ForeverMissed
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple. - Jenny Joseph.


For those who know her well, you know Karen did more than just practice these things, she lived them.  It led to some very interesting conversations with her grandchildren regarding why snatching raspberries and flowers from the neighbor's yard was ok, but stealing was not.

Due to COVID-19 the family will not be holding an in-person memorial at this time, instead we invite you to share your tributes, stories and pictures here as we celebrate Karen's life.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to either the American Cancer Society or the Denver Botanic Gardens in Memory of Karen Mueller.

Posted by Marilyn Hansen on February 22, 2021
Karen was a wonderful friend. We would go to lunch and she always had many questions for me. When I came home from the hospital a few years ago, she brought me an entire meal which was so much appreciated. Since I am from Iowa, we talked about the midwest many times. I will miss her very much and I hope to meet many of you at a memorial service in the future.
Posted by Patricia Narajka on February 19, 2021
One of my first conversations with Karen was on a Thanksgiving morning not long after becoming a neighbor of her and Norm. She extended an invite to Thanksgiving dinner in case we had nowhere to go. She showed the same sense of kindness for the next two decades. Her love of family was obvious in every interaction...even the day she went door-to-door looking for Norm as they were running late to see some friends. "He probably forgot all about it and is chatting it up in some living room!" A minute later we were laughing. Her love, down-to-earth wisdom, and genuine care for people were appreciated and admired.
Posted by Karen Steege on February 12, 2021
When we came to Manitowoc to look for an apartment, Karen so warmly welcomed us - it was an instant connection and we became very good friends with her and Bob. We were so very happy to be Godparents for their son, Jeff.
  Although distance kept us apart we always looked forward to reconnecting when our travels would take us close to their home. We enjoyed visiting with Karen and Norm the few times we were in the Denver area, and as always with Karen it was an instant connection, and we could pick up right where we had left off like it was yesterday.
  A little tidbit: as we were sponsors for Jeff, every year at Christmas time we would receive a package in the mail from Karen which held a lovely small brass bell from Sarna India. We have cherished these bells and have made it a Christmas tradition of letting each one at our dinner table select a bell, express what they are thankful for this past year or whatever is in their heart. We all ring our little bell and bring in a “Merry Christmas”. Memories and love always of Karen.
Posted by Zahra Samatar on February 11, 2021
Karen was such a lovely woman, and a truly incredible person. I remember when I first met her in Morehead. I could barely speak English at the time, and she was very understanding and helpful to me. I am grateful to have known such a wonderful person. Karen always brought happiness into the lives of those around her. My condolences to Norm and the family and friends who have been impacted by this loss.
Posted by Ann Ellenson on February 11, 2021
Karen was truly my "chosen soul sister" and I am so grateful for the special times we had, just the two of us, while our car guy husbands were doing their car guy stuff. We shared all of those things that you can only tell to your "bestie": our fears, our worries, our faith journeys and so much more. We both loved flowers and gardening, shared book titles, and lots of recipes and we loved our car guys!  Our many trips together to the vintage races in CA, our trip to the Netherlands for the International Porsche event and then our visit to the Beaches of Normandy were so very special. 

Ed and I count ourselves as the adopted aunt & uncle to the whole Mueller Petitt clan, attending so many weddings and rejoicing over the birth of new grandchildren.  Karen loved her family so much and always put the needs of others ahead of her own. She lived her life with grace and dignity and will be remembered for the joy and love she shared with us all.

