"Today is going to be a great day. Do you know why? Because I am going to make it a great day."
Her father would mention this to her throughout her life, and it's impact grew in significance to be a defining motivation to her life.
In 2006, Karen and David moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming from Seattle, Washington rekindling old friendships, and making many new ones. When not skiing 100 days a year, and hiking, biking, and fishing throughout the summer and fall, she applied herself to making a difference to causes she cared about - Teton Youth and Family Services, Teton Adaptive Sports, Friends of Pathways, and other nonprofits in the valley. She also volunteered as a Path Ambassador on the bike paths of Grand Teton National Park talking with visitors, taking their photos and showing them the wonders of the beautiful Park. Amazingly, she also worked part time for her Seattle based employer, Watson and McDonnell CPAs and trying out new recipes for dinner parties.
As a fishing friend said, with a smile on his face, her sometimes annoyingly enthusiastic approach to the day wore him out. A trait loved by many who knew her.
She and David shared a love of travel, looking for adventures in places off of the beaten path, whether in the outdoors of Jackson Hole or the villages of Kenya. While some of the adventures included backcountry skiing by self -propulsion, she definitely preferred getting in a helicopter to get in more runs per day. The two of them shared many, many ski trips to the wilds of British Columbia, befriending many who shared the same passions.
Karen was born October 11, 1956 to Alan and Carol Oatey (deceased) in Rocky River, Ohio. She was the youngest of four children. She and her brothers and sister grew up working part time as teenagers for the family business, The Oatey Company in Cleveland, Ohio. Her two brothers and brother in law entered the business. But Karen, after a summer job at Jackson Lake Lodge, during college, saw other horizons. She found an opening in the barn door that let her out to follow her passion. Calling her parents to say that she wanted to stay in the mountains, her parents were, of course, not so sure of her decision. Although it took a few years of "negotiations", she settled in Jackson and went to work pursuing a career, exploring new places, meeting new people and living life with purpose and nonstop energy.
After receiving a degree in accounting from the University of Wyoming she moved to Seattle to pursue the city career life, accepting a job offer from Arthur Andersen. Seattle provided new opportunities to explore, learn, and challenge. Among her first efforts in giving back, she had the opportunity to serve as an intern for United Way, asking businesses to support the cause. In Seattle, she met her husband David Landes, who had moved to Seattle for many of the same reasons, and the two of them provided fuel and support and passion to each other for sailing, skiing, climbing, traveling, working, cooking, finding the best bakeries, and engaging in the all of the city experiences.
Karen died suddenly, but painlessly, of a brain aneurism while doing what she loved most, skiing the downhill leg of the annual Jackson Hole Ski Club Pole Pedal Paddle race. She left us quickly, with her boots on, racing to the finish line.
Karen is survived by her husband, David Landes, her stepson Ian Landes, sister Nancy McMillan, and brothers Gary Oatey and Bill Oatey. As the "coolest aunt ever" she also infected her nieces and nephews with her joy of life: Courtney Oatey, Gehry Oatey, Chris Oatey, Gavin McMillan, Kelsey McMillan, Peter McMillan, John McMillan, Lisa Goodson, Mason Oatey, and Blake Oatey.
Her passing has left a big hole in the hearts of family, friends, and the community she loved. As a lasting gift of generosity and love, she donated her organs - a beautiful gift of life.
Remembrances in her name may be made through contributions to the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, P.O. Box 574, Jackson, WY 83001, (307) 739-1026.
A celebration of her life will be held June 13, 2015 at 2:00 PM outdoors at the base of the mountain at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.