Karen Zabriskie
Karen Zabriskie
Karen Zabriskie
Karen Zabriskie
Karen Zabriskie
Karen Zabriskie

Obituary of Karen Lea Zabriskie

Loving Tribute to Karen Lea Zabriskie

by daughter, Kris Z. Olson


As I write this, I am still grieving the loss of Mom as I’m watching Dad’s rapid decline.  Besides his own health issues, I believe his rapid decline may be attributable to a broken heart in the loss of his caring wife of 68 years.


I share my treasured brothers’ inspiring memories about Mom’s many good qualities and strengths shared in their letters and poems below. One of the wonderful repercussions of us having to come together to manage Mom’s and Dad’s health issues and living arrangements together these last few months has been that we've established a much closer bond in our later years. I am so thankful for that and look forward to more time with my extended family.


In the following obituary, I shared one of the parts of mom that gives me the most joy and the visual picture clearly lives on in my heart…Mom and her sand dollars. Since Mom and Dad spent many summer months on the Washington Coast, I had the privilege of going to the beach with her often.  Not much could match her delight in taking off her shoes and combing the beach for sand dollars. She would bring some back to Arizona where she would share them with the school children and people in Sierra Winds where they lived. She set up an inspirational display of the sand dollar broken in half with the doves of peace emerging, signifying the spreading of God’s goodwill and peace. I will hold her in my heart as someone who made it her goal to spread goodwill and peace.


Thank you, Mom. You will always be in our hearts.



Obituary of Karen Lea Zabriskie


Karen Lea Zabriskie passed into the peace and promise of the Lord’s grace on April 4, 2024. She was comforted by family love and song during her difficult health journey home in the final months. She had a long, happy, meaningful life, providing care and service as a registered nurse and pastor’s wife. Born August 1935 in Chicago, Illinois, to Mabel and Adolf Benson, she is survived by her husband, Richard; three sons, Mark (Michelle) Zabriskie, Steven (Amber) Zabriskie, and Scott (Cindy) Zabriskie; and a daughter, Kristine Zabriskie (Steve) Olson; eight grandchildren, Alex, Rachel (Ben), Kelli (Ryan), Aaron (Caleigh), Isaac, Luke (Kaylee), Christopher (special step-grandson), Annalise, and Peter; five great-grandchildren, Cooper, Finn, Lucy, Jude, and Gus; and sister, Marion Snow.


Karen met her husband, Richard Zabriskie, while she was attending nursing school at Augustana Hospital in Chicago and he was attending McCormick Theological Seminary there, making calls on the sick at the hospital.  During their 68 years of marriage, she filled her role as a pastor’s wife in an exceptional way by loving and caring for those in the congregation and beyond. She took her nursing profession seriously and her patients and friends reported that they experienced great comfort under her competent care.  She enjoyed and organized travel for herself and groups, knit Christmas stockings for her family, loved camping and RVing, and regularly visiting her family around the country, rarely missing a special event for her children and grandchildren. She was astute at handling finances and beating everyone at card games like pinochle and Nerts.


One of her favorite activities later in life was walking the Oregon and Washington beaches in the summer, collecting sand dollars.  She would bring them back to Arizona where she would share them with the school children and people in the retirement facility where she lived, setting up an inspirational display of a sand dollar broken in half with the doves of peace emerging, signifying the spreading of God’s goodwill and peace and that is how she lived her life.


The family would encourage any gifts given in her memory to be made to Habitat for Humanity, Central Arizona, habitatcaz.org, to help build a West Valley home for those in need, an activity that she and Richard volunteered for and proudly supported.



Tribute from son, Scott Zabriskie


Our Mom, Karen, was a champion of behind-the-scenes action, with a natural aptitude for hard work and a true servant heart.  She naturally and masterfully offered the most challenging kind of professional care as a registered nurse at hospitals in three different locations throughout her career.  Karen had a “no-bones” attitude and a standout reputation for getting the job done.  She made her start in Chicago, where she crossed paths on the job with Dad, the Rev. Richard Zabriskie, while he was making his calls. They fell in love and were married on a 1955 summer day in Chicago.  They moved to Milwaukee and settled there to begin a lifetime of dedicated ministry in the church.  Three sons and a daughter were born to her there and were forever blessed to call her Mother. 


In 1970, Karen and Richard followed the Lord’s call to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where Karen’s exemplary nursing care continued amidst the ministry and family life that included fully supporting all four kids through college.  Karen demonstrated unmatched skill, love and dedication for her patients, as she tackled every difficult situation with fearless tenacity, and never hesitated to get her hands dirty.  At church, serving the people was always her special purpose, whether a pancake breakfast for 200, a dinner party for a dozen, or Meals on Wheels for those in need.


At home, she made raising a family seem easy, and never failed to deliver a hearty and tasty meal. Frequent overdoses of her trademark Swedish pancakes and perfect homemade birthday pies always garnered repeated praise.  Later on, the grandkids couldn’t ever get enough of her uncomplicatedly yummy grilled-cheese sandwiches. 


Karen hand-knit well over 20 artful Christmas stockings for every member of her extended family while her fingers would still allow it.  Family birthdays were always marked with a surprise phone call birthday song serenade and a $2 dollar bill with a birthday card. Somehow, she magically kept house and managed daily affairs too, all of this graciously, without any complaint.  She loved to camp with her family and friends in the summertime and could often be found in a beach chair with a pretty hat and a good book, water skiing with the gang, or playing late night cards by lantern light after the ritual of evening folk songs, accompanied by Richard’s rousing guitar strumming campfire favorites and fireside smores. 


In 1985, Karen and Richard answered another call and relocated to Sun City, Arizona, for the final sequel of their ministry in the Presbyterian Church.  Karen traveled with Richard to many beautiful places, including three tours of the Holy Land, much of Europe, and Australia.  She walked countless beaches barefoot in search of sand dollars that held symbols of God’s promised love for his people.  She enjoyed golden years of fellowship with Richard and their many friends and family at their modest but comfortable desert home.  She loved photos of family visits marked by the ever-growing palms and cacti in the yard and picking fresh oranges and grapefruits from their own trees and making the freshest squeezed juice to share.  She knew how to enjoy the good times, but always came straight back to the Lord’s work. To know her is to realize that if everyone could follow her ethic, no one would ever be neglected or go hungry. 


Undoubtedly, the Lord is well pleased with her, and warmly invites her to a seat at His eternal banquet feast.  She surely will find her way behind the scenes there once again to continue to humbly serve and honor Him.  The image of our devoted and extraordinary loving mother is indelibly printed on my heart. Her love for life lives on in us and we’ll treasure her in our memories until we are one day all at the same table together again.  Until then, Mom, we will hold dearly to your love, and picture you strolling heaven’s finest beaches with our Lord and His sand dollar doves that welcome you home. 


We forever love you!



Poem written by son, Mark Zabriskie



I live a precious life

From your nurture, from your care

I learned to be considerate,

Compassionate, and fair


You hauled me off to church

And praised the lord with song

You guided and prepared

I learned my right from wrong


You worked and managed home

And healed with nursing skills

Entertained and hosted friends

And even paid the bills


I know you’re now at peace

Playing Pinochle and Nerts

I’ll miss you and I love you

Without you really hurts


Rest in Peace



Please leave condolences or share memories and photos on the Tribute Wall to the left.



















































To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Karen Zabriskie, please visit Tribute Store
A Memorial Tree was planted for Karen
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Funeral Alternatives of Washington - Tumwater
Share Your Memory of