ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The city of Abilene recently lost a community leader known for her non-profit work and photographs of the city from the top floor of the Wooten Hotel. KTAB/KRBC spoke with loved ones to learn about Kayla Christianson, the girl behind the pictures.
When a storm was coming in from the northeast, when snow covered the tops of downtown buildings, or when almost any beautiful sunset or view appeared, Kayla was there to post her pictures about it on Facebook.
Courtesy of David Christianson
“Kayla has been fascinated with weather since I’ve known her,” her husband, David Christianson, explained. “She would go out on the balcony when lightning storms were starting, and I would beg her to come back inside so she wouldn’t get struck. She never did get struck.”
Christianson said he understands that Kayla had a large following on Facebook.
“I’ve been following her for as long as I can remember,” he shared.
To her friends and loved ones, Kayla was there for them in much more profound ways than social media.
“If I were to describe Kayla in one word, it would be the nickname that I had for her for 23 years, which was Grace. She was a gift to me and to the world,” Christianson shared.
When some of her friends and previous co-workers were asked to share one word to describe Kayla, words like ‘involved,’ ‘unique,’ and ‘ambitious’ were mentioned. When her friend Pierce Lopachin was asked, he simply stated, “Purple. She wore purple all the time.”
Courtesy of David Christianson
After multiple strokes, Kayla passed away on August 2, 2023, at the age of 43, leaving family and Abilene residents with her memory.
“When you were around her, you felt this aura of kindness and caring, but when you got to know her, there was so much more to her,” Lopachin said.
Lopachin met Kayla at the Rotary Club years ago, and he shared that he had the pleasure of saying goodbye to her before she passed.
“I was holding her hands. I know this might be crazy, but I really could feel her squeezing back when I squeezed her hand. I knew she was also saying goodbye to me, as well,” Lopachin described.
Rosten Callarman from Habitat for Humanity was a friend of Kayla’s for 13 years, and he said he hopes Kayla’s memory inspires others to get involved.
“She had an intense desire to help others, to do something good, and to exist in a way that her life would be missed after she was gone,” Callarman said.
This is something he knows all too well, as Kayla would change the lights she had on her balcony to his children’s favorite color on their birthdays.
Callarman mentioned how much the organizations she was involved in meant to her.
“There’s a lot of people who want to be on boards for the sake of being on boards. Kayla wanted to fall in love with a mission,” Callarman explained.
Many appear to agree, including her first boss from when she was a freshman at Abilene Christian University, Anthony Williams.
“You just look at her work with the Noah Project, other non-profits, her work as a Rotarian; she always wanted to give back, and I think it’s easy to see someone like that and want to join in with those efforts,” Williams shared.
Dan Cox, with The Noah Project, agreed with Williams.
“She certainly left a legacy at The Noah Project. We felt her presence while she was here. She made a difference in the decisions that we make and the way we conduct our business, and we’re better for it,” said Cox.
Lopachin shared that it will be hard to fill the hole left in many hearts since Kayla’s death.
“In a few months to come, when we are looking for advice on various different endeavors in the community, we’ll think to call Kayla, but she won’t be around to help us,” Lopachin explained.
Nonetheless, her husband leaves residents with a mission to help carry on Kayla’s legacy.
“If you want to know who Kayla was, go out and love your neighbor, and you’re going to get a glimpse of what she stood for,” Christianson explained.
While Kayla’s work in non-profits and businesses has helped the Key City, nearly everyone KTAB/KRBC spoke to said the one thing they will never forget is her work from this balcony, bringing smiles to those who saw her photos.
The family is holding a celebration of life on September 9 for her, but loved ones ask that everyone in the Key City wear purple on that day in her memory.