Karen Lou Eader Kirk passed away on December 19, 2020. She was born in Shelby, MI on November 4, 1950 to Douglas and Barbara Cheever Eader. She spent her entire childhood in Shelby and attended Shelby Public Schools. She loved being a big sister and doted on her younger sister and three younger brothers. She especially enjoyed summers at the family cottage at Stony Lake and roller skating at the Shelby Pavilion. Some of her favorite adventures involved trips to Chicago to visit her Uncle Lyle and Aunt Betty Cheever. Karen was especially close to both of her grandmothers and spent a great deal of time with them, cooking with Grandma Cheever and doing arts activities with Grandma Steen. She was active in Girl Scouts and attended the Shelby Congregational Church with her family. Like many kids who grew up in Shelby, she and sister Jeanne started picking cherries at a very early age. Once in high school, the two of them took jobs working the fruit sorting line at Birchwood Farms. Karen was very athletic and would have loved to play competitive sports but when she was in high school, her options were limited to cheerleading and Girls Athletic Association intramural sports, and she participated in both. Later she worked part time as a teller at the Shelby State Bank.
In the spring of 1966, Tom Kirk walked Karen home from a church youth group activity and the two of them were together for the next 54 years. Upon graduation from Shelby High School in 1969, Karen attended Michigan State University for one year. Karen moved to the University of Michigan where Tom was attending in the fall of 1970 and they came home to be married in November of that year. They lived in Ann Arbor until 1976, coming home for a couple of summers but buying a home there in 1974. During those years, Karen finished her U of M degree in kinesiology, did custodial work alongside Tom, and worked as an accounting clerk for a technology company, an office supply firm, and a trust company. In 1976, they moved back to Shelby and Tom joined in business with his father. Karen soon was hired to teach PE and health at Shelby High School and started a 30-year career there. Karen was the first volleyball coach at SHS and coached both high school and junior high volleyball at Shelby for many years. She loved teaching and always found a way to reach out to those students who were troubled and needed some extra attention. Every one of them, she would say, was “really just a sweetheart”.
The birth of daughters Abby and Annie fulfilled Karen and she was completely devoted to them and all of the activities in which they participated. She enjoyed having them in the school where she taught and being available to them whenever they needed her. When granddaughter Kaelei was born, Karen delighted in the role of grandmother as well and the two of them spent a great deal of time together. She also worked side by side with Tom in his roles as the Drama Advisor for Hart High School and the director of the Hart Community Performing Arts Series.
Karen retired from the Shelby Public Schools in the spring of 2008. It was at that time that her family became concerned about her cognitive abilities. Thus, began Karen’s long struggle with dementia. In the spring of 2009, Karen was diagnosed with early-onset dementia of the Alzheimer’s type. She and Tom made numerous trips to the University of Michigan hospitals for diagnosis and Karen voluntarily participated in a research study based there. Over the next few years, Karen and Tom traveled to visit family in Florida and Arizona, enjoyed a trip to Alaska with Tom’s sister Kathy Fox and her husband Bruce, and Karen and her sister visited brother Scott in Hawaii.
Karen was able to stay at home until December of 2014. She then developed a severe case of pneumonia and spent a week in the hospital. Her overall condition worsened significantly, and she was admitted to the Oceana Medical Care Facility. Karen’s physical condition improved but her cognitive difficulties worsened. She remained a resident of the facility for the six years leading to her death. In November of this year, she and Tom marked their 50th wedding anniversary.
Karen was preceded in death by her parents and infant brother Thomas. She is survived by her husband Tom, daughters Abigail Kirk and Anna (Jedediah) Blanton, and grandchildren Kaelei Kirk, Holden Blanton, and Josephine Blanton. Also surviving Karen are her sister Jeanne (David) VanDenHeuvel, and her brothers Bill, John (Joann), and Scott (Michelle) Eader and her nieces and nephews.
Karen’s family has decided that there will be no memorial service scheduled at this time due to Covid-19. Those wishing to remember Karen with a donation are asked to consider the Alzheimer’s Association, 564 S. Main Street, Suite 200, Ann Arbor, MI 48104 or the Oceana County Medical Care Facility, 701 E. Main Street, Hart, MI 49420.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Karen Lou (Eader) Kirk, please visit our floral store.