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A special thanks from the family:

Please relay to all in the TAI office, Jon Kay, those in the Folklore Department, Sheri, Dr. McDowell and all, our thanks for the memory book that we received. The pictures and the stories are so bittersweet but yet they bring comfort during this holiday season.

Dolan & Kathy Bayless


In Memoriam: Kara Nicole Bayless, 1982 - 2010

Kara Nicole BaylessI write with a heavy heart to convey the news that a wonderful student in our department, Kara Bayless, passed away Saturday, October 16th after returning from the annual meeting of the American Folklore Society in Nashville, Tennessee. Kara has been a bright presence in our community these past four years. She made her mark as an outstanding student-teacher, winning the prestigious Henry Glassie Award in recognition of her achievement in this domain. She had almost completed her MA project, and had finished coursework for her dual degree with SLIS. Kara was also finishing her doctoral degree coursework, and was excited about moving ahead with her project on the folklore of Ukrainians in Siberia. She was, as well, a loyal contributor to the activities of Traditional Arts Indiana, and was serving as a Graduate Assistant with TAI. In all of these realms and others, Kara was an outstanding participant, and she will be dearly missed.

Our thoughts are with Kara’s family as we recall with pleasure the many fine moments we spent with her here at Indiana University.

In sadness,

John McDowell


The Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology is establishing a Kara Bayless memorial fund to assist graduate students. If you would like to contribute to this effort, please make checks out to the IU Foundation, and write "In Memory of Kara Bayless" on the memo line.  Please mail your check to the following address:

Kara Bayless Memorial Fund
Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology
Indiana University
800 E 3rd St,
Bloomington, IN  47405

We appreciate your contribution to our efforts to remember Kara by assisting other graduate students.

For a full obituary on Kara, please visit her entry on the Penwell-Gabel Funeral Home webpage.


If you have words you would like posted here, please send them to

Kara and her nephew"Kara brought excitement into my life because she revived an old interest that doesn’t get much attention these days, the intersection between Folklore and education.  I brought out the Cultural Basics materials, from a conference we did back in the nineties and Kara ate it up.  She had strong and informed ideas about how educators should use Folklore in their classes, and was concerned that for the most part, this was not being done well.  We have lost a wonderful friend and student and a person who was primed to push ahead with the Folklore and education agenda."

John McDowell, Chair

"I had the privilege of getting to know Kara well when she worked as my AI (associate instructor) for 'Introduction to Folklore' several years ago. Kara was an incredible teacher. Even though part of my job was to teach her how to teach, I suspect I learned more from her than she learned from me. Kara truly cared about and respected her students. She cared as their instructor, of course, but also as a fellow human being. On numerous occasions, students told me that she was the best teacher they had ever had; sometimes they would simply say, 'I love Kara.'
At the beginning of the semester, I asked the AIs to choose a lecture they would like to teach and Kara chose to do a lecture on folktales. Her presentation was perfectly organized, engaging, and informative. Along with folktale theory, she focused on Russian folktales, teaching us about Baba Yaga and showing images from Russian popular culture. She also taught us a popular closing formula for Russian folktales: 'I was there and drank mead and beer; it ran down my mustache, but it never got into my mouth.'
Over the last two years, after Kara went on to teach her own classes, I have had to handle the folktale lecture myself. But I had been fortunate to learn from her, and I have incorporated much of her lecture into my own.
Just two days after Kara’s passing, I looked at my syllabus to see what I was scheduled to teach that day, and I saw that it was the folktale lecture. The students may not have known it, but for me, the room was full of Kara that day. As I came to the conclusion of the lecture, I realized that this is the legacy of a brilliant teacher. Some of us are fortunate to have known Kara personally, but many more will never have the chance to meet her and yet are still touched by her. Despite my sadness, I smiled when I spoke the closing formula in class that day: 'I was there and drank mead and beer; it ran down my mustache, but it never got into my mouth.' I smiled because I knew that Kara was still teaching."

Michael Dylan Foster, Assistant Professor of Folklore

"I’ll never think of Baba Yaga without remembering Kara’s clear and original explanations of her role in Russian folklore.  We will always miss you, Kara."

Peace, Sandy Dolby, Professor Emeritus of Folklore

"My relationship with Kara stretched only over a few class sessions of F516, but her warmth and enthusiasm were apparent in that short time."

