SOUTH BEND — The untimely death on Sept. 13 of Harold Karlsvik, 58, who battled covid-19 for three weeks, deeply affected all who came to know him during his long career advocating for clients in the Pacific County court system.
He will be remembered for unrelenting service to his community as a public defender and his readiness to go to bat for each of his clients. He was known as a compassionate man, sometimes shedding a tear as he argued for justice.
Karlsvik’s friends and family summed him up in one simple phrase — “He meant well in each and every thing he did.” He proudly practiced law for nearly 30 years, serving Pacific County for most of that time.
Final daysHe made his final court appearance during the Aug. 27 Superior Court docket, when he requested a case be set over two weeks. He hoped that he would be out of quarantine and back at the defense table to handle the matter.
Only two weeks later, his family, friends, colleagues, courts and county communities mourn his passing. Initially thought to be a mild case of the virus, he quickly became more ill with each passing day, before family members convinced him to go to the hospital.
He was immediately airlifted to a higher level of care hospital, where only days later he lost his life, just after placing phone calls to each of his three children. His passing has hit everyone he knew extremely hard and has resulted in some family members and others deciding to get vaccinated.
Losing a friendEven as an independent person who preferred to keep to himself, Karlsvik had a seemingly endless list of friends, including Judge Don Richter. The two faced each other for years as a defense attorney and deputy prosecutor before Richter was appointed judge.
“Not only did the court lose a valuable member of the bar that provided years of needed legal services to indigent clients in our community, but I personally lost a friend,” Richter said. “Harold was one of those all too rare attorneys that could advocate passionately for his client and yet was always affable and collegial.”
While the two also didn’t always see eye to eye — even including some intense arguments while working on cases — Richter noted that they were just as likely to be sitting back chatting about life’s joys.
“I’ve never known a lawyer or judge who didn’t like him. When I was a prosecutor, we had many heated debates about a nuanced legal point or factual dispute in a case, but it was just as likely for us to be sharing stories about our kids,” Richter said.
While reasonably private about their lives, both men found common ground that drew them together. Karlsvik was well known to be one heck of a guitar player, a memory many will hold on to and one thing Richter wished he would have had the privilege to experience.
“Harold loved music, movies and literature, [and] after discussing a case we might well find ourselves discussing the importance of a particular song or band, or perhaps a formative book or movie. I never got to hear him play guitar, despite my repeated requests for him to bring it to the office someday, but I bet he was great at it,” Richter said.
The greatest fatherA devoted father is likely the best way to define Karlsvik, according to his brother, Arnold, who mentions that his daughters Jillian, Mary-Grace (Cookie), and Adrienne were his entire world. Richter and others expressed admiration for the father Karlvsik strove to be.
“We would share our experiences of fatherhood, its challenges and its joys. I know he cherished his role as a father most, he said as much to me on several occasions, and the way he spoke of his daughters, I know it to be true,” Richter added.
During a superior court docket hearing on Sept. 17, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Joe Faurolt took a moment to mention his admiration for Karlsvik, his sadness for his passing and, most importantly, his respect for Karlsvik as a father.
A chance to be closeArnold Karlsvik in recent years sold a piece of property next to his home to Harold, who had a beautiful house built on the property. The residences shared a driveway.
Karlsvik and his daughters frequently visited Arnold’s home to chat with him and his wife, Jodi Corwin-Karlsvik, and their children. This was even though, at times, Karlsvik and Jodi were at odds, including one spat Arnold still chuckles about.
“My wife’s the only one he would mind,” Arnold chuckled. “Boy, they would get into it, too, and when she was done cursing him and stomping off after, I would look at him and ask, “Why did you do that?’ and he’d say, ‘Man, I don’t know. I just couldn’t help myself.’ They battled for three months after [one argument], and they wouldn’t speak. Jodi would always cook and would cook enough for him and the kids, so he had to stand his ground and couldn’t eat her food because they had that big fight.”
But Harold couldn’t resist Jodi’s cooking.
“When Jodi was gone, he’d get into the fridge and eat my mom’s meals for the next day that Jodi would leave because he was starving by then,” Arnold said. “Three months of not eating Jodi’s food is a pretty big deal. He would eat frozen crap, so he finally swallowed his pride and came in, and they started talking again. My wife loves him, and the kids really do; they thought the world of him.”
