ForeverMissed
Karen Gail Smyth, 77, of Unionville passed away September 24, 2020, with her daughter by her side.

She was born to May and Ernest Gardiner in Lacombe, Alberta and graduated from Lindsay Thurber Composite High School in Red Deer, Alberta. She attended an art college in Calgary before choosing a career in x-ray technology, training at Calgary General Hospital. She would later re-train to update her skills and work for two independent x-ray services in Markham.

She married Graham Smyth in Vancouver in 1969, and they moved to Anchorage, Alaska. Karen and Graham also lived in North Vancouver, Winnipeg, Calgary, West Vancouver, Penticton and finally, for the last 36 years, Unionville, Ontario, with winters in Scottsdale, Arizona for the last 17 years. Karen is predeceased by her sister Verna May and survived by her husband, Graham, children, Carla and Jordan, sister Wendy and many nieces and nephews.

Karen will be forever remembered for her beautiful laugh, her kindness and generosity and warm, welcoming presence. She was an amazing hostess, bringing fun, beauty and thoughtful details to every occasion. Karen had a gift for painting and for creating artful flower arrangements. Karen was adventurous: she was in a skydiving club in early adulthood and always had a love for travel. She dedicated time and funding to many charitable organizations including The Heart and Stroke Foundation, Princess Margaret Hospital, the Arthritis Society and the SPCA. She was a dear, trusted friend to many. She was a supportive and loyal wife and a loving and devoted mother. She will be greatly missed.

Due to current social gathering restrictions, there are no formal services planned. The family intends to celebrate her life with cherished friends when circumstances permit.

Your thoughts and memories of Karen that you wish to share are welcomed. In lieu of flowers, you may wish to donate to the Canadian Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, or the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Posted by Nancy Christou on October 12, 2020
I met Karen through the Unionville men’s baseball team. Both Graham and My husband Nick played for the same team. This meeting turned into a great friendship. Karen and Graham started a most famous gourmet club that lasted for over ten years. Over the years our gourmet club “travelled” the globe virtually experiencing cuisine based on the theme of our dinners - and no way could we cheat - everything had to be made from scratch! We had great times and Karen’s laughter was contagious. Karen was a true friend through good times and bad and always had time to listen and reminisce. I loved her and Graham for being unconditional dear friends - and always including and thinking of me. Visiting them in Arizona was always a treat - welcoming me with open arms. We seemed to continue from where we left off. Shopping, cooking and just chatting we’re the highlight of those visits. She made everyone feel welcome. She was a very giving person never expecting anything in return. She was a strong woman - in kind and in spirit. She was a truly special person all round. She cherished every moment. I don’t have any siblings and I felt Karen was a sister I never had. I love you - we love you Karen, you will always have a special place in my heart that can never be replaced. May you Rest In Peace and always touch us by being a guardian angel to all those you left behind.

Nancy and Joe.
Posted by Gillian Campbell on October 9, 2020
Karen was the best friend anyone could ever have. She was so beautiful on the inside as well the outside; she was kind, generous and had such a knack of making everyone feel so special and important. She was genuinely concerned and interested in everything you did.

KLAG met in 1969 as roommates and instantly bonded, so much so that when Ann and I (just off the ship from England) declared we were going to be travelling across Canada to Vancouver, Karen and Lu said "well then, we're coming too" !  And so the adventures began and with Karen at our helm, we never stopped laughing, chatting, supporting each other and being KLAG !
Then husbands and kids came along - so many fun times and sorry Jordan, but to my boys you'll always be "baby Jordan" as the youngest of the tribe by one year!

KLAG all turned 60 in the same year, so we decided a reunion was long overdue. It was the first of our annual reunions, thanks to the amazing hospitality and generosity of Karen and Graham. Each year we came from London (England), Tsawwassen (Vancouver) and Kelowna to meet at first in Tofino and then in Scottsdale. What fabulous hosts Karen & Graham were .... Karen worked relentlessly on providing all the little niceties and extra comforts to make our stay absolutely perfect, and Graham was our very own personal "gourmet chef".  What a team ! And what super memories they gave us. We were made to feel SO special !

I feel so sad, I just can't believe Karen has left us, it was too soon; but I feel so lucky to have had such a wonderful friend in my life for so many years.

My heart goes out to you Carla, Jordan and Graham. Thinking of you and hoping each day will be a little easier for you.  Karen is at peace now.

