Woman’s broad interests reflected in estate gift to WILL

Karen Hawthorne loved home and farm, theater and music, and the U of I and WILL.

Karen Hawthorne

Karen Hawthorne

Karen Hawthorne, who died of pancreatic cancer last June, lived almost all her life in the house near Farmer City where she grew up. “She liked being out in the open on the family farm and having all the old things around her that she loved,” said her friend Kitty Grubb.

Karen amazed her friends with her many gardening and cooking skills. “We kept calling her Martha Stewart because she loved playing around in the kitchen, and doing things like making her own marshmallows,” Kitty said. Her brandied apricots were famous. “You had to be careful—they were really potent,” Kitty said.

But Karen’s broad interests went beyond home and farm. She loved live theater and music. “We always joked that we’d rather see a bad play than a good movie. We liked live theater,” said another friend, Larry Buss. She loved to take in shows at the Krannert Center and the Station Theatre, and she played piano and organ both as a volunteer and professional musician.

She also enjoyed public television and radio programs, and when she died, she left a generous estate gift to WILL. “She loved the University of Illinois and the arts, and she thought WILL would be a good recipient,” Larry said.

Karen was known for being frank and telling it like it was. “She was opinionated. If she thought she was right, she was right. But once you became close to her, she would go to the wall for you,” Larry said.
Earlier in her career, Karen worked in the office of the Urbana Park District, and in the office of several departments on the University of Illinois campus. She was also a longtime volunteer with U of I Extension and the Farmer City Garden Club.

After Karen died, her favorite band, The Blue Collar Bastards, played at the funeral. “There was dancing,” Larry said. “People said they had never been to funeral like that before.”

We’re grateful that Karen remembered WILL when planning for her estate. For more information about how you can make an estate gift to WILL, contact Danda Beard at 217-333-7300 or dtbeard@illinois.edu.