There are very few family names better associated with Aberdeen than Lee. The K. O. Lee Company, Lee Park, C.C. Lee School, the K. O. Lee Aberdeen Public Library, and the K. O Lee Adult Day Center are just a few you might recognize.
Karl O. Lee was an outdoorsman, reader, machine-tool enthusiast and seminary graduate. His love for South Dakota, and Aberdeen specifically is evident in his generosity. He continuously contributed to this area and shared his gifts with all of us in the form of well-known town landmarks. But Karl's passion for his church was something very special as well. Graduating from Luther Seminary and serving briefly in parish ministry, his faith was incredibly important to him. He was a lifelong member here at Bethlehem, and had a deep love for the music, singing in the choir many years. Karl thoroughly enjoyed hearing Arliss play beautiful organ music, and contributed significantly to the installation of the Holtkamp pipe organ we enjoy today. When we celebrated the 20th anniversary of the organ in 2019, Karl shared in the occasion.
"I think if he could have come back in another life, he would have come back as an organ maker," Krestie Utech, Karl's sister, mentioned. "He was fascinated by the making and functioning of them."
Karl's family grew up actively involved in the previous BLC building, and he continued to come to worship here as long as he could, even during his time at Bethesda. Following his passing in November of 2019, Karl's love for Bethlehem continued to shine bright as he donated a portion of his estate to the church. Karl’s generosity to Bethlehem is matched by our gratitude. What a blessing!
"It was a gift of love and faith," Krestie said. "he loved his church."
Karl’s estate plans directed that the gift be put towards debt, as well as improvements to the beloved pipe organ. Our Financial Resources Team and Joint Commission decided that in keeping with Karl's wishes, the first distribution from Karl’s estate would go towards our debt and pay down our mortgage principal. That payment was made in late December. An additional distribution of the estate gift is expected in 2021. In anticipation of this second, smaller distribution, enhancements to the pipe organ are being explored. With the new live stream opportunities, people all around the world can now share Karl's passion, worship at Bethlehem, and enjoy the beautiful organ music.
Karl’s estate gift will bring our monthly mortgage payment down significantly, which in turn allows for those savings to be designated to other needs and ministries for the betterment of Bethlehem and beyond, which we trust would have made Karl so happy! We're forever grateful to Karl and the entire Lee family for blessing Bethlehem and the Aberdeen community with their impactful presence and remarkable generosity.