Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Karen Patricia Smaby Celebration of Life


                                             Karen Patricia Smaby, Photo credit: Linda Ottis

The Northwoods Fiber Guild had a Celebration of Life for Karen Patricia Smaby on September 23, 2020.  The celebration took place on Karen's Christmas Tree Farm on Pike Lake Road, Grand Marias, Minnesota.

Some of the Fiber Guild arrived early to decorate with pom poms, pagodas, valentines, and flowers. As friends arrived, everyone was invited to sign cards that would be sent to Karen's Mom, Pat.  Participants were invited to write a message to Karen from one of her hand made books with perforated pages. She used her Grandmother's Singer sewing machine to create the perforation.  On two tables were gathered artworks that Karen had created.


When all the group arrived, Barb LaVigne opened the ceremony with beautiful flute music. 



George Wilkes pointed up & drew our attention to two small flocks of Sand Hill Cranes flying high overhead. They were sending their blessing to us and Karen as well. 

Linda Ottis encouraged all to share stories of Karen; they shared freely with readings & heartfelt anecdotes about our wonderful friend, Karen.

                    In Viking style, we sent Karen messages through the smoke that sent skyward.

                          The weather was warm and the trees were sharing their beauty for all.
                                                                           Karen's art 


                                                        Karen, Photo Credit Cam Norman

Nan Backlund sang Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," with the help of the crowd. Some of us sang quietly due to tears.

                                                     Nan Backlund, Photo credit: Linda Ottis

Karen taught classes at the Northhouse Folk School, and when the Jessa Frost, program director learned of Karen's passing, she sent this lovely note out:

August 24, 2020

Hi Everyone

I have sad news to share this August afternoon. I heard from Cheryl Larsen earlier today that Karen Smaby passed away peacefully yesterday of pancreatic cancer. Karen began teaching at North House in 2011, and taught more than thirty classes to over 300 students. All of her coursework-- whether penny rugs or dying in the steambox or bookbinding-- reflected her love of color and her special eye for combining textures and ideas in many different forms of fiber. Karen was instrumental in her quiet and understated way in bringing about the close relationship between the Northwoods Fiber Guild and North House, something that was not always so in earlier days. One of Karen's other passions was working with the high school art students each year to do a bookbinding project: you may have seen the work for sale at the Java Moose, which funded the materials for the following year. Her warm spirit will be missed.




Program Director

pronouns she/her
phone: 218. 387. 9762
Post Office Box 759 500 West Highway 61
Grand Marais, Minnesota 55604

A beautiful obituary with more details about Karen's life was published.

The community has lost a wonderful, generous teacher.
Karen Patricia Smaby, 63, Grand Marais, a woman of exceptional character, died peacefully, gazing at the woods outside her window, on Monday, August 24, 2020, at Northshore Hospital, after a valiant battle with pancreatic cancer. 
She was born October 3, 1956, in Helena, Montana, and grew up in  Iron Mountain, Michigan. She attended Winona State University in Winona, earning her Bachelor of Arts degree. In college, she made deep friendships that continue today. 
Karen moved to Cascade Mountain on Pike Lake Road in 1984 where she partnered in a maple syrup operation and planting, nurturing and selling Christmas trees.
She was a charter member of the Northwoods Fiber Guild, whose members will miss her wise counsel, her impressive bookmaking skills, and her generous spirit.
For many years, Karen spearheaded the Senior Book Project at Cook County High School, where she shepherded graduating seniors through the art of bookmaking to create their own unique yearbooks. 
She was a beloved instructor at North House Folk School and the Grand Marais Art Colony. Karen was an instrumental co-conspirator in "Yarnstorming" Grand Marais for Fishermens’s Picnics and Winterer’s Gatherings.
 We’ll miss her strong, quiet presence; her outstanding teaching ability; her wit; her kindness; and the delicious picnics she prepared for the maple sap crew.
Karen is survived by her husband, her mother and stepfather, her five brothers and their partners, several nieces and nephews, and many devoted friends.
Death is not extinguishing the light; it is putting out the lamp because dawn has come.  Rabindranath Tagore
In lieu of flowers or memorials, please support your favorite charities and foundations.

                                                            Valentines created by Karen

When I rise up

let me rise up joyful

like a bird.

When I fall

let me fall without regret

like a leaf.

      Wendell Berry


One last story that was shared after the celebration.  A man named Scott worked with Karen on bookbinding and sharing his expertise with her. He was offered a job at the Smithsonian in Washington DC, and told Karen that it was tough for him to leave Cook County.  He did move, live and work in Washington DC.  One December, the intercom buzzed and the UPS driver said that he had a package.  Scott went down to find a six foot box.  He took it upstairs, opened it and found a Christmas tree from Karen.

                                    Autumn beauty in Grand Marias; photo credit Linda Ottis

"Love is what carries you, for

it is always there, even in 

the dark, or most in the dark,

but shining out at times

like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery."

                            Wendell Barry


Love wins. 

The story continues with three friends celebrating Karen at her Christmas Tree Farm on year later, August 31, 2021.


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