Rest in peace dear friend.  Ann & Ed



Posted by Robert Engelke on February 11, 2021
I met Karen and Norm back in the late 80s as I was friends with their daughter Kristi. Karen always welcomed me into her home with open arms and treated me as if I was one of her kids ( as if she didn’t have enough kids already ) . I spent many a weekend over at their condo in Willow Creek and Karen’s love helped me through a difficult time in my life. You will be missed but not forgotten
Posted by linda koenig on February 10, 2021
I met Karen at church many, many years ago. We immediately clicked like many of her friends. She always wanted to know how I was doing and wanted an update on my family . We loved talking about our families especially the "grands". We always met for an almond croissant and coffee. Our time together always flew by and I couldn't wait for the next coffee. I will miss all of those wonderful conversations but especially her beautiful smile. I will never be able to eat another almond croissant without thinking of my dear, dear friend. Love and hugs to you Karen
Posted by Heather Witsoe on February 10, 2021
What I truly remember about Karen is her wonderful friendship with her daughter Kristi, and her whole wonderful and large family. Karen will be missed by all. Kristi we are here for you and can’t imagine your sorrow. Love to you and the family.
Posted by Jeff Mueller on February 9, 2021
Christmases with Mom:

Mom always made Christmas special for her kids and grandkids. When Scott, Kristi and I were young, she always had an advent calendar with 3 Brach’s Christmas nougats tied to each day. Each night after dinner, we got to untie and eat our candy, and the family would all sit/stand around Mom at the piano and sing Christmas carols. We always got to celebrate our immediate family Christmas early, before traveling to Iowa to spend the holidays with grandparents and cousins. Mom and Dad always made it memorable with a nice dinner, cranberry tea, sweets and more singing around the piano.

Fast forward to many years later, now with my 2nd dad, Norm, and a wonderful merged family of 7 kids and, eventually, 19 grandkids. Mom continued to make every Christmas gathering special, making her cranberry cake, spritz cookies, world famous Kringle, etc. When we would gather in the basement on Christmas morning for the much anticipated gift opening (after Eggs Benedict, chocolate fondue (thanks Aunt Susan) and mimosas), she would choose one of the grandchildren to read the Christmas story. She would then get everyone’s attention once again (think roomful of excited grandchildren) and spend a few minutes talking about the charity to which she and Norm had donated in our names, and why it was important.

Mom loved us all very much, and it was important to her to make that very clear to each of us in her words and in her actions. She so enjoyed one-on-one time with us, but she also worked to build stronger relationships between all of us. Christmas was another opportunity to do just that.

We will continue to gather together for Christmases to come, and will carry on the traditions that she helped forge. Mom/Karen/Grandma will be with us in our hearts, minds and spirits, as we laugh, cry and love together.

I love you Mom. Peace be with you.
Posted by renee gilliam on February 8, 2021
Kristi and family,
   You have done such an excellent job portraying you Mothers life. It was very interesting reading her life story! I had no idea she was accomplished at so many things. All I knew was the kind and generous mother and grandmother. She was an amazing woman.
Posted by Betsy Hyatt on February 8, 2021
As high school friends of Kristi, we knew of Karen and Norm as parents Kristi actually liked! And we could all see why. I took shelter at their house on more occasions than I can count. As a kid with too much drama going on at home, Karen was such a peaceful, light-hearted comfort to me. Karen and Kristi set an example of a wonderful mother-daughter relationship. Karen is a credit to all mothers. A fantastic woman who will be dearly missed.
Posted by Kim Frey on February 8, 2021
Karen - As a fellow Midwesterner, our move here meant we moved away from family. And so how my heart always swelled when we got to spend time with you. You, your stories of Iowa and Minnesota life, Danish kringle, and teaching, always made me feel closer to home. And we didn’t tell you enough, but you know that you are cool when your daughter’s friends (us) look as forward to seeing you as they do your daughter ;-). And insist that their own parents meet you! I hope you know that your full and generous heart, pragmatism, ease in spirit, sparkling eyes, and clear mind and voice, live on in your children. Thank you for giving me a little bit of the Midwest here, and for instilling all your goodness in Norm, Kristi, Chris, Abby, and Tia. We will take good care of them.
Posted by Karina Callahan on February 8, 2021
Karen - Thank you. Thank you for always knowing what was going on with our family even though you have your own crew to follow and care about. Thank you for providing motherly wisdom and serving as such an amazing role model for family centered-ness. Thank you for giving us one of favorite and dearest families in Kristi, Chris, Abby, and Tia.
Posted by Karen Frey on February 8, 2021
Karen: a very dear friend. We shared a name and almost a birthday - just 2 days apart! For most of the years we knew each other, we celebrated together! We met because we loved guys who loved old Porsches! How many times we commiserated our fate, and then were grateful for all the times Porsche events brought us all together! Karen was such a special person and I will miss her a lot! Rest In Peace, dear friend!
Posted by Susan Heath on February 8, 2021
Karen became my sister when her father remarried my mom and adopted me after her mother passed away. I became used to hearing the, “why can’t you be more like Karen” comment during my childhood. She truly was the gold standard, but I thought we had little in common. 

