Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free
I'm following the path God laid for me.
I took His hand when I heard Him call;
I turned my back and left it all.

Be not burdened with times of sorrow
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life's been full, I savored much;
Good friends, good times, a loved
one's touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief;
Don't lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your head and share with me,
God wanted me now-He set me free.

Posted by Bill Van Plew on March 11, 2021
Remembering you on your 75th birthday and our life together. Missing you. Love you always.
Posted by Penny Smith on March 11, 2021
Oh Karen, I long for your physical presence in friendship. I never stop missing you deeply, tho I feel your love and guiding spirit. Happy birthday dear friend. My love to you and Jules. Stay with me. ❤️
Posted by Kristen Poniatowski on March 11, 2021
Happy Birthday in Heaven, Mom! Now you have Jules to celebrate with. I hope they have crab legs for you in Heaven!!
Almost 10 years have gone by since you left and I've missed you for every day of it. I know you're with me, though.
I love and miss you SO much!!!!
Posted by Kristen Poniatowski on November 24, 2020
I can't believe nine years have passed since you left. I guess it's because, although your physical body is gone, you've never left my heart. You are always with me, Mom, and I try to honor your memory every day. You are especially heavy on my mind today, but I will try to fill it with wonderful memories i share with you. I love you so much, now and FOREVER!! ❤️
Posted by Lisa Van Plew-Cid on November 24, 2020
Our Dad had shared this with us in 2012, a year after you passed. I had forgotten until I came across it again a few days ago. I needed to hear and be reminded again, and will keep this poem with me. It brings me comfort to think you are near. My heart aches for you, Mom.

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.

