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Remembering Karen Martin, The Spirit In The Sky

Friends and family are planning the Karen Martin 10th Anniversary Fundraising Benefit for October 28.

Family and friends think of Karen as a lanky girl, all arms and legs; a tomboy at heart who could whip anybody at anything. You name the sport, she could do it all. With a wide smile, and playful glint in her eyes, her exuberance could not be suppressed. Instead it spilled out around her, sweeping up everyone in its wake, drawing them in and lifting them up.  

She  is renowned for her antics. Stories of her shenanigans are epic, and recounting these tales induces a reflective smile and simultaneous shake of the story-teller’s head; no matter that they were the likely target of her exploits. Her brother John remembers them all too well, as they grew up with the same circle of friends; they were only a year apart from each other.  

“She was a great golfer," he said. "One time she had a couple of clients out playing golf, and she’s playing from the men’s tees. So one of the guys says to her, ‘aren’t you playing from the wrong tee?’ He didn’t know Karen.  She takes a step back, looks at the guy, and she said, ‘the wrong tee, what are you kidding me? How about we make a little wager?’"

As they say, the rest is history. John recounts how the unsuspecting gentleman did his best to beat Karen, but in true ‘Karen Form’, she blew him away playing a game called skins. The loser had to pay for dinner, and of course Karen had designs on making the night as memorable as possible.  “The first thing she did was grab the wine list, and ordered up a $100 bottle of wine. I think the bill came to about $600-$700, on the clients corporate account, so they didn’t care too much; but that was Karen,” he chuckled.

Up for anything, Karen could show up anywhere at the drop of a hat.   “There was the time the Rowells, Richie and Robin, wound up on her flight. They were heading out to a wedding in California of a friend of all of theirs from Danvers,” John said. “What does Karen do? Karen showed up at the wedding on her layover!”

An adventure seeker always on the go, her career as a flight attendant suited her perfectly. She was doing what she wanted to do, and she loved it. Karen’s Aunt, Joan Greener asked her on Easter Sunday, 2001, if she was ever fearful of flying, especially with all of the acts of terrorism making headlines. Karen’s response came easily, and without hesitation, “I love my job,” she said “I can’t think about that stuff-whatever happens, happens.”  

“From the day she was born she was independent, low-maintenance, and responsible and when her father died she took the bull by the horns and handled things,” recalled Greener. “Her father passed away when she was about seven. But she was just a natural caregiver to everyone. When that happened she took charge and raised her siblings.”  

Even though she was 18 months younger than her brother, and the second of the four children, she became a mother-figure to them all.

John remembers the early days in the Martin household when he was a handful and his sister took care of everything. “She was an excellent student. She always got straight A’s, and she had really good penmanship; in fact, she wrote all my notes for school from junior high through high school,” he laughed.  “I remember one time, she must have been about 15 years old when she finally told my mother, “I’m done. I’m done raising your kids. That lasted about two days.”  

When she was 35 years old, her mother passed away. At this time, she approached her Aunt Joan and Uncle Bill Greener with a special request.  “She always came to holidays, anyway, but she hated that both her parents had passed away,”  Greener recalled. “She said, I don’t want to be an orphan, will you both be my surrogate parents?”  

A regular at every family event, Greener’s most treasured memories are the one’s when Karen was at her best and brightest. She fondly recalls how Karen decided to spend her 40th birthday.  

“On Dec. 18, 2000, Karen and her friend threw themselves a 40th birthday party,” she said.  “There were two rules: No red or green-anywhere, and No Excuses. She didn’t want to hear that people had Christmas parties or shopping to do-if you were invited you had to be there!” The party was held at in Danvers, with a DJ and dancing-what Karen enjoyed doing the most.  “All her friends went, and she had the time of her life.  That was a huge night for her. She was a great gal, I’m telling you, she was one of a kind.”