My love and condolences.
Posted by Carla Smyth on October 8, 2020
Reading the tributes to Mum is so touching. I know she had her own, special ways of reaching people and making them feel appreciated, but hearing it come out makes me feel such pride. I wish I had her gift.
I will dearly miss her humour, seeing her write letters and cards with her personal touch in a world of emails and social media. I will miss laughing with her, and making her laugh. But the thing that will be the hardest to get along without is having her listen.
Mum cared so fiercely and deeply about my worries and concerns, hopes and wishes. If I was hurting, she was hurting. I know she wished she could fix things for me if she could. I hope she knew that just her listening the way she did meant so much. There is no greater love than yours, Mum. xo always.
Posted by Diane Hill on October 7, 2020
I have many wonderful memories of my cousin Karen. Although she was older and often lived far away, Karen always let me know that she was interested in me and my life. There were fun family times in Ponoka, Red Deer and Calgary when we were kids. I got to visit her when she was a young lady living with roommates in a Toronto apartment. Then I saw her as a young mother in Calgary where she was kept busy with little Carla and their very big Afghan dog Brandi. By the time I visited her in Penticton, her family was complete with the addition of Jordan.

I saw Karen only once after she moved to Unionville but we kept in touch through letters, photos and a surprise phone call from Arizona one Christmas Day. This Christmas, I will very much miss receiving her funny, newsy letter.

I remember most Karen’s sense of humour and her infectious laugh. Seeing her in some of these photos I can hear her laughter. I will always think of Karen on her birthday as my son was born on the same day.

Diane
Posted by Paula Ellison on October 7, 2020
Auntie Karen had a contagious smile and laugh. Her presence lit up any room she was in. I have so many memories growing up, visiting Auntie Karen, Uncle Graham, Carla and Jordan in Unionville. Many of our visits were around Thanksgiving or Christmas. She welcomed us with open arms and was always a generous, warm host. We helped her wrap presents on Christmas eve, and I felt lucky to do so! We ate so much good food together!! Each visit was filled with stories, jokes, and reminiscing about past visits. We also had a tradition of playing games like Balderdash and charades. A. Karen got the word zig-zag and chose to run in that pattern (with energy, excitement and a smile of course) across the room. It was a much greater moment than if she had just used her hand to show :)
Silly stories but for some reason they stick and will always warm my heart.
I'm so grateful my daughters were able to have summer visits with her poolside.
I miss her so much and am so sad when I think about not being able to see her at another holiday dinner, or speak to her on new years eve, or have a super tight hug that lasts minutes. But I am honoured to be her niece and grateful for every minute spent with her. Love you Auntie Karen
Posted by Kathleen Campenni on October 6, 2020

I remember my cousin Karen as a skinny pigtailed girl in Ponoka.

Later, during her training at the General Hospital in Calgary she would visit us, no longer a pigtailed kid, but a most beautiful young lady.

She would talk to my mom about someday travelling to Africa, as she knew mom would have loved to travel and see the world herself. I thought Karen was crazy, as Africa was a far off very scary sounding place and I hoped she would not be so silly as to actually go there.

Many years later on a minus 35-degree day during a lunch break I saw a poster of a safari trip to sunny Kenya in a travel agency window. Remembering her conversation, I walked in, signed up for the trip and I fell in love with Africa. I held Karen personally responsible for all the penny pinching I had to do to for the many return trips I made to Africa, but loved her putting the idea of travel and adventure into my head.

I will miss our chats, her Christmas cards, the family updates, and her travel adventures.

Karen was a kind, caring and funny lady. I will never forget her voice, nor her laugh, nor her.

She will be missed.

Kit
Posted by Wendy Kirk on October 5, 2020
Karen was my big sister. As a role model, she set the standards very high!

My earliest memory of Karen was having her console me as I was crying over the plight of a teddy bear in a children's book. A few years later I became a brat challenging her authority, but she never gave up on me. Not long afterwards, I came to the realization that she was not a tyrant or even an ordinary person. She was, in fact, a gift to me. I was in awe of her—my more-beautiful-than-Audrey Hepburn, generous, thoughtful, nurturing, smart, artistic, adventurous, loving (and loved-by-many) big sister. To me, as I was growing up, she was perfect! (Eventually I caught on that she wasn't quite perfect...but that was all right too.) She wasn't always near by—Karen moved to Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver, Anchorage, and back to Canada for even more moves—but we were connected: she was a loyal sister.

I don't think she ever did anything half-heartedly, nor did she feel things half-heartedly. She felt her own and others' pride, sorrow and joy deeply. And then, when the time was right, she found humour and shared it. I miss her long, fiercely emotional emails, dotted with hilarious emojis and crazy punctuation, and always signed off with love. I miss phone calls of several hours' duration when we shared stories, tried to resolve everyone's problems, shed tears and laughed...

