To Karen E. Ahlgard, the entire world was a stage. An expressive, optimistic, and uninhibited individual, she was a performer in the theater of life. To everyone around her, she seemed to be eternally happy, and she willingly shared that joy with anyone whose life she touched. For Karen, bringing out the best in any situation was as easy as offering a smile, a witty remark or the twinkle of an eye. And with just those simple gestures, she could evoke the most pleasant of emotions. Karen really mastered the art of living and had great fun in doing so.
Karen was born on February 18, 1945 at Swedish Covenant in Chicago in Chicago, Illinois. Her parents were Frank and Evalyn Kalousek. Karen was raised in Bensenville, Illinois. Even as a child, Karen had the ability to lift the spirits of all those around her. She was raised to be warm, caring and friendly. She couldn't help but capture everyone's attention. She was definitely a little bit of a show off, but in doing so, she succeeded in entertaining her entire family.
Always a good playmate, Karen was easygoing and fun loving. She managed to lighten the mood wherever she was, even during family squabbles. She seemed to have a knack for bringing compromise and erasing tense situations around the house. Due to a generous dose of common sense, Karen managed to find a satisfying solution to basic problems. Karen was raised with one a sister, Carol.
All of Karen's playful good humor carried over into her childhood. She was possessed with an outgoing personality, a lively imagination and a mellowed enthusiasm for life that allowed her to be constantly on the go. As a result, Karen experienced a rather active childhood, and this suited her very well. She took part in softball. She was a girl scout. She enjoyed playing card games and board games.
Ask anyone who knew her from school and they would tell you that Karen was a class "cut-up." She didn't do it to be unkind or to garner all the attention. Rather, Karen simply enjoyed others' laughter and the sounds of her friends and acquaintances having a good time. It could be said that for Karen, grades may not have been the most important thing to her, but she really did enjoy her school experience. Since experience was Karen's best teacher. She enjoyed hands-on learning and applying the "practical" approach to knowledge, rather than getting caught up in "theory." Karen graduated from Fenton High School in 1962. She enjoyed some courses more than others, having favorite classes and teachers. Her favorite class in high school was Band and social studies/politics. The teachers she enjoyed learning from the most were Charlotte Sonnefield and Gene Hoffman.
Karen reveled in her college years, where her imagination could run free. She was viewed by many of her classmates as being a creative, artistic person. Karen was usually found at the center of things, whether it was during class or in extracurricular activities. She was a jovial person who loved to share her passion for fun with others. But for Karen, life was not a case of all play and no work. Karen relished the task of putting her imagination to work in class. She was able to discover new and different ways of answering problems and creating unusual and different solutions. She attended Northern Illinois University for one year.
Karen never actually encountered a stranger in her dealings with people. She was drawn to individuals and crowds, using her gregarious, adaptable and outgoing personality to captivate her audience. This quality allowed Karen to continually develop new relationships, ever widening her circle of friends. Karen delighted in her role among all her acquaintances, because she viewed them all as potential spectators for her performance. Whether it was a story, a joke, a song or just plain fooling around, Karen was always right at home putting on a show among her friends. Karen utilized her interest in others as a great way to connect with them. While growing up, some of her best friends were: RoseAnn Criel, Judy Hoffenkamp, June Kortum, Carol Bartels, Gloria Carlson, Gloria Brda, Gloria Hermann. Later in life, she continued relationships she had earlier in life, RoseAnn Criel, Judy Hoffenkamp, June Kortum along with some new relationships with Diane Matsiak, Kathy Lane, Clare Daccardo, Diane Kalousek, Mary Ann Dohse and Patty Beck. Karen loved sharing life and having her home filled with people she knew.
The gift of being emotionally expressive and outwardly affectionate made Karen very easy to approach. On April 1, 1967 Karen exchanged wedding vows with Jack Ralph Ahlgard at St. Alexis church of Bensenville, Illinois. She tried hard not to impose on her spouse. She was always sensitive to other people's feelings, and that was especially true in marriage.
Perhaps the reason Karen related so well to children was the fact that she never really completely grew up herself. The ability to be just a "kid at heart" helped her in raising her own children. Karen and Jack were blessed with two children, a daughter, Debbie and a son, Danny. They were also blessed with three grandchildren, Jackie, Jordan and Zach. Karen had the ability to focus her attention on the present moment. If she was spending time with the kids, that's where all of her attention was directed. Karen's compassionate side prevented her from being a strict disciplinarian, and she could turn just about any situation into a playful, learning experience. She could spend hours entertaining them with fun and creative play. In fact, Karen had a knack for turning some of those nasty old chores into games.
At work, as in life, Karen was a real "people person. " she had a very successful way of dealing effectively with others, and her enthusiasm and energy was often contagious. Karen liked to see herself as something of a virtuoso. When dealing with various projects and problems, Karen was an adaptable realist, using her common sense and trusting her experiences and impulses to uncover the correct answer. Karen's talent for being a down to earth thinker, allowed many around her to see Karen as an excellent problem solver. Working as a pension analyst and secretary, she was employed for 22 years at Central State and earlier at Hansberger Golf.
