AMHERST – Karen A. Rock died in her South Amherst home on the morning of Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, 13 days shy of her 64 birthday.
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Born an army brat in San Francisco, Calif., to the late Anthony and Hazel Joan (Curtis) Olshefski. Karen was the middle sister to Joan and Mary, and grew up in Chambersburg, Pa.
Karen was on her own spiritual journey, with a few stops along the way with more traditional practice of faith, from her first christening at age two, to her baptism at age 30. She was a children's choir director at both the Fairview Chapel in Fairview, Pa., and The A.M.E. Zion church in Amherst.
Karen attended First Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., and eventually both Holyoke and Greenfield Community Colleges, here in Massachusetts, after moving in 1979, studying child psychology and art before the responsibilities of parenting pulled her away from the completion of her secondary education.
From then on, Karen strove to educate, both her self and others. She was a member of ARISE for economic justice, Hampshire Community Action Commission, and Coalition for Basic Human Needs to name a few. Much of her time and energy was poured into welfare rights activism. Karen was a powerful public speaker, seeking to motivate, organize, and empower those who struggled in poverty, or were survivors of domestic abuse. She was a long-standing political cartoonist, and literary contributor to the Survival News in Boston. Karen expressed her political views through art, in the same way that she wove it through her entire life.
A spiritual woman of strong faith, Karen Rock leaves behind a host of loving family and friends. There were her children Vicki Attenborough, Laura Ketchakeu, Christopher Diffenderfer, Joshua and Heather (Olmstead) Rock, and William Rock. There were those with whom she held the role of legal guardian Leo Haggerty, Phedra (Bowser) Barbour, Lianexis Collazo, David Heyes, Lee Thomas, and Bieu Rock-Aneiryn. There were also the other children whose lives she touched in the course of her journey, and with whom she established a strong and lasting connection Angela, Eve, Julliette, Melinda and Deja, to name a few, I could never name them all. Perhaps of paramount importance in her life were the grandchildren Karen left behind all too soon Monica, Leanne, Thomas, Arianna, Cain and Madeline.
Karen will be remembered as many things, to many people. Chiefly among them are mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, wife, friend, lover, inspired artist, passionate musician, fearless dancer, writer, poet, teacher, leader, advisor, anti-poverty warrior, children's advocate, a lifelong protector of ducks and turtles, a spiritualist, a citizen of the world, and a child of the universe. She spent a lifetime trying to make the most of her situation, and to make sense of her challenging life. Karen Rock was an enigma, unique, mysterious, impressive, intimidating and a beautiful and veritable force of nature. She was the hub on which the lives of her children and grandchildren revolved, and she will be sorely missed. However, I am certain that Herman, Jezebel, Waldo, Bobbi-Ann, Estelle and Bruce will be among those happy to see her.
A memorial service will be held in Karen's honor Sunday, Nov. 17, from 12 to 2 p.m. at Groff Park on Mill Lane in South Amherst. A celebration of her life is to follow from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. at The Amherst VFW Post 754, 457 Main St., Amherst, MA 01002.
In lieu of flowers, please make donations to The Karen Rock Memorial Fund, Florence Savings Bank, Attn: Monica Houle, 5 Main St., Easthampton, MA 01027.
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Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Nov. 14, 2013