Iona Kargel was born to Irene and Charles Brunes at home and raised in Pequot Lakes, Minnesota as the middle of three children (eldest Charlotte—deceased; youngest John—surviving). She grew up in a farming family. They sold corn, strawberries, and fishing bait and tackle to local people and tourists. At age 21, Iona underwent experimental heart surgery, correcting a terminal heart problem, allowing her to live a long life. With Robert James Kargel, she had six children— Steven, Gregory, Jeffrey, Laurel, Susan, and Nancy; among the children they have four spouses, Shirley, Huong (“Bay”), Mike, and Joel. Iona had 13 grandchildren (Matthew, Amanda, Ashley, Courtney, Christopher, Dianna, Joseph Van, Melissa, Brittany, Kyle, Frances, James Patrick, and Ryan) and sixteen great-grandchildren.
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As a child, her mother’s at-home instruction in geography spurred world interests. In High School Iona was voted “most likely to travel.” While raising a family in Ohio, she hosted dozens of international students and academics, starting her family’s world adventures. Iona traveled widely in the U.S.—all fifty states— and around the world, to India, Sri Lanka, Fiji, Samoa, Rarotonga, Hawaii, Haida Gwaii, and many others in a full adventurous spirit.
Late in life, Iona developed academic and personal interests in cultural anthropology, human migrations, microbiology, and human and microbial genetics. She wrote Traveling the South Pacific Without Reservations (Evangeline Brunes) and scientific, historical, and personal manuscripts on human migrations and the medical industry. Iona backpacked through Pacific islands in pursuit of a hypothesis that the classical Polynesian Triangle extends to Washington, Haida Gwaii, and Alaska; and that Pacific migrations are extendable back to Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Mediterranean, Ireland, and Norway.
Iona struggled with skin cancer treatment side effects and heart failure. Those challenges led her on a quest to examine the U.S. health industry and its responsiveness to patient needs. Iona’s difficulties with sun exposure and interest in the “Far Shores” of Polynesia drew her from Tucson to Anacortes, where she lived since 2008.
Her travels and experiences with an extended international “family” imbued Iona with— or stemmed from— a pervasive warmth. She embraced people of all nationalities and walks of life, people of diverse beliefs and cultures the world over. Iona had a commitment to family, research, and independent thinking. She was a quiet, spiritual Christian. As Mom, she guided her family spiritually, morally, and ethically. She was truly a selfless person and a wonderful human being. Iona shaped her children’s, grandchildren’s, and their spouses’ lives through the example of her kindness, openness, generosity, erudition, and travel quests— and her blueberry pancakes!
Into her final weeks she traced the family history, finding a genealogy back to 13th century Norway and Ireland. She was a role model even in death, embracing it as another chapter, handling it with the same grace and dignity that defined her life.
Iona has flown onward as part everything good and beautiful. At her request there will be no funeral, but a family gathering in 2020.
Arrangements have been made with the assistance of Whidbey Memorial Funeral and Cremation Service