Greener can’t help but laugh out loud at the memory of Karen singing karaoke at her Great Aunt’s birthday celebration.  “She sang These Boots Are Made For Walking, and it was pathetically horrible. Karen could dance her butt off-but she couldn’t sing,” she laughed. “I had a group of her friends over to watch the video of it-and we laughed our faces off, and cried our eyes out, at the same time. It was classic Karen-she really lived every moment of life.”

When Martin was killed on that sad day, September 11, 2001, friends and family mourned the loss of a unique spirit. On the tenth anniversary of that day, they ask that instead of dwelling on the tragedy, we remember Karen Martin: the friend, protector, caregiver, sister and surrogate daughter, for the person she was and the life she lived, and honor her memory by living our own lives to the fullest.

John Martin added, “That’s how Karen was, she was unique-very spontaneous, lived a full life in her 40 years.  Even though she only lived to 40, she didn’t get cheated. The only thing she didn’t do, that I think she may have wanted, was to have children. But she said to me one time, 'If I’d had children, I couldn’t have lived the life I did.'”

Greener said, “I can’t help but thinking about her on a sunny day. If she were here she would tell me not to waste a single second being sad. I try to focus my life honoring hers. She had the gift of laughter, she’s an inspiration and she deserves to be celebrated.” 

The Karen A. Martin Fundraiser 10th Anniversary Benefit "Spirit In The Sky" honoring the life and commemorating the loss of Karen Martin, will be held on Friday, October 28, 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. at .  The cost is $50 per person, and includes, hor de vous, pasta, carving stations and desserts. There will be raffle prizes, a silent auction and live music by the Lisa Love Experience. 

Karen Martin's image can be seen in the Wall Of Faces exhibit incorporated into the 9/11 Memorial in NYC.

To access the Call to Remember Archive please dial (866) 582-5613 (Toll Free) or (646) 248-6225 (Local). When connected, you will hear a recorded voice welcoming you to the service and explaining the recording process. You will then be asked to enter a 4-digit identification code for the person you are intending to remember. Karen’s special ID code is: 2659.

Tammie King September 06, 2011 at 02:11 PM
Beautifully written! (We miss you!)
Laura Hinds September 06, 2011 at 02:53 PM
What an inspiration Karen was. Michelle, you did a fantastic job writing this article. I smiled and laughed and cried just a few tears while reading it. I am going to do my best to get friends and family all over the country to read it too.
Michelle Gilliss September 06, 2011 at 04:01 PM
Thank you so much. It was wonderful to hear the stories of her antics and of happy times in her life; I only hope I did her memory justice. Karen's legacy is in The Karen A. Martin Memorial Fund that was created in her memory, focusing on making a difference in children's lives. The fundraiser on October 28th is to raise money for a good cause~Please help spread the word so they get a great turnout for the event!
Joan Greener September 06, 2011 at 08:03 PM
Karen continues to be an inspiration to all who knew her. She loved her family, friends and children. It is a privilege to honor her memory by helping children. Her legacy of laughter and love continues on. Remember her and honor her! karenamartin.org
Stephen Gilliss September 07, 2011 at 11:43 AM
My favorite article to date, Michelle. I feel like I know her without having ever met her. You seem to have captured her spirit perfectly. What a lovely tribute.
Jeannie September 09, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Michelle, I am moved to tears at your insightful description of Karen. She came alive off the written page, so much so that I wish I had known her.
Michelle Gilliss September 09, 2011 at 03:03 PM
Thank you, I relate to that feeling, also.
Niel Knudsen September 12, 2012 at 02:04 AM
I'm sorry to have to point this out but the link for the "Karen A. Martin Fundraiser 10th Anniversary Benefit" goes to a squatter site with nothing to do with Karen. Someone from Danvers Patch is going to have to remedy this.
Michelle Gilliss September 12, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Niel- Thank you for alerting us to the issue with the website. The benefit held last year to mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks was hugely successful, but the family has decided to use the funds raised to set up a scholarship fund in her name instead of holding yearly benefits. Consequently the webpage for Karen A Martin Benefit has been shut down, but stay tuned for future details about how to donate.to this scholarship so her name will continue for years to come.

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