One of my greatest blessings was moving to Colorado and reuniting as adults. I will always treasure the time we spent having lunch, shopping, and was thrilled to be included at Christmas. We laughed that she too was given the “why can’t you” speech growing up, and then I felt like kindred spirits.

She loved getting the “scoop” on my life, but she didn’t enjoy talking much about herself. The only picture of our life shared is one of the pontoon plane we took to Bluffy Lake in Canada (no people in the picture, just the plane!). I have never known anyone like her – so genuine, non-judgmental, calm, full of grace, funny, and kind. I do wish I could be more like Karen. What a gift she was to all of us. 
Posted by Marie Thoden on February 8, 2021
Rest In Peace my dear and special American friend of fifty six years! We met in Madison Wisconsin in 1965 when our husbands attended university, looked after each other’s baby, shared meals, adventures, stories and innermost thoughts. We comforted each other following the death of our spouses, and shared encouraging letters and thoughts across the miles. You were always an inspiration to me and I shall always feel privileged to have had you as my friend. I will miss you dearly.
                                            Marie Thoden
                                            Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Posted by Ellen Mueller on February 8, 2021
Karen - the best mother in law ever!

I didn’t know what to expect when traveling with Jeff to visit family in Denver the first time. Karen and Norm were so welcoming and quickly made me feel comfortable and part of the family. I thought I was a decent skier until joining the Mueller/Petitt’s at Breckenridge. Fortunately, I was able keep up with Karen end enjoyed many good chairlift conversations. Over the years, she has been such an inspiration as MIL, friend, and grandma to our kids. She reached out and was always available with words of wisdom and encouragement. Her laughter was contagious and I loved spending time with her in person or via phone/email/texts. You knew it was a Karen email when the subject was the first few words of the first sentence.

When we arrived in Denver this October to celebrate early Christmas after she stopped cancer treatments, she met us in the yard wearing a silly homemade hat with long maroon and gold ribbons. Once again, putting others first and making us feel welcome and loved!

Posted by Chris Budish on February 7, 2021
Karen was so much more than a mother in-law to me. Karen was my second mom and the best grandmother my girls could have wished for.
From the first time I met her, she took me in as one of her own.
Karen was such a fun, loving, quirky, carefree woman. Karen was always engaging in fun activities from letting my kids play with shaving cream on the bathroom mirror to "borrowing flowers" from neighbors gardens while on walks to trying to trick me into eating raisins and eggplant. 
She is greatly missed. 
Posted by Katrina Etter on February 7, 2021
Even though we have been neighbors for just over 10 years, Charlie and I feel like Norm and Karen have always been part of our lives. Little did we know when we bought the house next door that we would become dear friends.

We shared so much. Our love of gardening many times found us talking with a trowel or shovel in our hands. We loved Karen’s emails…often with a one-word subject, “Squirrel” “Norm” “Geez” “Ants & Groceries” “Lilacs” “Eggs?” followed by a kind, informative, or humorous message, sometimes only a few words. Meaningful words.

We are thankful for the joy her laughter and quick wit gave us. Her kind (sometimes mischievous!) smiles always brightened our days. She gave us amazing counsel, encouragement, and wisdom. Karen always put others before herself, no matter what. Her gracious living inspires us.

Norm once told us that Karen was the best thing that ever happened to him. We told Karen this and she said that he was the best thing that ever happened to her. The family they created by joining lives is unique, remarkable, loving, gracious.