Karen enjoyed her leisure time by taking part in various hobbies. An "arts and crafts" type, Karen liked creating and making things. Her favorite pursuits were shopping, cooking, playing solitaire on the computer, dominos and playing card & board games. Karen was content to enjoy her hobbies alone but was also willing to share her interests with others.
Karen felt excited and challenged by sports. Even if she wasn't the best, Karen loved to participate and thoroughly enjoyed the competition and the pleasure of being around other people. Karen relished the opportunities where she could make an impact, and she would often push herself to play above her abilities. A quick thinker who understood the basics, Karen never seemed to get caught off guard, even when confronted with unexpected conflict. In high school, Karen was a great cheerleader and coached girls softball. Karen was also something of a sports fan and enjoyed watching her favorite events whenever she got the opportunity. Tops on her list were football,basketball and hockey.
Karen had an endless appetite for new and different activities. She was always ready to join in the fun and add her flair and energy to an organization. Because of her personality, her humor, and her ability to get along with everyone, Karen's service was greatly valued by the organizations to which she belonged. In high school, Karen was a member of the ring committee, playcast, band, drama, GAA, was the magazine chairperson and volunteered when ever possible. Throughout her later years, Karen was an active member of BEPC, Bensenville Environmental Protection Coalition, one of the original members of SOC, Suburban O'Hare Commission and the PTA.
A generous person who often wore her heart on her sleeve, Karen often found herself involved in activities she deemed important. She was charitable, kind and giving, qualities that made her a natural volunteer. Politically, Karen was a supporter of the Democratic Party.
Vested with a deep concern for spiritual development, Karen recognized that her faith was important to her throughout her life. She was a member of St. Alexis church.
Living life in the fast lane suited Karen just fine. It is no surprise that she loved to travel and to visit new and different places. She was naturally curious about other parts of the world and loved the real life adventure that came from visiting them. She was impulsive and willing to try anything once. Favorite vacations included Galena, Illinois, South Haven Michigan, Florida and Aruba.
Karen was a lover of animals and cherished her pets, enjoying them almost as much as she enjoyed being around other people. One of Karen's favorites was Norman a mixed breed dog. They were best friends for 12 years. Her family was rounded out by her first dog Ed, and during the past 4 years with her cats, Brady, Mason, Lili and Max.
Karen believed that you had to experience life, and her life in retirement was no different. When that day finally arrived in 2005, Karen took it in stride as one more way to have fun. Her new life involved relocating to Lake Holiday with her husband, Jack and then to Shorewood after his death. With her boundless energy and a desire to get the most out of life, Karen remained busy with people and projects. In retirement, she found new pleasure in watching the food channels and gourmet cooking, watching TV murder mysteries, reading all the Stephanie Plum novels and curling her hair. Even in retirement, Karen continued to stay in touch with her old friends and, since she'd never met a stranger, she made plenty of new acquaintances as well.
Karen passed away on January 29, 2011 at her home in Shorewood, Illinois. Karen died suddenly of a heart attack. She is survived by her daughter Debbie; son in law; Glenn, grandchildren, Jackie, Jordan and Zach; her mother Evalyn; her sister Carol; brother in law Rich and nephews Matthew and Brian.
Karen brought joy to all of those around her. She never had a mean bone in her body. She loved to have a good time and was an eternal optimist, always looking on the bright side of things. She loved to share her energy, wit, and her zest for all of her activities with her friends and family. Karen E. Ahlgard lived life to its fullest and made everyone around her happier just for knowing her. She will be remembered with a smile.
Karen E. Ahlgard, nee Kalousek, formerly of Bensenville, loving wife of the late Jack; cherished mother of Debra (Glenn) Cygan and the late Daniel Ahlgard; proud grandmother of Jackie, Jordan and Zach; beloved daughter of Evalyn and the late Frank Kalousek; adored sister of Carol (Rich) Schoon, dear cousin of Diane (Craig) Huffman, Tom (Jodi) Kalousek and the late Janice (Tim) Newmann; fond aunt of many nieces and nephews; dear sister-in-law of Cynthia (Richard) Spoerr, Lyle (Evelyn) Ahlgard and Diane Ahlgard. Funeral Friday, February 4, 2011 10:15 a.m. from Geils Funeral Home, 180 S. York Rd, Bensenville, to St. Alexis Catholic Church, 400 W. Wood St., Bensenville for Mass 11:00 a.m.. Interment Mt. Emblem Cemetery, Elmhurst, IL. Visitation Thursday, February 3, 2011 from 3-8 pm. In loving memory of Karen, memorials may be made to the charity of your choice. To celebrate Karen's life, visit www.Blake-LambFuneralHome.com.
For info, you may call Geils Funeral Home at 630-766-3232.