WEST DES MOINES, Iowa - Kristin (Ekdahl) Hughes, 46, beloved wife of Chris, amazing actress, artist and artisan, passed away unexpectedly at their home in West Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021.
Kristin had a brilliant mind, an infinite curiosity, a burning desire to learn, a kind, humble, generous spirit and a fearless approach to trying new endeavors and adventures. She was a doting wife, a loving daughter and sister, a caring daughter-in-law, a dependable friend and a ferocious protector of the mistreated and will be dearly missed.
She was born Oct. 28, 1974, in Neenah, Wisconsin, and graduated from Neenah High School in 1991. After high school she auditioned for and was accepted to the American Musical and Dramatics Academy (AMDA). She has appeared in over 100 stage productions including Godspell, Fiddler on the Roof and Sunday in the Park With George. Her fearless approach to life first became apparent when she set out alone for New York City to pursue a career in musical theater at the age of 20 with more dreams than certainties.
She appeared as the Reverend Mother in an off-Broadway production of Nunsense! and in multiple other musicals. She believed that she may have unknowingly crossed paths with her future husband, who also resided in NYC and frequented the same streets of the East Village.
To find her husband she had to relocate to Wisconsin and become an internet pioneer, meeting him on Yahoo! in 1999. Their first date, a few weeks later that September moved from lunch to a book sale to a coffee shop to a park, to a movie and never quite ended. Days later they would realize that they had completely forgotten to eat dinner. They became engaged at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 1, 2000, with fireworks exploding in the background. Neither remembered the words of the proposal or whether Kristin ever officially answered "yes".
They were married Oct. 14, 2000, in Appleton, Wisconsin. Five months later they flew off to Hamburg, Germany, for three months and then to the United Kingdom, where they would reside in Chester, England, near the Welsh border for the next three years. Kristin loved to spend weekends there driving the hilly, narrow, sheep-clogged lanes of the Welsh countryside.
While in Europe they traveled to 17 countries. Visiting the steep cliffs of Santorini, Greece; sampling food from street vendors in Istanbul; watching artists work in Rome's Piazza Navona; walking Copenhagen's Nyhavn; and taking an 18 castle and woolen mill coast-to-coast driving tour of Scotland in the car that barely could were amongst her very favorites. She will always be grateful to the people of Lockerbie, Scotland, who came to the rescue with a middle-of-the-night car repair on the night before Christmas Eve to get them to their final return flight back to the U.S. on time.
After returning to the U.S. she and her husband resided in Wind Lake, Wisconsin, where Kristin loved to spoil their cats Jasper and Hermione, listen to the cackle of cranes that frequented a backyard pond, and looked eagerly forward to seed catalogs every spring. They built massive planter boxes and grew enough watermelons, tomatoes, peas, beans, herbs and cucumbers to feed an army. They also grew pumpkins, to pickle with a recipe they had picked up in Tallinn, Estonia.
After Wisconsin they lived in Huntsville, Alabama, where Kristin became one of the first Admins for LibriVox.org, a website dedicated to turning public domain works of literature into audiobooks. While at LibriVox, Kristin narrated and/or coordinated over 450 recordings including novels, autobiographies, short stories, dramatic works and musicals (including Gilbert and Sulivan's The Mikado). When she read the role of Eliza Doolittle for the recording of George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, she worked assiduously with an elderly Cockney gentleman to perfect her accent. Kristin was especially devoted to poetry: along with recording the collected works of Edna St. Vincent Millay, she served as LibriVox's longtime poetry coordinator and took special pride in helping beginners set up their audio equipment and smooth out their first attempts. She also narrated one commercial audiobook Like Son by Felicia Luna Lemus for Iambik Audiobooks, provided voice-over for animated work and was a favorite of musicians using spoken word in their compositions. Many of Kristin's works can be found on YouTube including Edgar Allan Poe's A Dream Within a Dream; Double Double, an animation of Act 4 Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Macbeth, with Kristin playing the Second Witch; Rainy Days music video by Aurel Bernaschek featuring a reading of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Rainy Day; and Music on the Waters, a performance of Lord Byron's poem Stanzas for Music, composed by Alien Alarms.
Kristin was an annual participant in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and completed six novel-length mystery, fantasy and science fiction manuscripts, totalling 447,294 words over her years of involvement.
While in Huntsville Kristin planted the first seeds that would lead to her many passions. She mastered patchwork quilting and taught herself to knit and crochet blankets, hats, scarves, mittens, gloves, slippers, Amigurumi (small stuffed animals with oversized eyes), Christmas ornaments, grocery bags and lacework doilies. She also appeared in the fall of 2009 in the independent film The Last Summer in the role of "Mother".