Henry Scott Holland ~ 1847-1918
Canon of St. Paul's Cathedral ~ London.
Posted by Bill Van Plew on July 30, 2020
Another anniversary. Time goes by so quickly. 54 years ago we two kids started out so much in love and stayed that way for 46 years together. So grateful for the journey with you. You remain always in my heart.
Posted by Kristen Poniatowski on March 11, 2020
Hi Mom... Happy Birthday! I can't believe eight of your birthdays have come without you here. I still don't get it. I'll celebrate you always and will always wish for one more hug. Your memory is alive and well here. You will NEVER be forgotten. I love you more than words. ❤️
Posted by Penny Smith on March 11, 2020
Good morning my beautiful friend in heaven. Thinking of all the birthdays we have shared, missing you always. I know you are with us all, but my heart hurts not having you in person. Sending you so much love. XO
Posted by William Van Plew on March 11, 2020
Remembering you on you birthday and our life together. Love always!
Posted by Kristen Poniatowski on November 26, 2019
I miss you, Mom. I just miss you...
Posted by Jane Slavin on November 25, 2019
Another year has passed, and there’s so much I wish I could share with you...we could talk lovingly about our families and all the things we’ve seen and done during these many years. You’ll always be one of my dearest and most valued friends. Someday we will reconnect and make up for all this lost time. I will always love you and your family.  ❤️❤️❤️
Posted by William Van Plew on November 25, 2019
Still missing you and celebrating us ... but this day is hard!
Posted by Penny Smith on November 24, 2019
It never gets easier my friend. I miss you every day of my life. Love you forever. ❤️
Posted by Juliana Sweet on July 31, 2019
Thank you Mom for the legacy of love and family you and Dad created for me. Miss and love you more than words.
Posted by Bill Van Plew on July 30, 2019
Today would be 53 years of marriage, but we only made 45. Loved everyone with you. Happy Anniversary Karen.
Posted by Lisa Van Plew-Cid on March 11, 2019
Hey, Mom. Both of us having birthdays again. As you know, I turned “50” on this one! A lot of thoughts and thoughts of you. I realized I was already 28 when you turned 50. My kids are 12 and 8! Our lives are so different in many ways, but we are very much the same. We are passionate, creative, strong-willed, and fiercely committed to our family. I think of how you always wanted me to “slow down” and that my energy “exhausted” you. I never quite knew what you meant, but I do now. Still busy, Mom, but I approach life with a more relaxed energy. I don’t feel as if I have as much to “prove” anymore and want to spend the next years I am fortunate to have living what I know and to just be. I think you would be impressed and happy that I am finally coming to this understanding! But we don’t have time to waste. Losing you reminds me how every day we have is a gift. I am really spending time acknowledging what I want for the next part of my life and plan to pursue it sooner than later. Still figuring out what this “shift” is going to look like. I have been hearing your voice in my head often and I am listening. Please stay with me. I don’t want to walk the rest of this journey without my mom. I do need you. I appreciate your words even when I didn’t want to hear them or understand them. I hear them now and am glad you were stubborn enough to tell me “anyway”.
Posted by Kristen Poniatowski on March 11, 2019
Mom, for your birthday today, I'm posting a feather. The reason for this is because this is how I picture you. Weightless and floating around to watch over your loved ones. I came through a pretty dark few months. I know you were with me. You even gave me the gift of a dream visit. I think about you every day. I see Sam grow and wish I could see you interacting with him. He would LOVE you so much. I talk to him about you. He knows you loved turtles, so every time he sees one, he mentions you. He will know his Mor Mor. He will love you in his own way and I know you're watching over him. I can't believe it's been over seven years since I saw you last. You are always present, though. You will never be forgotten. Happy Birthday, Mom. I hope you're enjoying it with all of the family who has gone before you. Love and miss you always. Love, Kristen
Posted by Maribeth Trueblood on March 11, 2019
What I remember most about Karen was her compassion. The first time I met Karen, we were attending a fundraiser at a country club. I am sure that Karen had attended many of these events in the past, but she totally focused on other people, to make them feel comfortable. She was interested and kind. After a long week of work, she could’ve been home relaxing, but she did not let that keep her from being interested in other people and showing them kindness.
Posted by Juliana Sweet on March 11, 2019
When I realized it was your birthday today I started having a panic attack...not sure why it manifested in anxiety opposed to sadness. Deborah was able to quell the panic by reminding me that you (and all those whom we’ve lost) would not want to see us suffering but to remember you with light and love. She’s so brilliant Mom, you would be so proud of all she has accomplished including her ability to apply peace and understanding to her challengening journey. Your love of family and ALWAYS wanting us together is the reason our family ties are so strong and deep. Thank you for your visits. Thank you for your love and thank you for (still) being the world’s greatest Mom and best friend. I know you are in a place of love and light and I pray that by knowing that I will be bathed in it as well. BUT, just so you know, I still vote NO with my entire being. I will once again light your candle and bathe myself in your all encompassing love and peace. I love you Karen Alma-MTA.
Posted by William Van Plew on March 11, 2019
Remembering you on you birthday and our life together. Love always!
Posted by Kristen Poniatowski on November 26, 2018
Mom, this year has been extremely hard. Almost as if you just left. As I'm adjusting to this "new normal," memories of you begin to fade. It still doesn't seem real, sometimes. This scares me. How I long for the days when we would just spend time together. Watching movies, catching up and just hanging out being silly and laughing. I'd gladly go shopping at Target for hours with you if I could. I wish I could see you meet Sam. It's crazy that he doesn't know you. I've showed him your pictures and talk about you more now that he understands. He even asks about you. Thank you for all of the little signs you've given me to show me you're still "around." I cherish those moments. You will never be forgotten, Mom. My love for you is as strong as it every was. I hope you're enjoying your new surroundings. I look forward to the day I can hug you again. Love and kisses forever. Kristen ❤️
Posted by Jane Slavin on November 25, 2018
Another year has passed and I miss you just as much. I reconnected with Rena this past year and told her all about you. How much fun would it have been for the three of us to have gotten together! This is one of the saddest things to me...the things we might have had time to do together when we were both retired. Love you and your family always, my dear friend.  ❤️
Posted by William Van Plew on July 30, 2018
Fifty-two years ago today we said "til death do us part". I'm still here and you're not, but I still miss you and love you. Looking forward to when we connect again.
Posted by Juliana Sweet on March 11, 2018
I celebrate you every day
I light your candle to light my way
physically forever are
but your spirit is with me..always in my heart.

