Strong, Brave, Caring, Beautiful.
Our beloved Karen passed away with her husband Dana at her side in the early morning of Saturday, November 12 at Duke Hospice Hock Family Pavilion. She was 73 years old.
Described by her daughter Sarah as "the strongest woman I've ever known”, Karen battled metastatic breast cancer for almost two decades, enduring surgeries, radiation treatments and continuous chemotherapies. She credited her extended survival to the amazing care that she received from the Durham medical community and Duke University Medical Center allowing her to enjoy all of the life that was available to her. Karen is survived by Dana, her loving husband of 43 years, son Matthew, daughter Sarah (William) Mansfield, grandson Liam and sister Rona (Stephen) Garbowit. She was predeceased by her parents David and Fay Ehrlich and leaves behind many loving cousins, nieces and nephews. Karen’s family was incredibly important to her, and she excelled in her roles of wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, and cousin.
Born and raised in Springfield MA, Karen attended Classical High School in Springfield before enrolling at Johnson State College near Stowe VT where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Education. It was only after graduating from college and moving to Mechanicsburg PA, that she discovered her flair and eye for design and visual merchandising. It was there that Karen met her future husband, Dana. Karen and Dana wed in March 1979 in Savannah GA where Dana was assigned as a commissioned officer with the U.S. Army and Karen worked as an interior designer. After six years in Savannah, Karen and Dana moved to Durham NC, where they started their new careers, settled for good and raised their family.
Karen loved interacting with people and truly never met a stranger. She formed deep and meaningful connections with people wherever she went. She was energized and sustained by her loving circles of friends. In addition to her family, she leaves behind cherished friends including former school classmates, co-workers, dear neighbors, fellow book club enthusiasts, Camp Bluebird pals, her Judea Reform community, and many, many others.
Karen was kind and gifted, drawn to animals, nature, books, dance, music, photography, and cooking. A practicing vegetarian since 1983 her prowess in the kitchen delighted everyone, vegetarian or not. She took pride in cooking and nourishing her family, friends and others in need. While all of her culinary efforts were outstanding, her rugelach was legendary!
Karen delighted in making people laugh. Her sense of humor was renowned (as were her superpowers which included her amazing memory for song lyrics, telephone numbers, grammar and the ability to guess the time without a watch to within 30 minutes). Karen and Dana led an active life even after her cancer diagnosis in 2003 made it challenging. She loved to dance, sing, hike, travel, correspond with friends and was always up for an adventure. She was rarely without her camera and had an eye for photographic subjects that others would simply walk past without noticing. She has left an amazing archive of photographic work for her family and friends to enjoy and explore for decades to come.
Karen was an inspiration to other people in so many ways. She was selfless and drew joy from helping others. From tutoring newcomers in English as a Second Language, organizing the “Bosom Buddies” cancer support group, training and inspiring customers as a Curves fitness coach to organizing meal trains and cooking meals for strangers, friends and families in need, Karen was there.
Our family's deep-felt thanks and gratitude go out to the Durham medical community that cared for Karen during her nineteen-year struggle with metastatic breast cancer and Duke Hospice for their kind and heartfelt care of Karen and our family during her final days.
A celebration of Karen's life will be scheduled in the spring.
Memorial contributions may be made to the American Cancer Society, Duke Hospice or the Eno River Association.