Another in an ongoing series of posts celebrating the life of our mother:
Most folks, curmudgeons and misanthropes aside, like kids. Many people, as we do, love kids and consider interacting with them one of life’s great pleasures.
But Karen loved kids more than anyone we—or you, mostly likely—ever knew. She devoted much of her adult life to their betterment and wellbeing—and not just her own kids or her friends’. She spent years working, on primarily a volunteer basis, for the preservation and improvement of public schools. She was founder and chair of the Oklahoma Coalition for Public Education, an organization whose primary goal was the preservation and improvement of public schools, and served as Executive Director of the Oklahoma Network for Excellence. She served two terms as the president of the Oklahoma State PTA, was president of the National PTA’s State President’s Council, and served as Regional Vice President of the National PTA.
And that’s the just the tip of the iceberg, believe it or not. There were dozens more affiliations and commitments she willingly undertook, and all of it was done purely out of her love for children and her belief in education.
But we’ll remember most fondly her individual interactions with the kids she met in the course of her day. Wherever she encountered a child—in a restaurant, at church, at the mall, you name it—she was likely to pause and to coo at the baby, to have a brief conversation with the toddler. It’s a trait we share with her (to the occasional exasperation, we suspect, of Ms. Cladrite), but she almost never missed an opportunity to brighten a child’s day (and to have that child do the same for her, of course). And the kids knew immediately they’d found a friend in Karen. They always responded warmly to her overtures.
So it was a special treat to come across this week’s entry in the Karen Files. As we mentioned in a previous installment, we’d somehow made it to adulthood (well into adulthood) without seeing any photos of Karen as a child or even a teenager. She kept insisting she had boxes and boxes of photographs (and she wasn’t kidding) and swearing she would one day pull them all down from the attic and get the photos organized, but that was one of the few things this go-getter didn’t get done.
This photo of Karen tenderly cradling an infant (the offspring of dear friends of Karen’s parents), is one of our favorites among those we uncovered in the days following her passing. We miss her dearly, of course, but photos like this one, taken in 1947 when she was 14, allow us to feel she’s still with us (we know, we know—we’re sentimental saps).
And we’re happy to share it with you, the Cladrite Clan, today.