For Karla Hult, a new beginning after so many goodbyes – Twin Cities

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.


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.


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.

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.”


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.”

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.”


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

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.


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.”

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.”


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