Karen Joan Tortorello
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April 4, 1953 ~ April 27, 2015
"A smile is a curve that sets everything straight."

A shining light went out here on earth Monday April 27, 2015 but now shines bright in Heaven above. Karen was born in Vancouver, WA and grew up in Camas, WA graduating from Camas High in 1971. She also graduated from Clark College with an associate's degree in the ancient art of Secretarial Science.
Early in her business career, Karen was the personal assistant to the Director of the Pacific Northwest River Basins Commission and then Office Manager for Business Support Systems. In 1983, she took on the position that she cherished the most, that of being Mommy to daughters, Kristin and Kelsey. When the girls got older, Karen started back working on a part-time basis before finally finding the job she'd been looking for as an administrative assistant with James. E. John Construction. She enjoyed the challenges of the job and loved the people she worked with.
Karen's organizational skills served her well in the running of the Tortorello home. She kept up with all of the girl's sports, hobbies and social activities, ran the household, was the chauffer of the family Boogie Bus, and made their home a warm and friendly place with an open door where kids could just come and hang out. The family made many special memories on their summer camping outings, year round sports tournaments and road trips taken together. Especially memorable was the 1999 trip to Europe with Kristin's soccer team and spending the Millennium on Maui.
In September of 2000, the family was dealt a tragedy when they lost Kelsey to an unfortunate pedestrian/ vehicle accident. What could have been a devastating event for some, Karen chose to make it a source of inspiration and try to make a difference in the lives of others. She became a champion of pedestrian safety and education by working with the Clark County Traffic Safety Task Force and giving pedestrian safety presentations at many local elementary schools. With the encouragement and so much help from others, Kelsey's House was built through Habit for Humanity. She also helped found the Kelsey Tortorello Memorial Homeless Fund, a non-profit organization whose main objective was to help others in need. Later Karen became the volunteer Adopt-a-room coordinator at the Share Homestead shelter, something she enjoyed participating in the rest of her life.
Having lived through the nightmare herself, Karen would also reach out to other women dealing with the loss of a child and would offer them support, a shoulder to cry on, an ear to hear their stories and try to help them sort through the grief they were dealing with. A group of those ladies, unofficially known as Moms Who Get It, still meet periodically to offer support and reach out to others who have found themselves dealing with a similar tragedy.
After her diagnosis in 2005, Karen became active with the Pink Lemonade Project and Pink Sistas groups that offer support and education to breast cancer survivors and their families.
Walter Winchell once said, "A real friend walks in when the rest of the world walks out." and Karen could be counted on to be a real friend. She knew how to listen, was a kind, sincere and genuine person. Her friends and family meant the world to her and she found time for them. Whether it was a family gathering, get together with friends, one of the many support groups she participated in or her Zumba class (which was her happy place), you could always count on a smile and a positive outlook from Karen.
Karen is survived by her husband of 35 years, Gary; daughter, Kristin; grandson, Kingston and his father, Darrell Smith; sister, Donna (John) Rankins; brother-in-law, Rick (Sue) Tortorello; mother and father-in-law, Dick and Flo Tortorello; and numerous cousins, nieces and nephews who were dear to Karen's heart.
She was preceded in death by her beloved daughter, Kelsey; parents, Vernon and Elva Guttu; and many aunts, uncles, and cousins who were sure greeted her with open arms with lefsa, cookies, and a cup of coffee.
Karen's family wishes to thank Dr. Magdolna Solti and the staff at Compass Oncology, PeaceHealth Southwest Washington Medical Center Medical Center and Dr. Alan Gabriel for their care, compassion, and concern for Karen as she fought her battle these past years.
A memorial service and gathering will be held at noon on Saturday, May 9, 2015, at Zion Lutheran Church in Camas, WA. There is also a Celebration of Life planned at 4:00 p.m. that same day at Shanahan's in Vancouver, WA.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the Pink Lemonade Project, Pink Sistas, or Share Vancouver; all organizations that Karen held very close to her heart.
Please sign her guest book at: www.columbian.com/obits.