Mom, we promise your legacy and love will remain alive and with us forever and that your spirit and memories of you will be passed on....never to be forgotten. 
Posted by Kristen Poniatowski on March 11, 2018
Happy Birthday, Mom. Not a day goes by that I don't think about and miss you. I take you with me everywhere I go. Love you forever, Kristen. XOXO
Posted by William Van Plew on March 11, 2018
Remembering you on your birthday and our life together. Love always.
Posted by Maribeth Trueblood on March 12, 2017
Just hearing about Karen inspired my admiration -- how she was an amazing wife, mother, grandmother and nurse. She was so nice to me the evening we shared at the St Charles Country Club. I am sure that she is continually missed...
Posted by William Van Plew on March 11, 2017
Remembering you, with love, and our life together on your birthday!
Posted by Juliana Sweet on November 24, 2016
You're light and your life continue to shine in those of us who spent a lifetime bathed in your light and your gifts and those who connected with that light for even a moment. So many lives have been and will continue to be impacted by your time here with us in body and now in Spirit. I promise you Mom, you and your legacy of love, family and compassion will live on and on for we will never stop sharing your life with those who knew you and will know you through our stories and remembrances-I solomely promise. Thank you for being my Mom, best friend and teacher/example of faith and family. Thank you for helping me not take everything so very seriously and making me feel safe. Thank you for knowing all my darkness but having faith in me and loving me anyway. I pray the Angels followed you from the bridge they protected you on and you are in a place of peace and know no more heartache. I pray you and the rest of the fam (and Malcome) will walk with me on my journey. Love you more than air. F & A. Your racehorse straining the leads.

PS. Dad, Brittneyand I were enjoying the catails on the Marsh last week...oh you and those Woman'a Jr. League arrangements. Cat tails, pine cones, Pussy Willows, Eucalyptus etc. Acquisitioning stories are some of my favorite of all time!!
Posted by William Van Plew on November 24, 2016
Karen - Here we are again on that fateful morning ... but I take comfort in knowing that you have returned to your full light and are infinitely happy. You left your light burning here also, for all of us to see. Love, Bill
Posted by William Van Plew on July 30, 2016
Today would have been our 50th wedding anniversary. What good fortune I had to meet amazing you and have you fall in love with me, then grow together in love, admiration, loyalty, awareness and parenthood over 48 years. Still in love and missing you.
Posted by Maribeth Trueblood on March 12, 2016
Karen was such an amazing person and filled with kindness and consideration for everyone!
Posted by Juliana Sweet on March 11, 2016
Happy 70th birthday Mom. I wish you were here to celebrate. I know how exactly we would have spent this day. Thank-you for loving and supporting me, I wouldn't be me if it weren't for you. I pray you are at peace. We all miss you, remember you, and honor you each and every day. Love you more than air. 
Posted by Jane Slavin on March 11, 2016
I will always miss you and love you...and miss the time we could have had together catching up in our retirement. Wasn't meant to be, I guess.
Posted by William Van Plew on March 11, 2016
Remembering you on your birthday. Still missing our life together.
Posted by Penny Smith on March 11, 2016
Oh Karen, such a hole in my life and heart without you. Nothing is the same. I never thought about one of us not being here for the other, how could I have been so naive? I'm grateful for your spiritual presence on my life, I know you are here, but I so deeply miss your physical presence. I love you forever and ever my BFF, won't we have the best reunion when I get there? Until then stay by our side, we all need you! ❤️
Posted by Jane Slavin on November 24, 2015
Once again I am left to wonder why life is so random and why your time to leave us came so early. You had, and still have, the sweetest soul, and I miss you more than I can put into words. Please wait for me...we'll get our long-delayed retirement time together yet. I love you.
Posted by William Van Plew on July 30, 2015
Remembering our wedding day and the 45 years together that followed. Still missing you.
Posted by William Van Plew on March 11, 2015
Thinking of you on your birthday. Still missing our life together.
Posted by Jane Slavin on March 11, 2015
And once again I'm recalling how we used to celebrate our March birthdays together and how you always reminded me that you shared a birthday with Liza Minelli! We were so lucky to share so many good times, not just in college but also later as young parents. I'm sorry the direction my life took in later years took me to a place where I couldn't see you daily...but it was a miracle we reconnected later on! That means the world to me. Happiest of birthdays, dear friend...I'm sure you'll spend it in your own special way! Love you!
Posted by Jane Slavin on November 24, 2014
How I wish you could have seen what fine people your children turned into, what wonderful grandchildren you had, and wish you could have had the time to spend with loving friends in our later years. Most of all, I wish you could have had more time with Bill. You two had a very special love. Miss you, my dear friend.
Posted by Penny Smith on November 24, 2014
Oh Karen, this is such a hard time of the year. Every day is hard without you, but it is especially difficult now. I miss not being able to pick up the phone and talk with you, I miss so many things.  Thank you for walking with me thru my day, and helping as you can. You were always teaching me things, I wish missing you were not one of those things. Somehow I never envisioned my life without you. Missing you never gets easier. I feel so blessed to have your family to love. Missing you, missing you, missing you....forever.
Posted by William Van Plew on November 24, 2014
I think about you ever day, but today more than ever. Forever grateful for your love.
Posted by Elsa Przybysz on November 24, 2014
I can't believe it has been three years since we lost Karen. I miss talking to her and sharing with her.
Posted by Kristen Poniatowski on November 16, 2014
As we near the third anniversary of the day you said goodbye my heart grows heavier and heavier, Mom. It still doesn't make sense and I so badly want to wrap my arms around you. I see you in my son. I catch him smiling and babbling, sometimes, at what seems to be nothing, but I have a sneaking suspicion it is you he sees. I love and miss you so much, Mom. XOXO
Posted by William Van Plew on July 30, 2014
Happy Anniversary Sweetheart! I miss you.
Posted by Kristen Poniatowski on March 21, 2014
I've been thinking about you so much, lately, Mom. I really hope you are here with me and can see how wonderful your grandson is. How I wish I could see him smile when he looks at you!!! XOXO
Posted by Maribeth Trueblood on March 11, 2014
Karen brought incredible happiness to everyone around her!
Posted by Jane Slavin on March 11, 2014
As always, happy birthday to one of my dearest friends ever. We used to celebrate a few of our birthdays together, as I recall. Still regret that we were never given the opportunity to finish our journey. I love your family with all my heart and will do anything they need if they ask. I wish I could do more. Love you, sweetie. <3
Posted by William Van Plew on March 11, 2014
Happy Birthday Sweetheart! I celebrate your life and our life together today ... and every day. I miss you so much! Life is empty without you.
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Leave a Tribute

