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Karen Willis


1962 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Karen Willis Obituary
Karen Cherney Willis (previously Santee), 54, passed away May 3, 2017, at her home in Sturgis.
She was born in 1962 in Racine, Wis., a daughter of Robert and Lucille (Nelson) Cherney. After graduating from J.I. Case High School in 1981, she moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., where she lived for 28 years. In 1984, she married Clifford Santee Jr. and in 2007 married Richard C. Willis. Karen had worked as a self-employed real estate appraiser for the past 15 years.
Karen's family remembers her fun-loving outlook, intelligence and fierce independence. Her mom recalls the ambition that drove her to take on new challenges with enthusiasm and determination, from moving cross-country to changing careers to undertaking big home improvement projects. She never let anyone or anything get in the way of her goals.
Music was important to Karen. As a teenager in the '70s, she had an amazing record collection and taught her brother to appreciate rock music. Her favorite artist was Stevie Nicks. She met her first husband while waitressing at a bar where his band played. Her son remembers how she loved to play loud music at the house, and how they sang along to Fleetwood Mac and R.E.M. in the car.
Karen also was a nurturing and caring person, illustrated by the things she would do for others. She made key lime pie from scratch for her daughter's birthday each year, mowed her ill neighbor's lawn, taught her niece how to drive the tractor and always sent birthday cards. Her sister recalls the time Karen took care of her after she fell down when walking home from school while their parents were at work.
Karen is survived by a son, Jeffrey Santee of St. Petersburg, Fla.; a daughter, Amy (Isaac Sachs) Santee of Portland, Ore.; her mother, Lucille Cherney of Racine, Wis.; a sister, Julie (Todd) Taleck of Racine; a brother, Michael Cherney of Racine; and a niece, Olivia Taleck.
She was preceded in death by her husband, Richard Christopher Willis (2016); a nephew, Ethan Taleck (2008); and her father, Robert Cherney (2001).
In accordance with Karen's wishes, cremation has taken place. A private celebration of her life will be held at a later date.
The Hackman Chapel of Hackman Family Funeral Homes, 114 S. Nottawa St., Sturgis, is honored to be entrusted with the arrangements.
The family asks those wishing to honor Karen take a moment to appreciate the joy that loved ones bring into their lives. For those who would like to make a memorial donation in Karen's name, please consider a gift to the Humane Society.
Her obituary is also at www.hackmanfamilyfuneralhomes.com, where personal messages of support may be left for the family.
Published in Sturgis Journal on May 11, 2017
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