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in The Columbian on May 3, 2015.
No memorial events are currently scheduled. To offer your sympathy during this difficult time, you can now have memorial trees planted in a National Forest in memory of your loved one.
Memories & Condolences
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32 entries
April 28, 2020
I sure do miss that lady :(
May 15, 2015
I was so sad to hear this news. Although I only knew Karen for a short time when we played bunco together several years ago, I always felt welcomed in her home when she hosted and she was always so sweet and genuine to talk to. My heart broke for her when Kelsey was lost. My sincere condolences go out to Karen's family and friends.
Terry Haye
May 9, 2015
Gary and Kristen and family, my most heart felt sympathys are with you. You can be proud of this wonderful lady and the memories we all share. She will never be forgotten.
Pauline Netherda
May 9, 2015
Heaven got very lucky!
To Karen's Family---
My heart goes out to each one of you. Karen's passing has no doubt left a huge void in your lives but in the lives and hearts of others. Since High School I have never seen Karen without a huge smile and laughter to share. She was such a bright, shining soul. My prayers are for her survivors that will miss her so dearly.
Linda Cervetto
May 7, 2015
Gary, Kristen and family, I am so very sorry for your loss but I know she will be looking down on you with love. She became an inspiration for me as through the years I've seen her tackle the hardest tasks with strength, positive energy, and a desire to live the best life inspite of the obstacles. She makes me stronger, helps me to live in the moment and wear a smile. She touched. so many lives what a gift. She truly is an angel.
Pat Desormeaux
May 7, 2015
I will miss Karen so much. She was the light in the room. I will cherish our memories and all of the times we laughed together.
Dawn Weagant
May 7, 2015
Gary and Kristen,
We are so sorry for your loss. We were good friends of Elva and Vernon and know how much they loved her. She was always so lovely and full of Grace. The world has lost an angel.
Lynn and Jack Israel
May 7, 2015
I'm so glad I was able to know Karen in our childhood. We always had so much fun at the Guttu house and all the wonderful neighbor's houses as well! Much love to you all and sweet memories!
Connie Brooking Durkee
May 7, 2015
So glad we were able to connect with karen and our family in september. I remember her saying I feel just fine. Kralyn and I will not be able to attend on saturday but you are in our thoughts
c.j. shaw
May 6, 2015
Gary and Kristen,

Merrie Jane and I are so, so, sorry for your loss. Karen will be missed. Our main remembrances of Karen will be the many occasions of working with her plants and the hillside, and keeping Gary busy with her projects. The neighborhood will not be the same.
We are here if, and whenever you might need help.