Recent Tributes
Posted by Bill Van Plew on March 11, 2021
Remembering you on your 75th birthday and our life together. Missing you. Love you always.
Posted by Penny Smith on March 11, 2021
Oh Karen, I long for your physical presence in friendship. I never stop missing you deeply, tho I feel your love and guiding spirit. Happy birthday dear friend. My love to you and Jules. Stay with me. ❤️
Posted by Kristen Poniatowski on March 11, 2021
Happy Birthday in Heaven, Mom! Now you have Jules to celebrate with. I hope they have crab legs for you in Heaven!!
Almost 10 years have gone by since you left and I've missed you for every day of it. I know you're with me, though.
I love and miss you SO much!!!!
Recent stories

Reunited and it feels so good!

Shared by Jane Slavin on March 11, 2015

Yes, after heaven only knows how many years, we reunited in Wheaton! I was visiting my kids in Winfield and we managed to arrange a get-together for breakfast. In addition to Karen and me, son Bob, his daughter Julia, and daughter Cathy joined us. In many ways, it was as if all those intervening years had never happened. We laughed, we cried, we shared tons of pictures, and we probably wore out our welcome in that restaurant. A few months later, I was back in Wheaton for a bridal shower for son Jeff's fiancee, and Karen was, of course, a welcome guest at that party. She and Bill drove out to Dixon for Jeff's wedding in April 2010...sadly, that was our last time to be together, so I'm so glad we spent tons of time together at the wedding reception! We were making plans for retirement get-togethers in the future...she and Bill could visit us in Washington, DC. Wouldn't that have been fun? I feel cheated of that. Miss you, sweetie!  

My Time With Karen

Shared by William Van Plew on July 30, 2014

After hearing Susan Sarandon explain the reason people get married in the movie Shall We Dance, I realized that my purpose in life was to witness Karen's life. I am so grateful she chose me to do so. I celebrate our love everyday and continue to witness her life.

Forty-five years together went by so quickly and we both said we wouldn't change a thing ... except she left too soon. Now I live on wonderful memories and count my blessings.


