WHEN EARL AND CHARYL Kay Sedlik speak, one barely emits a phrase before the other interjects. “This is why we’re together,” Charyl Kay says with a grin. “We argue all the time.”

But then they hand you their joint business card. On the back are 34 affiliations and aphorisms that present a cornucopia of common ground. To them, the dichotomy makes sense.

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Differences in upbringing and inclination bolster their bond. Born Jewish in the Bronx and raised in Miami, Earl trained as a computer engineer and broadened to marketing management and business education. Charyl Kay, a Methodist who converted to Judaism, was born and raised in the tiny Washington coastal town of Raymond, became a nurse, then built a 33-year career as the West’s first female pharmaceutical sales rep.

Today, as these downtown denizens near 80, they honor a 55-year union fed by mutual commitment and “incredibly tough decisions,” such as having a biological child while adopting an infant.

Their child-rearing success arose from moving in 1974 to the diverse Mount Baker neighborhood, where for decades they plunged into a range of prominent civic roles and board service, including Earl’s two campaigns for city council and Charyl Kay’s stint as precinct committee officer. They’re proud their grown children likewise are devoted to altruism.


Central to their story is their 1965 meeting. Charyl Kay attended a Boeing party in Rainier Beach where Earl performed on ukulele, launching the folky “Michael, Row the Boat Ashore” with unusually high chords.

“This blonde stands up and says, ‘Stop, stop, stop! You’re singing in a key no one can sing. You have to change the key.’ I said, ‘OK; come up here and stand with us, and whatever key you want to sing in, we’ll sing in that key.’ She was really cute, really friendly. I didn’t focus on the fact that she was bossy. I let that go.”

Actually, neither of the two is shy. But they bicker with bonhomie.

“Sometimes,” Charyl Kay says, “he listens to me and does what I tell him to do.”

“That,” Earl replies, “is a pretty high bar.”