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Karen Mae (Johnson) Wilkinson of Shelby, Montana passed away in the early morning on Wednesday, May 9, 2018 sleeping at her Home which had been her wish.
KW was born the final (*and younger twin) of 4 Gemini siblings and raised in farm life in Kiron, Iowa. She was very academically involved, with all the forms of high school bands, jazz, ensemble, marching, etc. with one of her pride and joy moments being to win at state competition as a percussionist. The timpani of the marching drum was in her soul.
Her first marriage to Leroy A. Jones brought her daughters, Paula and Melissa, taking them all around the country as a NAVY Family to Colorado, Washington D.C., Hawaii and Virginia then back to Colorado where life changes brought her to her destiny.
But, it was in her third marriage that she found her true Soul Twin/Soul Mate, her husband, Ed Wilkinson. They met at their place of work, a Nuclear Power Plant in northern Colorado, he as Security and she as Accounting and Payroll. He admired the picture of her horse framed on her desk (Baja Splash o’Paint), and so it began! They first dated for KW’s birthday in 1986 (and his birthday too, she found out later…! (*KW June 15th and Ed June 11th) then Married on March 25, 1987 and relocated to Montana at the end of May, bringing horses and Melissa along to help drive.
It is here in Montana that they built a life in both their working and private lives! They landed the 1st of June in 1987 at the top of the Pipestone Pass, on rugged land between Whitehall and Butte, Montana somewhat like “”The Wilderness Family” and spent that first summer, “roughing it” in a “shored up” Montana Miner’s Cabin, with horses in tow. Yes, there were bears and mountain lions to be aware of. Fall came, Melissa left for college in Bozeman and when the snow came KW and Ed were able to relocate into town from the mountain to Butte, where KW started with Robertson Research of the Copper Mine then transferred over to Town Pump with management as her goal.
KW and Ed both, first found employ with Town Pump just east of headquarters and quickly moved up the ranks, Starting in WhiteHall, then taking on Management with a transfer to her own store as Manager in Havre, Wolf Point, Ennis, Hardin, then moving up again to District Manager, relocating to the Hi-Line, first to Cut Bank, then here to Shelby in 1995, where they “Planted their flag” so to speak, said “We’re STAYING!”, purchased land and built a house on it and “Fort Retirement” was born! (… and built a barn and lean-to for the horses as well.) Let us not forget KW’s forest of trees and lilac bushes that she surrounded the house with, requiring many trips to town and back with the water wagon, truck and flat bed trailer with 500 gallon cistern for water on the back.
Karen and Ed continued building, fences and pastures, a yard fence, a front deck/walkway, a crow’s nest overlook deck, a back addition to the house and a “Quad Box” shed to house the 4wheelers as well, walkways thru out the yard, reaching the various tree areas. Upon Ed’s passing in 2003, the building continued with Ron Boozer, the “Son I (KW) Never Had”, the front deck walkway was enclosed and became a foyer, what is called “the library” and the tool room, as well there still being open porch decking at the far end to sit and enjoy a menthol cigarette, one of her lifelong passions.
Karen, “KW”, is survived by her two daughters, Melissa Kae Mason, currently of Montana, here on Mom’s place and Paula Tracie Hoffman, of Cameron, North Carolina, her husband Larry Hoffman, her three Granddaughters, (1) Skye Dakota (Hoffman) Hegyes, husband Justin and two Great Granddaughters, Gracelynne and Gwendolyn, (2) Madira (Hoffman) Jones, her husband, Chad, Grandchildren Caden, Charlotte and Galileo and (3) Sierra Hoffman, and boyfriend Yoshi.
As well, Grandson by marriage (to Ed) Delbert Feldhut and his wife Bethany, direct neighbors whose house is on KW’s land, to whom we are so grateful to have been fetching our water for us this past year and winter. Also, his mom, (Ed’s daughter) Roberta (Wilkinson) “Bobbi” Burtness, formerly next door neighbor, relocated to Tok, Alaska, and Ed’s two son’s Clay and Virgil Wilkinson of Kansas.
Also, the “Adopted BOOZER Family” with whom she/they became good friends when they all four worked together at the Shelby Town Pump beginning in 1995. Ed and Ron struck up a conversation on Ed’s very first day at work, with KW (*the Boss!) telling them they had better things to do talk all day and ought get back to work, Ha! The conversation continues still, with the family as future caretakers of Fort Retirement that Ed and KW began. Ron and Clara Boozer, of Shelby (*who refer to KW and Ed as “Mom and Dad”) and their many Children and Grandchilden (*who as well refer to KW and Ed as “Grandma and Grandpa”).
From her Johnson family of origin, she is survived by a remaining sibling, older sister Beverly (Johnson) Jaksoniak and her husband Larry in Littleton, Colorado, their children Lynnea and Lawrence and his wife and children/their grand children.
Finally, hommage to the Lyle (Shakey) and Toni Marquardt, Husband and Daughter of KW’s Twin Sister Sharon Kay (Johnson) Marquardt. Sharon was a real Heart Love Sister Support in the years after Ed passed in 2003. Staying at Sharon’s in Denison, Iowa became somewhat of a second home, especially during the winter months, from when Ed passed in 2003 up until Sharon herself crossed over in 2016.
KW was preceded in death by her husband, Ed Wilkinson, her parents, Bayard and Lillie Johnson, her siblings, Kenneth Johnson and Sharon Marquart and her post Ed canine dog companion, Traveler the Beagle.
KW was a Worker. She worked Hard her entire Life! Even her Play was work (*that she Loved!), Hunting, 4wheeling, Mowing the pastures, Road Maintenance with the quad runners, Fencing and all the Building, Crafts, Projects that she (and She and Ed= “They”) have worked on, often simultaneous, including the Cut Out Silhouettes. As well, she was a Collector. If it has a Horse, Cowboy, Mountain Man, Native American Indian and or Wolf/Duck/Bear wildlife on it, she owns it!
A Formal Viewing for KW will be Thursday, May 17, 2018 for Family 4 – 5 p.m. and for Public 5 – 7 p.m. at The Asper Funeral Home (*Whitted) 225 6th Ave South, Shelby. Her Cremains will be Blended in the Urn with Ed, with some combined remains to scatter at their place the following day. On Friday, May 18, 2018 there will be a Family and Friends BBQ and Potluck at Her Place.
For now, I have created an email address for KW (…with a future same name website pointing to an Etsy page.) FortRetirement@gmail.com
The Estate of KW (and all her collections) will be in flux. If there is anything of interest, please enquire with KW’s Daughter, Melissa by Email, or Text message (214) 536-1022 (*This is BEST) or Local Landline (406) 434-2365 or by mail to P.O. Box 306, Shelby, MT 59474.
In lieu of Gifts or Flowers, Donations can be sent to:
Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary
Institute of Range & American Mustang
P.O. Box 998
Hot Springs, SD 57747-0998
Crazy Horse Memorial
12151 Avenue of the Chiefs
Crazy Horse, South Dakota 57730-8900