Shared by Sarah Johnson on April 1, 2012

Karen shared with me every home she had.  It began on Cottonwood Drive in Wheaton.  My mom needed childcare and had gotten Karen’s name from a mutual friend.  Despite the fact that she did not know my mom, and was not really looking to take care of someone else’s child, she decided to open her home to me.  At the age of 2, I began to spend time in Karen’s home on a regular basis.  It is from this home that I began to develop my earliest, deepest friendship and some of my dearest relationships.  Karen’s home became one of my favorite places to be as a child.  It was a place of welcome and acceptance.   A place of chaos and fun.   A place where as a single child, I could imagine and taste the companionship of siblings.  As the friendship between my mom and Karen grew, Karen included us in each and every holiday celebration.  With these celebrations, I took to heart many time honored family traditions, both intentional and casual.  To this day, I feel a strong compulsion to document my children’s lives on video camera.  We decorate Christmas cookies and open pajamas on Christmas Eve.  I reuse the same Easter baskets for my kids each year.  We host 4th of July parties and I covet seeing the fireworks.  I still sing out loud to every Madonna song that I hear.  I macramé.  And I love going to Michigan every summer……

“The Wren” is Karen’s summer home in Harbert, Michigan.  It was built by her father.  It was too old, too small, and too crowded.  It was absolutely fantastic!  It was the only vacation my mom and I ever got to take, and there was nowhere else I would rather go.  After sleeping the night on a folding cot on the enclosed porch, the days began with donuts and pastries from the Swedish bakery just up the street.  Some days there’d be blueberry picking to do, or we’d be dragged along with our moms to go shopping at each and every one of the antique stores along Red Arrow Highway.  After a long morning of shopping, we might grab lunch at the gas station or stop at the old fashioned ice cream parlor that was part of the pharmacy in Sawyer.  Sometimes a group of us kids were allowed to ride the rusted, ill-fitted bikes up to the fruit market or Honeycuts grocery store on our own.  On our way back, we would take shortcuts through the woods and stop by the ponds to try and find frogs.  In the evenings, it was very well understood that showers needed to be short!  There was usually a big discussion among the adults about how to handle dinner.  A regular treat was eating at Redamax in New Buffalo followed by ice cream at Oinks.  But many dinners were made as one big family at the cottage.  These dinners were often very late.  A bonfire was usually started in the lot beyond the cottage.  This is where I learned how to make a damn good smore.  As I got older, I can recall many late nights playing cards and games that mark the American childhood  – Ghost in the Graveyard, Truth or Dare…..And on more than one occasion, after the adults had had too much to drink, we found ourselves skinny dipping after hours down at the Harbert beach! 

For me, the best part of the daytime was going to the beach.  It was close enough to walk, but we preferred to ride our bikes or take the car.  I would always anticipate that first glimpse of the water as I started down the sandy path to the water.  The beach was a different size every year depending on the tide.  We spent hours under the sun and in the water every day.  This is where I learned to swim, fought the waves, and stood on a sandbar for the first time.  We’d search for shells and pretty rocks, walk the shore, and build sand castles.  And in the mist of these thrilling, fun, long, exhausting days, there would be moments of stillness.  We would lie on our beach towels “tanning” ourselves.  I would doze off with the sun warming my face, the wind and surf in my ear, and the shifting of sand beneath my body.  With the love of family and friends, and the beauty of nature and creation surrounding me, those moments brought forth a feeling of closeness to God.    

These days, I have my own home that I share with my husband and 2 kids.  My mom and I still take trips to Michigan where we enjoy staying at the home of Karen’s daughter in nearby Three Oaks.  But there was one home that Karen and I continued to share – Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, IL.  It was Karen’s invitation the brought me to the church home that I still have today.  In my earliest memories, I can see myself sitting with my mom, Karen, and her kids in the back left pews of the church.  Today, I still sit with my mom, but now my husband and kids also share the pews with me.  Despite my son’s success at having us sit in different pews each week, Karen’s back left hand side of the sanctuary is where I will always feel most at home.  When I was married at Faith Lutheran, Karen was one of our readers, and her daughter was my Maid of Honor.  When my first child was baptized, we appointed Karen as the official congregational ‘witness,’ while another of her daughters became Michael’s godmother.  I watched my mother married at Faith Lutheran.  Two weeks after Karen’s passing, I accepted the nomination to serve on the Congregational Council.  She was the first person I longed to share this news with.  Most important of all, she brought me to the home where I have grown in my spirituality and closeness to God. 

The ‘homes’ that Karen shared with me and the people who have filled them, have shaped my life in so many wonderful ways.  I try to carry forth her legacy by opening my homes to others in love the way she did for me.   I try to welcome my children’s friends to our home as much as I can.  I try to invite family and friends to attend worship with me.  I try to stay close to the love ones that Karen brought to my life.  Karen Van Plew will live on in my heart and continue to shape my life forever.