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Doctor gave selflessly of her talents worldwide

Konnie Landis (C 90) was a doctor who took her skills and compassion around the world. She was a newlywed who made her home in Everett, Wash. She was a faithful Mennonite, a marimba player, a potter and a poet.

“She had this drive to make the world a better place. She did it with the lives she touched and the lives she saved,” said Leslie Yingling-Breeden, a friend and member of Titambe Marimba, a Whidbey Island music group that included Landis, 36, as its youngest member.

Landis died at her home June 20, a day after her first wedding anniversary. Late last year, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

She is survived by her husband, Bill Sutherland, an aeronautical engineer at Boeing; parents Dr. Laverne and Jean Landis of Tunkhannock, Pa.; sisters Kathleen Landis and Karen Alderfer; and brother Ken Landis. Another brother, Kenton, preceded her in death.

A family practice doctor, she graduated in 1996 from Temple University Medical School in Philadelphia. Landis served her residency in Yakima, Wash., and then came to Everett’s Community Health Center in connection with the National Health Service Corp.

Always, her focus was on people who where medically underserved. And always, before and after meeting Sutherland in 2000, there was the lure of the world.

After their wedding on June 19, 2004, they embarked on a honeymoon of service and adventure. In New Orleans, they built a Habitat for Humanity house.

“We had a blender, we had a toaster, so for wedding gifts we asked for donations for a trip to Africa,” Sutherland said. With $2,000 to spend on programs to fight AIDS and help schools, they went to Uganda for several months.

“She was very caring,” said Jean Landis, Konnie’s mother. “Who on their honeymoon goes to Uganda and to work for Habitat for Humanity? Who does that?”

After graduating from EMU, Landis spent the early 1990s in San Francisco with Mennonite Volunteer Service. Working with AIDS patients, “she watched a lot of people die,” Sutherland said.

Landis took a year between San Francisco and starting medical school to travel the world alone. She worked with Mother Teresa’s order in India and at an orphanage in Eastern Europe.

Her mother saw an artistic side— as a potter, photographer, poet and musician. “She gave everyone in her wedding a piece of pottery she made,” Jean Landis said.

Dr. Carolyn Shermer worked with Landis at Community Health Center in Everett. “I think she had only two or three weeks’ vacation. She took two weeks to go to Vietnam to deliver food and medical supplies. She was very selfless.

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“She loved life so much. Now that she’s gone, beautiful days make me think of her,” Shermer said.

Sutherland has a poignant memory of their first anniversary. Although his wife was close to death, they drove to Mukilteo.

“She knew she was dying. We didn’t talk about it. She was strong in her faith,” he said. “We were only married a year. What’s important is the example she lived out, of cheerful service. I never in my life met someone like Konnie.

“Her gift was herself. I’ve seen parts of the world I never would have seen. I was being changed by her,” Sutherland said.

—Julie Muhlstein The Herald, Everett, Wash.

Editor’s note: Konnie had been nominated for the annual distinguished service award. She is one of the youngest individuals to have ever received such consideration since the inception of the award in 1984. We honor her life given in service to others.