Karen Marie Thomas, 76, of Galesburg, Illinois, died peacefully at home, Thursday, February 1, 2024, with her children by her side.
Karen was born October 1, 1947, in Galesburg, Illinois, the daughter of Ivan W. and Veta B. (Marshall) Schroeder. After graduating from Galesburg High School, Karen attended Methodist School of Nursing in Peoria, Illinois. While in school, Karen met her future husband, Gary Thomas. Karen graduated as a Registered Nurse from Methodist in 1968. Karen and Gary later married on February 22, 1969, in Galesburg. Karen’s calling in life was nursing. She spent two fulfilling decades as an Obstetrics and floor nurse at Galesburg Cottage Hospital. Her dedication to the care and well-being of others extended beyond hospital walls, as she served as a Nursing Consultant for Galesburg DD Homes for nearly three decades before retiring in 2009. While working as a DD Nurse, Karen continued her education by earning her CDDRN (Certified Developmentally Disabled Registered Nurse) Recognition. Karen served as a member and past president of the Central Illinois DD Nursing Group, where she advocated for high standards of care and professional development. Her work displayed her boundless empathy and care for individuals with developmental challenges.
Karen’s life was her family, which included her cherished husband, Gary L. Thomas, who preceded her in death on October 8, 2021, her daughter, Angie (Wayne) Niehaus of Pearl City, Illinois, and her son, Mark (Tricia) Thomas of Galesburg. Her world was brightened by her grandchildren, Kayla Niehaus, Kyle Niehaus, Andrew Thomas, and Luke Thomas, whom she adored with every fiber of her being. Karen found comfort and joy in her family circle that extended to her sister, Jan (Neill) Unger of Galesburg, her late sister Delores Howerter, and deeply valued brothers-in-law, Bill (Kathy) Thomas and Jack Howerter.
Karen was active in her children’s school years, contributing her time to both PTA and Brownies. Family always came first. They traveled every year to many locations throughout the US including a few very memorable trips to Florida with the Lewis family as well as numerous Marshall Family Reunions. Gary and Karen also enjoyed many motorcycle trips traveling the Midwest. In later years, many summers were spent travelling to Florida to be with their longtime friends, Gregg and Judie Lewis and family. Aside from her family, Karen’s other love was the Mississippi River. Nearly every weekend was spent in the summer going to Oquawka, eventually being able to purchase a home with Gary on the banks of the Mississippi. Many beautiful sunsets were enjoyed on their deck.
Above all, she was a constant presence in her grandchildren’s lives – attending every event she could with pride and adoration in her eyes. Her support for her grandchildren was unwavering, as she celebrated their achievements and milestones with unrivaled enthusiasm.
Karen’s life was woven with family, love, service, and enduring friendships. She not only made an impact through her professional work but also through the warmth and kindness she extended to everyone around her. Her legacy of caring and commitment will continue to inspire those who were fortunate enough to cross paths with her.
Visitation will be 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Thursday, February 8, 2024 at Watson Thomas Funeral Home and Crematory, Galesburg. Funeral services will be 10:00 a.m. Friday, February 9, 2024 at the funeral home. Chaplain Jordan Knight will officiate. Burial will follow at Memorial Park Cemetery, Galesburg. Memorial contributions may be made to Gift of Hope or the Knox County Humane Society. The family would like to extend their most grateful gratitude to Gregg and Judie Lewis for their almost 50 years of friendship to Mom and Dad, but also their selfless love in helping care for both of them in their final weeks. Online expressions of sympathy may be sent to the family at www.watsonthomas.com.