Karen Wheelock

Honored by:Mignon Manelli
Brick location:G:5  map

Born April 13, 1945, died January 18, 1993

Karen was a long-term sufferer with kidney disease. She was diagnosed with it at birth. In 1970 she became dependent on kidney dialysis and at the time of her death was one of the longest surviving dialysis patients in the nation. Those are the cold clinical facts. But that is not the warm reality of the person Karen was.

Karen was neither ruled nor defined by her physical disability. Her condition was a challenge to her. In her unassuming way she managed her disease, not vice versa. She was one of those quiet heroines. One who all the while deriding herself as "shiftless" pushed the limits of the possible. She did what she wasn't supposed to be able to do. She was not expected to survive into adulthood but she did. She was not expected to be able to bear a child but she did. And she did much more than just survive. She sailed, often by herself. She drove snappy little sports cars and loved it. She traveled, even though arrangements were vastly more complicated, involving the necessity to locate and schedule dialysis facilities.

She was a person of wide interests and abiding dedication. She loved the theater; she was a long-time volunteer with the Ames community theater. And shopping. She loved crafts, especially teddy bears, making many, collecting others and attending teddy bear conventions. And shopping. She loved cats and adopted a succession of unwanted or stray felines who came her way. And shopping. She had a lively interest in antiques, particularly Coca Cola memorabilia; she was for a time secretary in the Coca Cola collectors organization.

She was a dedicated advocate of pro-life causes. She was for many years the secretary and executive committee member of Iowans for Life, the state right-to-life organization. She was one of the original members of the Ames pro-life committee. She always pushed herself a little harder to work for the rights of the unborn disabled or unwanted.

She was a truly remarkable unforgettable woman although she would dismiss such a notion. She was a person who was quietly but unswervingly true to her ideals. She was courageous in the face of what many would have found to be overwhelming physical problems. I think of her often. I remember her shy grin, her impatience at indecision. I think of countless occasions when I'd want to beg off going to some meeting or activity and would talk to Karen and find (although she obviously would not be feeling well or would even be in pain) that well, she just thought that she ought to go. Karen was an inspiration to us all. She portrayed an attitude that seemed to consider her condition and say "yeah OK but now what?!" She would, I'm sure, be truly amazed at the influence she's had on those who knew her. If she knew if she knows now I'm sure she's grinning murmuring, "Oh no, couldn't be me. I'm so shiftless!"

Submitted 2/2/95