Some funny memoriesSince his brother’s passing, Arnold has reflected on their past and cherishing their reconnection over the last four or five years. They held barbecues where Harold would grumble about burnt hotdogs, family volleyball games where Harold tried to compete with the youngin’s, a long-standing dispute about a ditch, and a cat named Prince Mr. Meow.
“For the last four years, the kids are getting older, so they’ve been buying a volleyball set every summer, and at first it was just a pile of junk, and he’s over here playing,” Arnold said. “Then the next, we get another one not much better than a piece of junk, and the dog gets tangled up in it and tears it down into pieces. This year they had a top-of-the-line volleyball net, a beautiful big blue net, and he came over and played against these kids, kinda the old man trying his guts out against these kids.”
Then there’s the ditch — “the damn ditch.”
“He had this low spot in the backyard where they scraped the home site forward, and the water would pool up a foot to two feet in the winter,” Arnold said. “I went out there one day when he was at work, and I was digging this ditch by hand with a pick and shovel. He comes home when I’m halfway done and says, ‘You might as well just fill that in; it doesn’t work, just fill it in.’”
“I said, ‘What do you mean it doesn’t work? You can’t dig uphill, you have to dig downhill, and it’s going to have to be deep because that’s up here, and that’s down there where we are going.’ He wanted me to bury it, but I finished it up, put in the PVC, and buttoned it up, and it worked perfectly. I still teased him about that,” Arnold chuckled.
Before his passing, his daughters also talked him into getting a cat, which initially was quite the battle before he gave in and got Mr. Meows. He was originally named Prince Mr. Meows but later changed to Mr. Meows after Harold became “disgusted and frustrated” with the cat who would chase mosquitoes and moths and would oddly smell flowers. Regardless, the two became very close and he loved the strange feline, with the two becoming inseparable.
“Seeing my brother carry around a cat was pretty funny,” Arnold said. “He’s never been much of a cat or dog person.”
However, of all the memories, Arnold mentions that his brother’s trips to Disneyland and Disney World stand out the most because they were his brother’s favorite places in the world and where he was most at peace.
Legacy will live onWhile Karlsvik is now gone, those who knew him as a friend, acquaintance, or colleague said his spirit will live on in the community through each one of them. His smile, intriguing personality and well-meaning intentions have left a lifelong impact they will cherish forever.
“Harold was the straightest guy you’re ever going to know,” Arnold said. “He wouldn’t lie, he wouldn’t cheat, he wouldn’t steal and was just straight on. He always did the right thing as far as upholding his oaths and never talking about anything. There are going to be people out in the world who didn’t think he did them right, but he always tried the best with what he had and was that way with everything he did.”
“My brother always said, ‘Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,’ and I’d agree with him and say ‘Yeah, pretty much, you are pretty hateable,’ I’d say. He would laugh, and I would laugh. I don’t really think he knew how much everyone loved him.”
And Jodi, his feuding buddy, will miss him more and more with each passing day.
“He was my neighbor, a brother and a friend,” she said. “We had many dinners together as he wasn’t much into cooking, so he would walk over and eat with us. We teased each other endlessly; he said he always took my advice because if he didn’t, he would never hear the end of it. He was a brother in every sense. His kids were his very first priority, and he loved them more than anything. We miss him more than anything.”
Born July 13, 1963, Harold was preceded in death by his father Raymond Karlsvik. He is survived by his girlfriend, Ingrid Casseday, his mother Sandra Karlsvik-Wood, brother Arnold Karlsvik, sister Diane Pirak, daughters Jillian Karlsvik, Mary-Grace (Cookie) Karlsvik and Adrienne Karslvik, granddaughter Skarlett Holmes, nieces Isabelle Pirak, Macy Karlsvik, Kallie Karlsvik, and nephew Kole Karlsvik. Lastly, his long-time colleague Frank Wilson.
CORRESPONDENT’S NOTE: The Observer would also like to send its deepest condolences to the entire Karlsvik family. The world will never be the same without Harold, a man who lived his life with honor, integrity and commitment.