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Karen Pianka


1969 - 2020
Karen Pianka Obituary
PIANKA, Karen Karen Elizabeth Pianka was born July 1, 1969, in Austin, TX, and, after a courageous 6-year fight with metastatic breast cancer, died far too young in Silver Spring MD January 23, 2020. Extraordinarily musical from the outset, she became an accomplished pianist, her talent finally rewarded with owning a Steinway worthy of her Rhapsody in Blue and Chopin Etudes. Her lovely voice became that of Maria in her High School's West Side Story, enriched the renowned Oberlin College Choir, and graced her sister Gretchen's recent wedding. She loved Nature, especially marine life, the ocean, beaches, and the skies. Her cooking was precise and delicate, and Karen's legendary popovers topped with her unique quince jelly delectably memorable. For far more than her uncanny knack for the perfect presents perfectly wrapped, Auntie Karen was adored by her nieces and nephews. She was amazing at keeping in touch over the years with her many cherished friends now scattered all over the landscape. Her music, her whimsical sense of humor, her sparkling laughter, her joy in life, her careful and intelligent work ethic, and her deep and genuine caring will be terribly missed by all of her friends, family, and colleagues. Life took Karen from Austin to PA, graduating in 1987 from Chambersburg High School (PA) and from Oberlin College (OH) in 1991 with an honors degree in Biology. After working in research at Mass General Hospital, the Marine Biological Labs at Woods Hole, and interning at the New England Aquarium, she returned to TX, earning another degree in Piano at UTX Austin and working at TX Parks and Wildlife. In Austin she met [we understand under a parking lot tree] and fell in love with talented woodblock print artist Amy Guadagnoli, who later moved with her to Bangor ME so Karen could pursue dual Masters Degrees in Marine Science and Aquaculture at UMaine Orono. They chose their favorite place on Earth, Bar Harbor ME, for their beautiful wedding in 2015. Awarded the prestigious Knauss award, Karen took a job at NOAA in DC, a lifetime dream for this bright star. Karen is survived by her spouse Amy (Silver Spring, MD), their parrot Kito, parents Helen Dunlap (Dracut MA) and Eric Pianka (Austin TX), stepfather Guy Steucek (Dracut MA), dear sister Gretchen Pianka (Andrew Kull) (Brunswick ME), stepsisters Kathryn Steucek (Al Youngblood) (Seattle WA) and Anna Creed (Steve Durham) (Spokane WA), and a horde of adoring in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. A memorial service will be held in the spring. In place of flowers, Karen requested donations to her choice of organizations listed in her obituary at the Pumphrey Funeral Home website, pumphreyfuneralhome.com.
Published in Austin American-Statesman on Feb. 8, 2020
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