Merrie Jane and Gordon Anderson
May 6, 2015
Gary and Family, Karen is a shining light of our much loved family and will be so missed by us all. Sending healing prayers for you and loving prayers to her in heaven.
Gary and Elizabeth Shaw
May 6, 2015
Wed. 05/06. Hello to you all. I am so very sorry for your loss. (I too, along with so many others related and friends, lost my Mother to a Stoke last Oct. 15th.)
Although I do not know your family, I remember very well reading the article in the Columbian about your beloved Kelsey's death, on Main St. while attending a high school football game. I was so grieved to read such, even though it was not my loss. It, of course, counts just the same. To think. Kelsey would have been about 30 this year.
In closing, I am so sorry again for your family's loss and current circumstances. Let us all pray for each other.
Bob Brne.
Vancouver, WA.
OR, FB - "Bob Brunese"
Bob Brunese
May 5, 2015
Gary, Our hearts and minds are with you and the family.
Charlie McKinny
May 5, 2015
I am so grateful that I was able to see Karen and her bright smile at the 40th class reunion. She was a childhood neighbor, and I always looked up to her. She was easy going and was kind to us, even when Donna and I were probably annoying her! I wish comfort and blessings to those who she has left behind, believing that she is safe, without pain, and with those who have gone before. May the joyful memories you had sustain and comfort you, until you meet again.
Janice Arvidson-Gee
May 5, 2015
Gary and family--
We are heartbroken for your loss. Karen's life clearly is an inspiration to anyone who knows her remarkable story----Godspeed on her journey...blessings to her family and friends....
Chris Evans
May 5, 2015
I wish I could have known Karen longer. She was such an inspirational lady, so full of life and laughter! Gary, Kristin, Darrell, and Kingston- I'll be keeping you all in my prayers that you may experience God's peace during this time and in the future!
Elyssa Morris
May 4, 2015
There's a hole in our Zumba family, but we will keep on shaking and making that a happy place in your honor.
Until we shake again, Karen!
Lu Aspon
May 4, 2015
Karen, you sweet friend....I will miss you, and your smile and laugh. We've had many laughs, but I will see you again..love you!
Sendin hugs, love and prayers to the whole family
Sharon Newberry Martell
May 4, 2015
Will miss you my high school buddy but will see you again in heaven when it's my turn. GOD blessed me with your friendship which has always been in my heart. .. you are an example of what a true friend really is! I love you my sweet friend!
Cindi Carpenter
May 4, 2015
Beautiful lady, filled with grace & elegance... A bright shining star, my she rest peacefully with the Angels... Prayers for peace & healing for all who loved Karen...
Malia Bafford
May 4, 2015
Karen truly was an angel on this earth. During times when my life was difficult she always stepped in and encouraged me with her love and kindness. The past two years we became support for each other. Whether we were at Zumba class or at our favorite breakfast spot we never ran out of things to talk about. She was the most brave and courageous person I have ever met.
Over a glass of wine we would solve the problems, plan parties and laugh so hard tears were flowing.
Gary,Kristin,Kingston and Darrellmy deepest sympathy to you all. Words cannot express the loss I know you all are feeling. She was more than my best friend, she was my sister at heart. My beautiful Karen, I know you are beaming with happiness and pride in Heaven.
Until we meet again..I will hold your memories and wisdom forever in my heart with love and affection.
Stacey Kindschuh
May 4, 2015
Karen will be dearly missed. Her influence is great and will continue on. My thoughts are with her family . What a wonderful lady, so glad I had the opportunity to work with her.
Jana Huffman
May 4, 2015
Gary and Kristen, So sorry to hear of your loss. Karen was such a loving and giving person. Our heartfelt prayers.
Karen Coppola
May 4, 2015
Hugs, love and prayers to the entire circle of family and friends left behind in the dark time. Karen touched a lot of people and her memory will always be held dear in our hearts.
Heather and Eliot
May 4, 2015
Gary I am sorry for your loss. May God comfort you and Kristen through this difficult time. You both are in my thoughts and prayers.
Larry Bowen
May 3, 2015
Gary I am so sorry for your loss. May you find comfort in your memories of your beautiful wife and daughter.
Julie Weisenborn Scott
May 3, 2015
It is with great sadness that I sign this guestbook. Karen will be remembered by many for her unselfish giving heart and all the good she left behind on this Earth.
Fay Blackburn
May 3, 2015
I am so sorry to read the passing of your wife, Gary. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.
Art and Mary Allen
May 3, 2015
Karen was one of the "big girls" to me in our family along with Donna, Laurel and Nancy. I remember looking at Elva's old cookbooks, not long ago and Karen saying, "you touched it, you take it! That's the rule!" then she and Donna and I had a good laugh. Now she's laughing with all the rest of the family who has already gone home. The streets of glory are surely full of our family members walking and laughing. Gary and Kristin, take things a day at a time, cry when you need to, laugh when you can, and always keep those memories close to your heart. Much love, Cousin Sarah
Sarah (Lancaster) Floyd
May 3, 2015
Words cannot describe this precious beautiful lady.
Karen is the kind of friend every person would love to have and I was lucky enough for her to be mine. Karen was the greatest mom to her beautiful daughters and like a second mom to mine. I was always in awe of Karen's calm quiet strength and positive outlook when times were at their darkest and she faced much more than her share. Karen was always ready to have fun at the spur of the moment if it meant being with family and friends.
My love and prayers go out to Gary and Kristen who were always by Karen's side during the most difficult times.
I love you dear friend and will forever keep our wonderful memories in my broken heart and celebrate your life the way you would want me to.
Don't you and Kelsey have too much fun without us all and save me a spot.
Traci Allman
May 3, 2015
This amazing woman was the strongest, most brave woman I will ever know. Tragedies that would bring most of us to our knees, were met with strength, optimism and a resolve to make sure that something positive would always triumph. A shining example of a wife, mother and friend, she was always much more concerned with others than with herself.

Gary and Kristin, I pray that you find peace through knowing that she is with your beloved Kelsey and watching over all of you from her special place in heaven.

Love and prayers,
Kristi and Kevin Kotrous
May 3, 2015
Karen, I'll love and miss you for all my days. There truly are no words...
Deb Thoreson
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