The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 20, 2002


Remembering Kay

During the past year, the Mosquito has celebrated its 30th anniversary by spot-lighting some of the elements that have made the paper what it is today. But no such retrospective would be complete without remembering the late Kay Kulmala, who served as news editor from 1983 to 1989. Born Katharine Adams in 1921, Kay was an imposing person at first meeting, with a patrician nose and a booming Brahmin voice. A graduate of MIT, with a bachelor's degree in architecture and a master's in city planning, she could rightly be called a Renaissance woman. According to former editor Carolynn Luby, who worked with Kay from 1986 until 1989, Kay "spoke fluent Spanish and German, undoubtedly a good bit of Finnish [her husband Torsti was from Finland] and some French; she may also have read Latin and Greek from her school days in Boston. She was well-versed in music and art: her mother was a sculptor and painter, and Kay lived with her in Munich in the early 1930s. She loved telling the story of how, one day on a walk with her mother's little dog, he lifted his leg on Hitler's boot."

Kay Kulmala prepares her famous glogg for a Mosquito Christmas party. (Photo by Midge Eliassen)
Before she began at the Mosquito, Kay poured her time into conservation issues and Carlisle's planning board, on which she served for ten years. She hammered out zoning bylaws and worked on the Open Space and Recreation Reports of 1979 and 1986. She was a true mover and shaker in Carlisle, but when I first met her, I knew nothing of this. To me, brand new to town and starting in as a newspaper editor in a one-car-garage office, Kay Kulmala was intimidating. Dressed with a Bohemian flair, a cigarette perpetually in her right hand, she exuded brilliance and wit. I, on the other hand, with two little ones at home, exuded naivete and Desitin. But, upon our introduction, Kay took my hand firmly and shook it, saying warmly, "I'm so glad you've joined us. You're going to love Carlisle." I was smitten.

And so began my reverence for the woman who probably played the most pivotal role in making the Mosquito the paper it is today. Kay was professional in everything she did, and that professionalism extended to the newspaper. It was at her insistence that the Mosquito joined the New England Press Association. She encouraged Tom Raftery to draw cartoons for the paper. She was one of the original supporters of the oral history project, which has done so much to chronicle the changing ways of Carlisle. She was, remembers Luby, "a staunch supporter of the Open Meeting law and was adamant that residents know what was transpiring at committee meetings. Even if they weren't interested in the regional school committee meetings, the report was there for them to read every Friday ... She thought the more you know, the more you care."

People who have worked for a long time here at the paper recall Kay's 24/7 attitude towards being an editor. Marilyn Harte smiles when she tells of Kay calling her on a Saturday evening, just as she was about to go out the door, checking to see what features were planned for the upcoming issue. In a piece that ran in the Mosquito after Kay's death, former resident Jeanne Rondoe, a memeber of the group from the First Religious Society that provided evening meals for Kay, writes of bringing a meal to her home on Russell Street when Kay was too ill to cook for herself, at that point needing an oxygen tank to facilitate her breathing, and yet still trying to recruit Jeanne to be a reporter for the paper. As cancer slowly killed her, a group of women, dubbed "The Old Girl Network," worked with hospice to help Kay remain at home during her last days. Because of Kay, these women, many of whom barely knew each other, established friendships that endure today - that kind of gift was so typical of Kay's life. And even after death, she continued to give - willing her house and property to the town, the sale of which benefitted Carlisle conservation and Mass Audubon.

I never met a more generous person than Kay Kulmala, both with her time and her wisdom. She collected and published a book of carols from around the world, donating the proceeds to benefit children in the hospice program; she auctioned off her mother's artwork, the sale of which raised funds for the Mosquito. Her selection as Carlisle's Most Honored Citizen in 1989 was one of the smartest decisions this town has ever made. If Carlisle has a newspaper it is proud of, it is due in great part to the standards Kay left with us.

2002 The Carlisle Mosquito