Chad Buterbaugh

"Kara, you are a bright joy!  In the two classes we shared, 'Traditions' and 'Food,' you were a luminous presence.  It was fun when we were in the same yoga classes.  I always appreciated your patience with my faltering Russian.  You have had a profound impact in your life through your joy, generosity, intelligence, bright spirit.  My everlasting love to you and your family-no words can convey what we feel.

Zilia Estrada

Kara, Nina Fales, and Bell Choir at conference"I know Kara best through the bell choirs we played in together. Because her father is a Methodist Minister of Music, she knew bell culture well, had played all her life, and was a gifted performer. For a year, we played together in two local choirs, running from one to the other for rehearsals, When the American Guild of English Handbell Ringers held a conference in Cincinnati (right), we roomed together, talking all night like teenagers instead of sleeping. It was her idea that if we met anyone 'cool,' we would tell them we were in Cincinnati to attend a basketball game instead of admitting the dorky reality of a Handbell Conference. When I asked how we would know if someone was cool, she said we’d know because the person would tell us that he/she was in Cincinnati to attend a Bell Conference. It was a typical response from Kara – both wise and funny at the same time. Here is a picture of Kara with the group – all very cool, clearly – that attended the Cincinnati conference."

Nina Fales

"Kara was the first Folklore/Ethnomusicology graduate student I met to chat with, and we bonded over library science, since she pursued that in her dual degree and I hold my first master’s in that field.  Meeting her gave me a great first impression of the graduate students in our department, and I will miss her warm smile and unpretentious manner."

Krystie Herndon, Undergraduate Academic Advisor

"Kara was a very special person. She took my 'Concept of Tradition in Folklore' class about 4 years ago before she went abroad to do her field research. Directly after the bookbinding seminar, she and I asked our host, Phil Evans, if he would teach us to bind and repair books and to make fancy boxes for rare books. He readily agreed, and we began lessons on Saturdays. Kara dropped out when she went abroad, but I continue to this day taking lessons with Phil, who has become a close friend.

To work alongside Kara as a fellow student was a very special activity for me, and I got to know her in a different way from the usual teacher/student relationship. She was a bright and vivacious person and a good student in my classes, but most precious of all to me, she was my friend. I will miss her and always cherish her memory."

John Wm. Johnson, Professor Emeritus of Folklore

"When Kara and I met, we had a few spirited conversations about Russian folklore, Vladimir Propp in particular.  I recall seeing her deliver a paper at AFS that was very well-received…she always had interesting perspectives and I wish we’d spent more time together.  Hearing our colleagues share their stories about her has helped me appreciate even more what a wonderful light she brought to our department."

Jeana Jorgensen

Kara Bayless and Steve Stanzak"In some ways this picture (right) encapsulates what Kara and I shared - a love for Propp.  She really made me feel good about using Propp in my work, and she also introduced me to Jane Yolen.  She was such a loving and genuine person."

Tabatha Lingerfelt

"I knew of Kara, and her interest in Russia.  Unfortunately I 'met' Kara by the stories of her friends, of her smile, sense of humor, kindness and generosity.  I am sorry to not have met such an excellent and beautiful human being, but I feel that to some degree I know he, because a piece of her is in the heart of my friends-her friends.  Sorry for your loss, and all the best wishes in this difficult time."

Mintzi Rivera-Martinez

"Kara was such a beautiful soul.  She was one of the first graduate students I had interactions with when I first arrived at the Folklore & Ethnomusicology department.  She was an AI so I was in charge of typing up her evaluations.  Through all the wonderful words her students wrote about her I knew she was a wonderful human being.  She often came into the office, with a huge smile on her face, and would make it a point to come see me.  She usually had great stories about her students and classes.  My favorite class story she told me this summer.  Her first summer session Folklore class she taught at IUPUI she always raved about.  They were really excited about Folklore-a testament to Kara’s great teaching.  She had told them about legend tripping and they all really wanted to go.  Kara set up a trip and they went to this state park, after dark, and before they knew the it the cops had shown up!  Kara didn’t know they were suppose to get permission to be there after dark!  The way she told the story was just hilarious.  

Kara had an impact on my life even though I only knew her for a short time.  I’ll miss her so very much, and will always remember our time together, whether it be a Buffy watching party or conversations in my office."

Michelle Melhouse, Graduate Recorder for the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology 

"I got to know Kara in the F501 class.  She was enthusiastic, bright and always inquiring.  We’ll miss her."

Ruth Stone, Professor of Ethnomusicology

"The most incredibly positive, happy person in the department.  A bright spot who will be greatly missed."

Jeff Tolbert