Jan. 20, 1949 – June 13, 2017
Karen Lee Walker Harris, longtime Denver area resident, passed away June 13, 2017. She is survived by her husband of 48 years, James Robert Harris; three daughters, Shannon (Rick) Hammel, Jill (Ben) Cook and Emily Harris; four grandchildren; three sisters, Susan Bicknell, Ann Flynn and Lynn Barczuk and one brother-in-law, Richard (Connie) Harris and numerous nieces and nephews.
Karen was a remarkable woman. She was born in Los Alamos, New Mexico, to Bob and Janis Walker on Jan. 20, 1949. The family moved to Wheat Ridge in 1953, where Karen grew into the extraordinary woman she would be for the rest of life. She was valedictorian of the Class of 1967 at Wheat Ridge High School and was awarded the Boettcher Scholarship, created to keep Colorado's brightest minds in-state for college. She attended CU in Boulder, where she earned a BA in math, cum laude, in 1971, and was admitted to Tau Beta Pi and Phi Beta Kappa, one of the very few people recognized by both the engineering and liberal arts honorary societies. She later completed her Master of Architecture at CU Denver in 1991; attaining Tau Sigma Delta and receiving award of design excellence in 1990.
Karen was a licensed pilot by age 17. She was the first female "line boy" at Jefferson County Airport, and worked as a flight instructor as a teen. The Rocky Mountain News profiled her as the "Wheat Ridge Bird Girl" in 1967, and The Denver Post profiled her in 1972, when she won the Amelia Earhart award from the 99s. She was a pilot through her college years, reporting the metro area rush hour traffic for KHOW radio. She piloted in the 1972 Powder Puff Derby from California to New Jersey.
In 1968, she married Jim Harris. Following Jim's graduate school in Illinois and Maryland, the couple raised their three daughters in Aurora, Colorado.
Karen and Jim designed and built their dream house in Denver, completing construction in 2013. The design was featured in various media for the universal design throughout; both aesthetic and accessible no matter a person's age. The house won the Masterworks in Masonry Grand Award from the Rocky Mountain Masonry Institute in 2013 and was featured in The Denver Post, "A House for the Ages," Oct. 31, 2015.
Karen's daughters, Shannon, Jill and Emily remember their mother as a strong and loving guide always ready with the most clever and creative solution to any problem. Throughout their lives Karen instilled her values of family, hard work and integrity. In the last decade, she's blessed another generation as Grammy K, doing what she described as the best job in the world. She was the most wonderful and devoted grandmother anyone could wish for. She will be missed.
A memorial service was held at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 17, at the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant, 5400 S. Yosemite St., Greenwood Village, Colorado. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the charity of your choice.