Karen Kay Williams (née Duncan) passed away peacefully on the foggy afternoon of Dec. 19, 2021, in Bakersfield, at the age of 81.
Karen was born on Sept. 26, 1940, in Sullivan, Ind., to Harriett (Gilman) and Franklin Duncan. An only child, she spent her early years in Indiana, and spoke often of watching her parents dance at the VFW and frequenting the town’s movie theater on the weekends. Her father gifted her first beloved dog, Susie, in a shoebox while Karen was still in elementary school. Susie inspired a lifelong love for animals, and throughout Karen’s years with us she almost always had a critter by her side. She moved with her parents to Antioch in 1952, and attended Antioch High School, graduating in 1958.
She met her loving husband, Lee Allen Williams, in Antioch, thanks to her best friend Patty Calisesi. The couple married on Jan. 30, 1959. As newlyweds, they traveled to Hawaii to begin Lee’s four-year enlistment in the Navy, where they welcomed the first of four daughters, Lori, in December of that year. Sisters Carri, Sheri and Kristi followed in quick succession, and Karen focused her energies as a full-time homemaker and mother to the gaggle of girls. During their daughters’ youth, Karen enjoyed working outside the home in the shipping and receiving department for McGaw Medical Manufacturers. Raised in Santa Ana, San Juan Capistrano and Tustin, the four girls shared many happy times with their parents, family and friends. Karen’s daughters speak fondly of riding loose in the back of the family station wagon, bouncing around as their mom learned to drive.
After the girls were grown, Lee and Karen retired to Tehachapi and have lived for many years in Sand Canyon. Karen took a job working for the local grocery store, Save Mart, in town. She found great joy in chatting with clients and coworkers as a cashier for nearly 20 years. Karen also enjoyed spending time with the newest generations of their family, grandchildren Ryan and Lee (who spent much of their childhood with Mamaw and Papaw in Tehachapi), and Patricia, Jacqueline and Alexander (who enjoyed shopping trips in town and many adventures at Bops and Grams’ mountainous desert home, building a secret fort and even digging an in-ground pool). Most recently, they’ve joyfully welcomed the family’s latest additions, Ryan’s children, Norah Kay (Karen Kay’s namesake) and Theodore Bradley.
Karen was predeceased by her parents, Harriett and Frank, and youngest daughter, Kristi. She is survived by Lee, her husband of over 62 years, and they loved and cared for one another unconditionally throughout their lives. She is also survived by her daughters Lori Duran (Martin, of Tehachapi), Carri Reid (James, of Oxnard), and Sheri Williams (Los Angeles). Additionally, she leaves behind five grandchildren: Ryan Moores (Lindsey, of Fishers, Ind.), (little) Lee Moores (Katie, of Vicksburg, Miss.), Patricia Reid (Vergennes, Vermont), Jacqueline Reid (Calgary, Alberta, Canada), and Alexander Reid (Ventura). In addition to her namesake, Norah Kay, Karen is also survived by a great-grandson, Theodore Bradley, both Ryan’s children. In the spring, Lee and Katie will welcome another great-grandson to continue Karen’s legacy. She will be dearly missed by her two furry friends, Star and Homer, and we are comforted to imagine her playing again with Susie, Blackie, Bonnie, Clyde and Annie in heaven.
We will gather to celebrate Karen’s life on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022, at 11 a.m., at Wood Family Service in Tehachapi. All are welcome, and attendees are required to wear masks. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that the grieving donate to the Wounded Warriors Foundation, a favored cause of Karen’s, or to support their local animal shelter.
We ask you to think of Karen the next time you admire a pink rose or enjoy a cup of peach tea. Knowing these few words cannot capture all that Karen was, now we, her family and friends, are charged with remembering, celebrating and sustaining her quick wit and love for all living creatures. We are honored by her life and will carry her with us always. Until we meet again, Karen. We love you.