Green Bay.

The Bears hope two weeks on the sideline gave Fields a different perspective that allowed him to get a slightly better feel for what to expect from opposing defenses — and maybe small elements of situational football that he can apply while he searches for the consistency that has been missing for the offense.

“I think he’s just, like most young players, you sometimes have got to go through some ups and downs and navigate your way through that,” Packers coach Matt LaFleur said. “But he’s a very confident guy. He’s obviously very, very talented, not only as a thrower, but he’s got the added element that you can’t account for — his ability to make the off-schedule play.

“He’s more comfortable in what they’re doing. He’s a heck of a challenge to defend.”

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