Kristin and her husband lost their cat, Hermione, to illness, but took in a stray Glen of Imaal Terrier they named Zelda, after F. Scott Fitzgerald's wife, and a Maltepoo they named Yukiko, Japanese for "little snow".
One of the most fondly remembered weeks of Kristin's life occurred in Huntsville when tornados cut power to the city for 10 days. She and her husband ate food from a melting freezer, then canned goods when that ran out; made coffee and Earl Gray tea on a charcoal grill; played cribbage and Monopoly; and read Flashman novels to each other by candlelight until power was restored.
The year-round heat and gooey humidity, as well as the recurrent black snakes on the front porch drove Kristin and her husband back to the Midwest.
For the last 10 years Kristin has resided in West Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, their cat, Jasper, and dogs, Zelda and Yukiko. Kristin blossomed in Iowa: she taught herself to paint with watercolors, pastels and acrylics and created 100's of acrylic pours. She developed an interest in jewelry and metalworking and could often be found over the gas stove tempering hammered copper braids or over her anvil pounding decorations into copper bands. She taught herself to play the ukulele and had just begun learning violin.
An avid reader, Kristin was delighted by the novels of Agatha Christie, Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Peters. She loved music and musicals, especially Leonard Cohen, Billy Joel, Ute Lemper, Michael Ball, Marlene Dietrich, Abba, 80's New Wave, and electronic group VNV Nation. Kander and Ebb, Stephen Sondheim, and classic Irving Berlin musicals, especially Holiday Inn, were all special pleasures.
Kristin collected fountain pens and practiced calligraphy. She wrote three yet unpublished novels and was launching a business publishing specialty journals that would encourage grandparents and parents to pass down their stories. She had an interest in genealogy and had traced parts of her family back to 17th century Switzerland and 18th century Russia. She enjoyed rock hunting, music in a minor key, large bodies of water, anime and listening to the deafening buzz of frogs and insects on summer evenings. A fashion history enthusiast, she designed and made dresses, pants, vests and other articles of clothing, often to vintage patterns. She took pride in from-scratch cooking and baking and often explored pre-depression recipes and the origins of different dishes.
In 2015 they renewed their marriage vows in the Fern Grotto along the Wailua River on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. In the past year and a half of work-from-home Kristin and her husband were joyfully inseparable.
Kristin would encourage everyone to be kind, to be generous, to give people the benefit of the doubt, and to not be mean except to those who are being mean (and then be as fierce as you can be).
Kristin is survived by her devoted husband, Chris; her parents, Lynn and Robert Ekdahl, Neenah, Wisconsin; brothers, Bob Ekdahl, Jr. (Amy Roe), St. Paul, Minnesota, and Ted Ekdahl, Neenah; mother and father-in-law, Ron and Maryann Hughes, St. Joseph; brother and sister-in-law, Jim and Linda Hughes and niece and nephews, Stella, Callaway and Archer, Kansas City, Missouri; aunt, LeAnn (Robert) Jungenberg-Klumb, Adams, Wisconsin; aunt, Vicki (David) Mayefski, Appleton, Wisconsin; uncle, Dr. James (Catherine) Jungenberg, Oshkosh, Wisconsin; aunt, Mary (David) Haertl, Florida; aunt, Lynn (Louis) McKellar, Hortonville, Wisconsin; and many cousins.
Kristin was preceded in death by her cherished grandparents, Archie and Jane Jungenberg, and her grandmother-in-law, Genevieve Przybylski.
A virtual memorial service will be held on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 at 2 to 3:30 p.m. CST to celebrate her amazing life. To register please go to https://afterword.com/stories/kristin-hughes
In lieu of flowers please consider making a donation to the Kristin Hughes (Ekdahl) Memorial Scholarship Fund. Whether it was providing a room and a home cooked meal to travelling musicians, helping beginner audiobook readers set up their equipment, beta-reading novels or teaching an aunt how to crochet over YouTube, Kristin believed in the importance of art and was always passionate about supporting others in their artistic endeavours. This scholarship will support a student from Neenah High School, Kristin's alma mater, to pursue an education in the performing or creative arts.
Send donations to the Kristin Hughes (Ekdahl) Memorial Fund at the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation, 230 Ohio Street, Ste 100, Oshkosh, WI 54902. Checks should be made payable to the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation with "Kristin Hughes (Ekdahl) Memorial Fund" written on the memo line.
To donate on-line use this link: https://www.oshkoshareacf.org/fund/kristin-hughes-ekdahl-memorial-fund/.
Kristin was a strong proponent of masking and vaccinations and would want everyone to know that her death was unrelated to Covid or the vaccine. Please wear your masks and, if you are able, get vaccinated. As published in the St. Joseph News-Press.