Obituary: Carl Edstrom

WILMETTE, IL (January 9, 2014) — Retired Covenant missionary Carl “Cully” Edstrom died Wednesday at the age of 95. 

A memorial service will be conducted at 3 p.m. Sunday, January 19, at Winnetka Covenant Church in Wilmette.

Edstrom was born October 25, 1918. He earned an associate’s degree from North Park College and then graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor’s of science degree. He worked at Boeing Aircraft in Seattle during the latter years of World War II.

After the war, he answered an advertisement in the Covenant Weekly that presented the need for a builder in what was then the Belgian Congo. While in Congo, he married Covenant missionary Vivian Anderson at Karawa on May 14, 1959.

Edstrom engaged in multiple ministries in the African nation. In his earliest years, he primarily designed and constructed churches, schools, hospitals, and dispensaries, as well as missionary and African dwellings. One of the schools he helped design was the Free University of Stanleyville.

He served as the principal of Institute Mbenga at Karawa and then later as principal of the Bokeleale Institute in Gemena, a high-school level technical school specializing in training electricians. He supervised Bible study courses taken by correspondence and participated in preaching as station pastor.

During several years when the Edstroms had returned to the United States, he earned a master’s degree in architectural engineering in 1967 and a doctorate in education in 1972, all from the University of Illinois.

Survivors include his wife Vivian, son James Edstrom, daughter Mary Beth Kovacic, and five grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be sent to Covenant World Mission, 8303 W. Higgins Road, Chicago, IL 60631, and designated for the Carl Edstrom Memorial.


News Obituary


  • Cully Edstrom has impacted me deeply. Just a couple of weeks ago I was thinking of a time when he was teaching James and I (mostly me) about cathedral ceilings in his apartment building that he engineered and built in Rockford. He was a gifted man full of integrity and love. He designed the beam that is my kitchen ceiling today. He was a ‘people person’ always making connections and engaging in wonderful conversation. Cully, you will be missed, but your legacy will continue for many, many years.

  • Uncle Cully touched so many lives…mine included…and this is evident by all the fond memories we all have had with him and Aunt Viv, Mary Beth & James. As I look back on my own memories of this Great Man of God, I can only imagine our Dear Lord said a few days ago…”Welcome home son, you have served Me well!”

  • I thank God for the life of Cully Edstrom. He and Vivian were great supporters of our campus ministry at the University of Illinois. He encouraged me to join a running program at the U. in the early ’60s before it became popular. Cully was a positive role model in many ways.

  • It was an honor to know Cully. He was an exceedingly kind and gracious person. We extend our sympathies to Vivian and the family, and pray that the knowledge of a life well-lived and the hope of a glad reunion will sustain and comfort. John and Beth Fredrickson

  • Viv & family,
    Our friendship doesn’t go back as far as many, but over the years we have enjoyed families together, church activities and “birthday lunches.” Both Dan and I felt very fondly of both of you and now, most recently you were able to meet Ron. He especially enjoyed the day of visiting with Cully and sharing his wealth of knowledge in their conversation. Love and prayers to the family at your loss…but heaven’s gain.
    Mary Holmes

  • Cully treated those of us who were younger than he with great respect and interest. While attending First Covenant as a youngster he told us spellbinding stories and was a wonderful model and “older” friend. It was also my great privilege to be able to reconnect with Cully at family events after my older son married into his side of the family.

    As stated before he was a great model. He not only talked the talk, but even more importantly, he walked the walk with great focus and tremendous commitment. Indeed, Cully was was the personification of God’s grace and care.

    Randy Johnson

  • Cully was a wonderful man——he looked after many while retired in Rockford. His sister, Eddie, and my mother (Edna Lindblade) lived side by side in their later years. We always felt he was a “Wonderful Christian Man” and looked after these two old friends. Cully was even willing to speak at my mother’s memorial service. We’ll never forget.

    Jim Lindblade

  • I have so many good memories of Cully going back to my grandparents and their early days at First Covenant Church in Rockford. As a fellow architect and working together to start the Habitat for Humanity work in Rockford. Our thoughts and prayers to you Vivan.
    Wes and Sue Nelson

  • Dear Vivian and family,

    Our deepest condolences on the homegoing of Cully. We always had the highest regard for Cully——for his commitment to Christ, his years of dedicated missionary service and his advocacy for racial justice and urban ministry after retiring form missionary service. He was a wonderful Christian gentleman. As a young boy, I remember him telling the story of David doing battle with Goliath with his slingshot——the story told with a Swedish accent, if I recall rightly. Good memories of a very special man.

    Craig (and Dotty) Anderson

  • Cully was a wonderful man and a dear colleague. His kind ways endeared him to many. I pray God’s comfort for his family.

  • Dear Vivian and children,
    Cully was one of the nicest men I ever knew as we grew up in the First Mission Covenant Church (Mission Tabernacle on Kishwaukee Street) in Rockford, IL. His love of people combined with his talents in building, architecture and teaching that he so generously used in serving others were commendable. My husband Roger (who died in February of 2012) and I loved both Cully and Vivian so much. God Bless you Vivian and your dear family.
    With much love, Charlotte (Julin) Johnson

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