We got through a lot together. I do miss her.
Posted by Margaret Winmill on October 5, 2020
Dear Carla (and Family), I've been thinking of you lots over the past several days and sending all my love love. I'm so very sorry for your loss. I don't think I ever saw your mother without a smile. My thoughts and prayers are with you... I wish there were words to help, but please know that you have many, many friends who love and support you. Please let us know what we can do.
Posted by Alex Keilty on October 4, 2020
Carla, your mom looks extra happy in every picture with you. She was just beaming when you were by her side.
I remember her when she was always up for a cottage weekend with friends or a holiday celebration. And it couldn’t have been easy raising a young family while working all those years. But your mom sure knew how to laugh and have a good time!
Thinking of you and your brother and your dad. Xo

Leave a Tribute

 
Recent Tributes
Posted by Nancy Christou on October 12, 2020
I met Karen through the Unionville men’s baseball team. Both Graham and My husband Nick played for the same team. This meeting turned into a great friendship. Karen and Graham started a most famous gourmet club that lasted for over ten years. Over the years our gourmet club “travelled” the globe virtually experiencing cuisine based on the theme of our dinners - and no way could we cheat - everything had to be made from scratch! We had great times and Karen’s laughter was contagious. Karen was a true friend through good times and bad and always had time to listen and reminisce. I loved her and Graham for being unconditional dear friends - and always including and thinking of me. Visiting them in Arizona was always a treat - welcoming me with open arms. We seemed to continue from where we left off. Shopping, cooking and just chatting we’re the highlight of those visits. She made everyone feel welcome. She was a very giving person never expecting anything in return. She was a strong woman - in kind and in spirit. She was a truly special person all round. She cherished every moment. I don’t have any siblings and I felt Karen was a sister I never had. I love you - we love you Karen, you will always have a special place in my heart that can never be replaced. May you Rest In Peace and always touch us by being a guardian angel to all those you left behind.

Nancy and Joe.
Posted by Gillian Campbell on October 9, 2020
Karen was the best friend anyone could ever have. She was so beautiful on the inside as well the outside; she was kind, generous and had such a knack of making everyone feel so special and important. She was genuinely concerned and interested in everything you did.

KLAG met in 1969 as roommates and instantly bonded, so much so that when Ann and I (just off the ship from England) declared we were going to be travelling across Canada to Vancouver, Karen and Lu said "well then, we're coming too" !  And so the adventures began and with Karen at our helm, we never stopped laughing, chatting, supporting each other and being KLAG !
Then husbands and kids came along - so many fun times and sorry Jordan, but to my boys you'll always be "baby Jordan" as the youngest of the tribe by one year!

KLAG all turned 60 in the same year, so we decided a reunion was long overdue. It was the first of our annual reunions, thanks to the amazing hospitality and generosity of Karen and Graham. Each year we came from London (England), Tsawwassen (Vancouver) and Kelowna to meet at first in Tofino and then in Scottsdale. What fabulous hosts Karen & Graham were .... Karen worked relentlessly on providing all the little niceties and extra comforts to make our stay absolutely perfect, and Graham was our very own personal "gourmet chef".  What a team ! And what super memories they gave us. We were made to feel SO special !

I feel so sad, I just can't believe Karen has left us, it was too soon; but I feel so lucky to have had such a wonderful friend in my life for so many years.

My heart goes out to you Carla, Jordan and Graham. Thinking of you and hoping each day will be a little easier for you.  Karen is at peace now.

My love and condolences.
Posted by Carla Smyth on October 8, 2020
Reading the tributes to Mum is so touching. I know she had her own, special ways of reaching people and making them feel appreciated, but hearing it come out makes me feel such pride. I wish I had her gift.
I will dearly miss her humour, seeing her write letters and cards with her personal touch in a world of emails and social media. I will miss laughing with her, and making her laugh. But the thing that will be the hardest to get along without is having her listen.
Mum cared so fiercely and deeply about my worries and concerns, hopes and wishes. If I was hurting, she was hurting. I know she wished she could fix things for me if she could. I hope she knew that just her listening the way she did meant so much. There is no greater love than yours, Mum. xo always.
Recent stories

A rose by another name

Shared by Carla Smyth on October 17, 2020
One story I love so much about mum that shows her humour and spirit is when she first met my dad. She and her friends had just arrived in Vancouver from Toronto and were throwing a housewarming party. My dad came with friends, and was completely enraptured by mum. He followed up for two weeks after, hoping to see her again. One day mum happened to be home and overheard her roommate saying into the phone with much exasperation “for the last time, there is NO Hildegard Schwartz that lives here!” Mum said it was the most unattractive name she could think of. But she took the call :

Treasure in everything

Shared by Carla Smyth on October 4, 2020
My family can't get through a birthday, Christmas or any other gifting occasion without someone teasing mum how she once yelled "don't throw out that tissue paper, it's like GOLD."

Mum, you are the original reduce, re-use, recycle champion. xoxo

Franks a million!

Shared by Carla Smyth on October 1, 2020
When I was very young, mum said one of my favourite items of clothing was a hand-me-down old sweatshirt that had a hot dog on it and the caption was "Franks a million!". It was a plastic, puffy addition that was starting to crack and peel off - but I loved wearing this sweatshirt. Mum was determined to have me looking a little more refined for my dentist appointment that morning - and fought to get the sweatshirt off me and into a blouse and vest. She said I cried and ripped apart the outfit on the way to the appointment. She would laugh retelling this story - meant to illustrate my stubbornness - but I know she would have given the office people a chuckle with her warm way of explaining our lateness and my....dishevelment! I will miss you telling me stories about me, mum xo