We will miss Karen, but she will always be in our hearts.
Posted by Scott Mueller on February 7, 2021
One of my earliest memories of my mom was her singing this lullaby to me:

You Are My Sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You’ll never know, dear
How much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

I’ll always love you
And be there for you
I’ll protect you from harm’s way
‘Cause I adore you
You’re my dream come true
You’re my beautiful sunshine

You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You’ll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don’t take my sunshine away

My mom always made me feel as though I was her “only sunshine.” I know I wasn’t, but that’s how she made me feel.

You are my sunshine, Mom.
I love you.





Posted by Teri Petitt on February 7, 2021
Not many step-daughters have been as lucky as I have. Karen was not only my step-mom, she was also one of my best friends. And she gave me two more brothers and - finally! - a sister. She was always there to listen; always asking about our lives; always available to help. Karen was an amazingly gracious and happy person. She and Dad treated us kids and the "grands" equally - it didn't matter if they were a Mueller/Budish or a Petitt. For that we are all incredibly grateful. Long ago we blended into one big, loud family that loves being together. Karen is horribly missed by all of us, but we will help each other through this. Karen made sure of that.
Posted by Miranda Schieving on February 6, 2021
From an essay I wrote about Grandma my senior year of College:
My Grandmother, the wolf-pack matriarch, the bearer of tradition and trust, and half of the connective tissue of my family, is my hero. She shows those around her love through details, through sending reminders that she is there for us every Monday morning, through every Christmas cookie crafted, through every saved eggshell and trash bag smock. These memories are important to me, everything she does is important to me, she is so important to me.
Posted by Bob Petitt on February 5, 2021
Littlest brother Scot says it all. I rarely called you my step mom and only to make it easier for others to differentiate. You meant so much to me, but you also embraced Kerry with so much love and friendship. Kerry, Erin and Megan admired you and loved you so much. You were the reason I have three more siblings that will forever be my brothers and sister.
Posted by Scot Petitt on February 5, 2021
Below is a letter I read to Karen this past fall. 

To Karen –

I call you “Karen” around family but when I’m talking about you to friends I refer to you as my mom. I don’t expand on the fact you’re my step-mother because I don’t think of you that way; you are my mother. You are the mom that I go to for advice! You are the mom that I complain to about my life! You are the mom that helps when I’m in a bad place! You are the mom that I call when I’m excited. The list goes on and on. 
I would not be the person I am today without all of my family, friends, coaches, mentors, etc. But you and Dad hold a special place in my heart! I know you love me unconditionally (not easy to do sometimes)! I know you want the best for me and my family and will sacrifice to help me! I know you’re willing to have the hard discussions with me when I need redirection! The list goes on and on. 
You and Dad have raised and nurtured two generations of family that will be forever grateful to you. Moreover, your impact will extent into the next generation and beyond. Kristin and I often talk about modeling ourselves after you and Dad in how to be a positive impact on our grandchildren’s lives. Hopefully we can live up to your accomplishments as parents and grandparents!
You are my mother!
Love,
Scot
Posted by Kristi Budish on February 5, 2021
My mom and my best friend. A sounding board, confidante and guidance counselor. She was an amazing woman and will be dearly missed. She also believed less was more, so I will leave it at that. 

