Karen Marie Mays Was born in Oakland, California, the daughter of James and Darlene Byers, and the sister of Steven and Judy. Karen is predeceased by her parents and her brother. She is survived by her husband Mark, daughter Holly McGlinn and son-in-law Ryan and their baby Lyden, daughter Natalie Mays and fiancee Aimee Cammilleri, and sister Judy Salvestrin.
Karen embraced the bounty of life. She had an absolute blast. She didn't miss out on a thing...she never missed a beat. Along the way, she had an incredible gift for making everyone feel better about their day...and life itself. Her beaming spirit and sense of humor gave her the instinctive capacity to make even complete strangers break into smiles.
She grew up amongst the oak-covered hills of Orinda, California-a small hometown she loved and cherished with unusual passion. She attended Miramonte High School-forever a pom pom girl-and remained close to legions of classmates throughout her life.
Karen received her bachelors degree from Oregon State University (Go Beavs!) and a Masters in Speech Pathology from Long Beach State University. Her college years were filled with carefree larks and laughter with Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority sisters, and she remained close to many. She was also active in student government.
When Karen and husband Mark moved to San Diego in 1977, they wanted to set down deep roots. Once again making friends came easily to her-if you were within ten feet of her, you would be in jeopardy of becoming her pal. Her dazzling smile, effervescent selfless manner, and innate ease with the human condition captivated most as soon as they entered her sphere.
The births of her daughters, Holly and Natalie, brought a new chapter to her life, and motherhood became her true calling. Karen was attentive to her daughters' every need, and she nurtured, supported and was thrilled by all aspects of their lives. Mother/daughter MADCAPS and La Jolla Debutants were exceptional fun.
During her 30-year career as a speech therapist at Pepper Drive School in the Santee School District, she impacted the lives of well over a thousand children. Karen was "all about the kids:" she made them forget what they couldn't do and do what they thought they never could. In the words of a colleague, she "untangled tongues that resulted in the most beautiful sounds of all...because of Karen, children who stuttered learned to smooth out the bumps and experience the gift of fluency for the first time."
Her physical beauty was a given ... but she hardly gave it much of a thought. Instead her attention was always devoted to others and the challenge at hand. An accomplished dancer and fine athlete, Karen was our family's "Danger Ranger." Black Diamond? No problem. Down she swooped without fear, her speed and elegance turning heads all the way. Tallest water slide? Gnarliest roller coaster? Jumping off a cliff into a deep swimming hole? No problem! She was always first in line.
Quieter times saw her spending many happy hours in the kitchen creating delicacies for family and guests. Karen was such a passionate cook that she collected-and actually read-cookbooks for pleasure. She tended toward "jumble," which was conspicuously present in the refrigerator, drawers, closets, and cabinets, but she knew exactly where everything was. Karen was perfectly imperfect-it worked!
She exercised, read and relaxed, and, of course made new friends, during her annual trip to the serene spa Rancho La Puerta, Tecate. Mother/daughter excursions were the best. Her hobby of making pearl necklaces touched many: whenever someone commented on the beauty of her pearl jewelry, she'd give the necklace to her admirer. Today there are a number of Karen's "Pearl Girls" in San Diego.
A devout Catholic, the rosary was part of every night, followed by another chapter from the latest Clive Cussler thriller-her favorite escape. She traveled the world but much preferred visits to her family's ranch on Tomales Bay in Northern California. She called it Shangri-La. Summers were spent at Liverpool Court in Mission Beach with Mark, daughters and friends, where long walks along the Boardwalk were a tradition. As always, Karen was eternally fascinated by the human parade. She cherished and cared deeply about people from all walks of life.
Karen's love for Pilates began twenty years ago. She became a certified instructor and a true devotee-her strength sustained her throughout her perilous dance with breast cancer.
Karen and Mark had the joy of 39 sensational years together. Karen, our love at first sight, a three-month adventure in Europe, our move to San Diego, the birth of our daughters and now the birth of grandbaby Lyden...all were made unforgettable by your loyalty, grace, quiet elegance, humility, and zest. Your understanding for all aspects of our wants, hopes, and desires drew us into one.
It is true that the last ten years of her life were made difficult by this disease, but she NEVER complained. She always believed to the depth of her soul that she would get better no matter how dire the circumstances. She convinced those around her, and her unshakeable, cheerful optimism to the end will always hold many in awe. She also supported others in their sojourn and was well-known for her encouraging words, "It is only temporary!"
Karen's long passion for Pilates has inspired the family to endow "The Karen Mays Foundation" through the San Diego Foundation. It will fund lessons for breast cancer patients, with the hope that they build core strength, experience camaraderie, find joy and maintain hope through Pilates-as Karen did. Karen loved a fresh bouquet of flowers but she would be absolutely thrilled that friends helped ease the plight of her sister survivors. Donations in Karen's memory can be made to "The San Diego Foundation" (please specify "The Karen Mays Foundation"), 2508 Historic Decatur Rd, Suite 200, San Diego, California 92106.
A Bay Area memorial service will be held in Point Richmond on Saturday, February 23, 2013, at Our Lady of Mercy, 301 Richmond Ave., 94801; Rosary at 10:30 a.m., Mass at 11 a.m., reception following.
Remember, dearest one, "it is only temporary" until we will be walking hand-in-hand again. Safe journey! Loving you always, Mark, Holly, Ryan, baby Lyden, Natalie and Aimee.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Feb. 17, 2013