Karen Leslie Lew, 74, died in Shoreline, WA, on May 8, 2016, from complications due to a stroke.
A memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 28, 2016, at 2:00 p.m. at the Lakeview Free Methodist Church, 9412 15th Ave. NE, Seattle, WA 98115 (map)
Karen was born February 19, 1942, in Washington, DC, to Lyman L. and Betzi M. (Dekema) Woodman. She was the middle of three Woodman children. Karen came to Alaska in 1953 when the U.S. Air Force assigned her father (Lt. Col. USAF) to Elmendorf Air Force Base. The family lived in City View and on EAFB until 1956, when Col. Woodman was assigned to Hamilton Air Force Base in California. Karen graduated from San Rafael High School in 1960 and then returned to Anchorage, where her parents had moved after Col. Woodman’s retirement in 1959.
Her first job was with the City of Anchorage, working in the office of City Clerk Ben Boeke. In September 1960, she returned to California to attend San Francisco State College. The next year, she met Dan Wing Lew at the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown, San Francisco, and they were married the following January in the Presbyterian mission Donaldina Cameron House, affiliated with the church, in San Francisco.
In the fall of 1962, Karen and Dan moved to the Los Angeles area, where their three children were all born. After her separation from Dan in 1969, Karen moved with the children to Anchorage, Alaska. The family of four lived in Mountain View and then in the Sand Lake area, while Karen worked in public relations, advertising, and public information for ITT Arctic Services (White Alice Communications System), various advertising agencies, KYAK Radio, Anchorage Daily News, the Alaska Advocate, and the Alaska Departments of Natural Resources and Fish & Game.
After her children graduated from Dimond High School and moved away, Karen drove out of Alaska, coming to eventually live for three years at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lenox, Massachusetts.
In 1988, Karen left the Center and moved back west, ending up in Arizona working for Arizona Game and Fish as editor of the agency’s monthly magazine. After a brief return to Massachusetts following her mother’s 1990 death in Alaska, Karen again moved west, in 1992, to live in Oakland, California. It was at that time that she became involved again with the Presbyterian Church in Chinatown and Donaldina Cameron House in San Francisco. In 2000, again yearning for the Northland, Karen and her two cats drove the Alcan Highway back to Alaska. There she returned to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to work as project manager and editor for the Kodiak Archipelago Conservation and Management Plan.
In 2005, Karen moved from Alaska to the Seattle area to be closer to two of her children and her grandchildren. There she resumed her freelance writing and editing business working out of her home office in Lynnwood, Washington, until she suffered a TIA (“mini stroke”) in 2010, which forced her retirement. In 2014, she was diagnosed with cerebral amyloid angiopathy.
During her many years in Alaska, Karen was involved in the arts, including working with and appearing in shows by Anchorage Community Theatre and Theatre Guild (she was voted best Alaska actress for her title role in “I Remember Mama”) and with Anchorage Community Chorus. She also wrote arts columns for the Alaska Advocate and for the Alaska Airlines inflight magazine Alaskafest.
Her major interests and concerns have always been for her children; for wildlife, its habitat, and the environment; and for public communication and information. She was a member of what-was-then Alaska Press Women from 1971 through 2004. She won many state, national, and international awards for her writing and editing with that organization, as well as with Alaska Press Club (1974–1978), the Public Relations Society of America (member 1978–1985), and Society for Technical Communication (1993–2005).
To the end of her life she continued to be an avid reader, birdwatcher, environmentalist, and social activist.
Karen is survived by her brother, Ross Woodman of Sacramento, California; her children: Kent Lew of Washington, Massachusetts, Danika Lew of Seattle, Washington, and Mark D. Lew of Kirkland, Washington; and two grandchildren.
For those who wish to recognize or commemorate Karen’s life and her contributions to communities throughout Alaska, California, Massachusetts, and Washington, please make donations to Donaldina Cameron House, 920 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94108; Seattle Animal Shelter, 2061 15th Ave W, Seattle, WA 98119; or your local animal shelter.