Leave a Tribute

 
Recent Tributes
Posted by Marilyn Hansen on February 22, 2021
Karen was a wonderful friend. We would go to lunch and she always had many questions for me. When I came home from the hospital a few years ago, she brought me an entire meal which was so much appreciated. Since I am from Iowa, we talked about the midwest many times. I will miss her very much and I hope to meet many of you at a memorial service in the future.
Posted by Patricia Narajka on February 19, 2021
One of my first conversations with Karen was on a Thanksgiving morning not long after becoming a neighbor of her and Norm. She extended an invite to Thanksgiving dinner in case we had nowhere to go. She showed the same sense of kindness for the next two decades. Her love of family was obvious in every interaction...even the day she went door-to-door looking for Norm as they were running late to see some friends. "He probably forgot all about it and is chatting it up in some living room!" A minute later we were laughing. Her love, down-to-earth wisdom, and genuine care for people were appreciated and admired.
Posted by Karen Steege on February 12, 2021
When we came to Manitowoc to look for an apartment, Karen so warmly welcomed us - it was an instant connection and we became very good friends with her and Bob. We were so very happy to be Godparents for their son, Jeff.
  Although distance kept us apart we always looked forward to reconnecting when our travels would take us close to their home. We enjoyed visiting with Karen and Norm the few times we were in the Denver area, and as always with Karen it was an instant connection, and we could pick up right where we had left off like it was yesterday.
  A little tidbit: as we were sponsors for Jeff, every year at Christmas time we would receive a package in the mail from Karen which held a lovely small brass bell from Sarna India. We have cherished these bells and have made it a Christmas tradition of letting each one at our dinner table select a bell, express what they are thankful for this past year or whatever is in their heart. We all ring our little bell and bring in a “Merry Christmas”. Memories and love always of Karen.
her Life

The early years...

Karen was born to John and Mary Simpson on February 19, 1940.  She was an only child and spent her childhood and teen years in rural Iowa.  She was a self-described tomboy and enjoyed sports and competitions of all types.  She also enjoyed multi-week road trips with her parents every summer while she was growing up.  She had visited 36 of the 50 states by the time she left for college. 

After graduating from Janesville High School, she initially attended Iowa State, where she was happy to socialize with a huge group of friends.  Unfortunately, all of the socializing resulted in a less than desirable grade point average.  She decided to transfer to Wartburg College, in Waverly Iowa, where she received her degree in Education.

Family life...

After receiving her degree, Karen married her college sweetheart, Bob Mueller in June of 1962.  Soon thereafter, they moved to Manitowoc, WI where they had their first child, Jeff (born in May of 1965).  The small family then moved to Minneapolis, MN where they had their second son, Scott (born in February of 1968) and only daughter, Kristi (born in November of 1972). 

Not long after Kristi's birth, the family moved to Moorhead, MN, where Karen and Bob developed many lifelong friendships.  The Mueller backyard was a favorite gathering place for the very large group of neighborhood children, which suited Karen just fine.  As a teacher, she loved children in all their messy, loud, crazy glory.

Weekends, summers and some Christmas's were spent enjoying lake life at the Mueller cabin on Big Sugarbush Lake - a huge benefit of being a teacher was that Karen had summers to devote to family life. Yearly road trips to Iowa were also a must to keep in touch with extended family. 

Sadly, the family lost Bob in June of 1982 after a year long battle with cancer.  This was a difficult situation for a young mother, but Karen rose to the challenge.  She supported the family by selling insurance to large farmers in the area.  While it was not her life's calling, she excelled in the role and earned many accolades as a rookie agent.

Karen and Norm Petitt starting dating in 1983, and after a whirlwind romance were married in early 1984.  Karen happily inherited four additional children, Gary, Teri, Bob and Scot, as well as another child of her heart, Zahra, a refugee from Ethiopia.  After some initial confusion about what to do with two children named Scot(t), the family settled into a new routine which included ski trips to the Petitt cabin in Breckenridge, Colorado and huge, loud, boisterous holiday gatherings.

In late 1987, Karen and Norm relocated to Denver, Colorado with their two youngest children, Scot and Kristi.  They purchased a market research firm and spent the next 15+ years working together before Karen retired in the early 2000's and Norm followed suit in 2008.

Throughout the years, Karen and Norm have welcomed 19 grandchildren into the world - their greatest joy.  Karen spent countless hours attending sporting events, school events, art shows, and performances.  Any and all things that involved the grandkids got top billing for both Karen and Norm.

Family Life Continued...

As an outgoing only child, living in a rural location, Karen sometimes described her childhood as lonely.  Her adult life was anything but...

After losing her mom in her early 20’s, Karen’s dad went on to marry Zona and Karen’s small family began to grow.  Karen gained a much loved step mom, and for the first time in her life, she had siblings!  Her beloved step-sister Susan, and step brothers Dick and Al.

