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Obituary of Karen Carter McDonald
Karen Carter McDonald, 66 years old, died on April 1, 2019 after a long, debilitating illness. She did so on her own terms, in her home surrounded by her loving family and several longtime friends. Karen was born on May 8, 1952 to Joel Wilford Carter and Patricia Marie (Burch) Carter in Glendale, California. She is survived by her loving and devoted husband of 44 years, Michael; her son, Shawn, and daughter-in-law, Crystal; son, Nathan; her beautiful grandchildren, the lights of her later years, Avery, Juliana, and Emma Mae, and Nathan’s son Jasper; and also by her sisters, Nancy Nelson of Orem, Utah and Shelley Golladay of Decatur, Illinois.
Karen was raised in a loving family in Arleta, California in the home built by her father. He was a carpenter and construction foreman, and Karen loved to go to work with just her dad and hang out at the construction site. She especially enjoyed the ride to and from work, talking and laughing with her much loved father. Karen attended Pacoima Junior High and San Fernando High in San Fernando, California, where she made several lifelong friends who remained in touch, supporting her with their love to the end. That epitomizes Karen throughout her life. She was a most loving, kind and loyal friend, and it was returned to her until the very end.
Karen talked about the joy and fun she experienced as a girl playing games with her family; this was an activity that she shared with her family and gave to her sons and grandchildren. She loved puzzles and logic games and excelled at them. Karen was competitive in this area and a tough one to beat. It was likely this love that led her to excel in her profession of computers and mathematics, which for her were just more puzzles to solve. Karen was humble and unassuming and many who knew her were not aware of her great intellectual capacity. Karen said that, as a little girl, she didn’t play with dolls that much and so she greatly enjoyed playing dolls with her granddaughters. She said it made her feel like a little girl again.
Married to Michael on September 20, 1975, they moved to Seattle shortly thereafter where she worked at the Port of Seattle. In 1978, they moved to Olympia where they established roots, made many friends and raised their boys. Karen loved to travel and many road trips ensued. Camping and hiking were a love for Karen and she was always ready for a trip to the ocean or the mountains. Her love for the natural beauty of the Northwest was the attraction that brought her and Michael to Washington State. Many of those road trips culminated in Carter Family Reunions, which were filled with love, fun, barbecues and backgammon tournaments.
In Karen’s professional life, she was a talented female pioneer, graduating from the University of Puget Sound in 1988 Suma Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics/Computer Science. Over the years, she was employed as a computer programmer and an Information Technology Manager by Olympia School District, Puget Sound Systems Group, and Recreation and Conservation Agency for the State of Washington until illness forced her early retirement in 2007. In addition, Karen made a number of young friends who were in high school and college. They greatly appreciated her kind and effective support as she tutored them in pre-calculus and calculus.
After her serious health issues began in 2007, it became harder for her to participate in many of the activities she enjoyed, but even with the onset of heart and lung disease and neuropathic pain, her laughter and beautiful smile continued to lite up a room. Her need for steroids, while keeping her alive, added additional, serious health conditions that made her life more difficult. Though pain and breathing issues made life more challenging, she was a wonderful, loving grandmother (Nani) to her four grandchildren. She is dearly loved and greatly missed. In addition to playing board games, cards and taking walks, using her mobility scooter, she loved watching her grandchildren perform, and Nani was their biggest fan. As health permitted, she also enjoyed light work activities and walks around the Japanese garden she and Michael built at their home.
Despite her illness, Karen is remembered by all as kind, generous and loving. Relationships with her loved ones and friends were the most important thing to Karen. She was spiritually eclectic, raised in the “Disciples of Christ” protestant denomination, her religion was loving kindness, forgiveness and compassion, influenced by the teachings of Jesus and Buddha. Karen’s love was demonstrated to those of us around her, who she comforted until her last breath. Our lives have significantly dimmed in her absence and we miss her beyond words.
A memorial service will be held to honor Karen’s presence in our lives on Sunday, May 5, 2019, 1:00 p.m. at South Sound Manor, 455 North St. SE, Tumwater, WA 98501. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to one of Karen’s favorite charities, “Doctors without Borders” or a donation to your local Hospice organization.