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Karen Kay Boeckenhauer was born April 20th, 1944 in the Sandhills of Nebraska to Robert and Inez (Wriedt) Boeckenhauer. She joined her older sister Juanita Jean and in short order gained a younger brother, Lauren Robert. This small band of Boeckenhauers left the Sandhills and moved back to the homeland of Wayne and Wakefield, Nebraska, where youngest brother Maurice Eugene completed the family. They settled in on a farm on the edge of Wayne fondly referred to as Gruesome Gulch.
Karen spent her childhood as a farm girl – tending animals, playing with her siblings and many nearby cousins and creating make-believe castles in the trees by Logan Creek. She helped with household tasks such as cooking and sewing, but often snuck away to her attic bedroom to read instead. She attended Wayne Prep for all of her primary school years. There she played flute in marching band and violin in orchestra; sang in the choir; held several class offices; co-edited the yearbook; was President of the Pep Club; made mostly A’s; and graduated as valedictorian in 1962.
4-H played an enormous part of Karen’s young adulthood, joining the Lively Lassies at age 9. Her first project was “Let’s Cook” – she started easy with apple crisp, partly because her father and brothers had a large appetite for sweets. Starting at age ten with her first “Let’s Sew” project, she went on to win multiple purple ribbons at county and state fairs, and at age 17 won the Grand Champion Dress Revue award at the Wayne County Fair, for a gray wool tailored dress. Karen and her brothers started a sheep flock in 1957, growing it from a mere 11 sheep to over 200 in 1962. The income they raised from the flock provided all three with savings for college.
Karen attended the University of Nebraska School of Nursing because she loved science and, at that time, a woman could either nurse or teach. Because of this, the advent of STEM education for girls pleased her greatly. She began her nursing career in the Maternity Department of the University Hospital in Omaha and stayed until becoming a mother herself.
In 1967 she spotted Gene Weeks, a young electrical engineer, during a church outing and had a premonition that he would be her husband. After a proposal near the high point of Trail Ridge in Rocky Mountain National Park, they married in June of 1968. Through the blessing that is adoption and the Nebraska Children’s Home Society, Karen and Gene were joined by two children – Kara in 1972 and Kevin in 1976. They settled in Omaha, Nebraska, where Karen loved being a stay-at-home mom – in a house with a huge yard, on a street full of other kids to play with, a large garden, and a basement filled with arts and crafts, as well as her sewing area. She led a local 4-H club where she passed on her experiences to a new generation of girls.
Gene’s work required a move to Norcross, Georgia in 1980 – what was supposed to be an 18-month temporary assignment at Western Electric turned into a 34 year stay. The family built a house, surrounded by trees and a creek, which became a great playground where adventures were often led by Karen herself. Many of these occurred with Girl Scout Troop 840, which she led for over 10 years, influencing many girls during that time and leading two to achieving their Gold Awards. Karen loved her yard and created an oasis – when children were small, swing sets and treehouses filled the space; when they left she filled it all in with native plants to attract her beloved birds.
With growing children, the opportunity came to resume her nursing career. Serendipitously a new school was being built nearby and Karen became the beloved nurse at Berkeley Lake Elementary for over 25 years. Her talent for nursing blossomed when combined with her love of tending children. Not only did she deal with the everyday tasks of administering medicines and tending to scrapes and colds, she made her clinic a safe spot where children could come for a respite from class and some tender comfort. People in our Georgia neighborhood still remember “Mrs. Weeks, the school nurse.” To the family she was “Nurse Mommy” and perhaps a just a little stricter when it came to our complaints, recognizing them as a play to stay home from school.
Karen was a lifelong Methodist and loved her church fiercely. Baptized at Ainsworth UMC, she transferred to the church in Wayne where she sang in the children’s choir and earned perfect attendance in Sunday School. As a young adult in Omaha, she attended Omaha First United Methodist, participating in the Crossroads Group where she met Gene. The young couple transferred to St. Paul United Methodist where their children were baptized and Karen taught youth Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and was active in the UMW. The move to Georgia brought new churches, first to Norcross First United Methodist, then to her beloved Mt. Carmel. Karen was a dedicated servant to Mt. Carmel and a force of nature – singing in the choir; active with the United Methodist Women; leading the Childrens’ Cherub Choir; teaching Sunday School and Vacation Bible School; serving on the Council of Ministries and Staff/Parish Relations Committee; and, of course, baking her famous apple pie for the annual Barbeque;. Karen and Gene’s move to Colorado brought them to their new home church, Arvada United Methodist. Karen participated in the Priscilla Circle and, of course, choir – even inspiring her husband Gene to join in.
Karen loved to garden, filling her various yards with vegetables, flowers, and native plants, all to attract her favorite wildlife, especially birds. She was an avid bird-watcher and kept track of what she’d spotted in her well-worn Sibley’s Guide to Birds. She was an avid walker, in her neighborhoods and the woods. Moving to Colorado meant strapping on snowshoes and enjoying her walk in the quiet of a snowy forest, often joining Gene and friends after their day on the ski slopes. She loved to bake – chocolate chip cookies, cinnamon rolls and apple pies were family favorites. Karen loved spending time with her extended relatives and helped to organize family reunions for many years – these times provided her the opportunity to return to her beloved home state of Nebraska where she could walk the country roads again and experience the remarkable sights and sounds of nature. She imparted this love of family history to her children, who carry on the legacy of the pioneers who came before.
Karen adored being a grandmother and spent countless hours with Brent and Riley – blowing bubbles, doing arts & crafts, playing dress up (usually subjected to some questionable ensembles by her granddaughter), going to the park, playing games, and reading stories. This was her Grandma Love in action.
In the end, Karen battled Parkinson’s Disease for several years. It took her strength and vitality, but not her spirit, humor and sass – those were present to the end. She would not like to be remembered for the difficult final days, but rather her talents and interests and love for her friends and family.
Karen is survived by her loving husband of 55 years, Gene Weeks; her daughter Kara Weeks; her son Kevin Weeks and wife Kelly; grandchildren Brent and Riley Weeks; her siblings, Juanita Reed Boniface and Lauren (Kathy)Boeckenhauer; sisters-in-law Dee Boeckenhauer and Irene Weeks; and countless nieces, nephews, cousins and friends. God has reunited her with her parents, Robert & Inez Boeckenhauer, and her youngest brother Maurice; they are welcoming her with open arms into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Visitation and service will be held on Thursday, November 9th at Arvada United Methodist Church at 2pm and 3:30pm respectively; a reception will follow. The service can be viewed live or in the future at https://youtube.com/live/iJe93q7hn1g?feature=share . The service will be available on the church's YouTube channel.
Visitation and services will be held on December 1st and 2nd at Mt. Carmel United Methodist Church in Norcross, Georgia, times to be determined.
If you desire, memorials may be given in Karen’s honor to:
The Nebraska Children’s Home Society in her memory for making our family possible – www.nchs.org/donate Click on the box to asking if you are donating in honor or memory of and fill in Karen’s name (Physical address for checks provided on request).
The Nebraska 4-H Foundation to honor her love for the program that taught her so much. A memorial fund has been set up in her name and donations can be made at www.ne4hfoundation.org (Physical address for checks provided on request).
The Arvada United Methodist Church’s Music Fund in honor her love of singing with the choir. Donations can be made at www.shelbygiving.com/App/Giving/aumc, just select “Music Fund” from the drop-down menu. (Physical address for checks provided on request)