Karen’s marriage to Bob brought brother-in-law Dave into the family along with his wife Mary, and their three children, Lori, Kent, and Kirk.

Her marriage to Norm added brother-in-law, Jerry, and his wife Kathy and their three children, Eric, Mark, and Jess. 

Each of Karen’s children married and brought more children and grandchildren into the mix.  Much to her delight!

Gary married Gail, and her daughter, Jill, became the first of many grandchildren.  Jill’s children are Tanner and Kori (the first of Karen’s great grand children), and Tanner’s son, Jett is the first great, great grandchild.

Teri married John and they have two daughters, Miranda and Ellie.

Bob married Kerry and they have twin daughters, Megan and Erin.

Jeff married Ellen and had three sons, Bob, Ben (deceased), and Eric.

Scott married Molly and has two children, Emma and Max.

Scot and his first wife, Colleen have two children together, Aidan and Alannah.  Scot’s marriage to Kristin brought two more grandchildren, Ava and Livy into the fold.

Kristi married Chris and has two daughters, Abby and Tia. 

This doesn’t even begin to touch on all of Karen’s extended family, all of whom had a special place in Karen’s heart.  Her heart and home were always open to “more” - more friends, more family, and those friends who became family. 

If Karen had a gift, it was the ability to make people feel special, cared for, and loved.  In fact, a favorite saying of hers, particularly when interacting with her grandchildren, was “You are important to me.”  She said it often, and meant it every time.

Recent stories

Thanking Karen

Shared by Marilyn Malone on February 26, 2021
Karen blessed my life as the loving mother of Scott (two t's) Mueller, and loving mother-in-law of my daughter, Molly. It is good that this is not written on paper as it would be wet from my tears of gratitude and appreciation for Karen's unwavering support and love for Molly, Max and Emma, and of course, son Scott. Karen was the best co-Grandma a grandmother could wish for. She included me in family stories, invited me and my husband Ray to family events when we were in Denver, and provided wonderful examples for me as a mother-in-law, too. She retained such an insightful sense of humor and showed incredible strength through her health challenges. My every contact with Karen - in person, by mail, email and text - inspired, comforted and delighted. Karen will remain a light in my life.
Shared by Emma Mueller on February 7, 2021
Growing up, Grandma Karen would come to all of my soccer games and swim meets. She was my greatest supporter. I remember throughout my swim meets she would sit on the side of the pool, in a chair, and watch the entire meet (didn’t matter who was swimming), she just genuinely enjoyed watching. My brother Max and I would always talk to her throughout the day. I would sit on her lap and we would just talk. On colder days I was always shivering. And she’d tell me “Stop shivering you are wasting all of your energy, come sit and take deep breaths.” Ever since then I’ve always known how to control my shivering (which comes in handy sometimes). These little moments are the times I cherish most. I will miss your beautiful smile, your hugs, and most of all I will miss laughing with you. I love you grandma. YOU ARE IMPORTANT TO ME.
Shared by Ellie Schieving on February 6, 2021
One time Grandma and Grandpa wanted to take me out to the movies. She looked in the newspaper and found a showing of a movie that seemed good and bought tickets. When we got there we all settled in for our showing of Grown Ups and were met with a wildly inappropriate movie to be watching with your grandparents. Grandma would just laugh during the inappropriate parts. Grandpa would laugh and tell me to cover my eyes. Walking out of the movie brought on a big case of the giggles for everyone. Grandma said that she was horrified that she had brought me to such a 'crummy' movie. We ended up watching the second one together a few years later for laughs. She would also take me to the Redbox by the Walgreens to get DVDs whenever I stayed at their house. We never failed to somehow get an inappropriate movie. It seemed to be our thing. We would just all laugh and turn it off and find something else to watch on TV. Grandma was never angry or frustrated about it. Instead, she would laugh and say that we had given it our best shot. Her laugh seemed to be the cure for all sad, awkward, or frustrating times even towards the end. I'm so lucky to have shared so many laughs with her throughout my life.