Karen Louise McBreen departed this world on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26. She was born Sept. 28, 1948 in the Bronx, the middle child of Ethel Jane Ach and John William Cherewatti. Karen spent her childhood in Long Island’s Massapequa Park eventually finding herself in the Big Apple studying nursing at Methodist Hospital where she earned her cap in 1968. Following graduation, she went onto Boston’s New England Deaconess Hospital followed by Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

Never one to sit still, Karen hopped in her 1970 Camaro and was Vegas bound. After working as a nurse at a hospital in the other City that Never Sleeps, a new ambition struck her wayward soul: Colorado ski bum. As is the case for most that pursue that track in life, it was short lived. In 1972, Karen found herself at Beth Israel Hospital in Denver and more importantly, on a blind date with the man she would later call her husband for the next 45 years. With a thirst for knowledge, incredible smarts, and a passion for service, she would go on to spend the next 10-15 years in higher education perfecting her craft and earning her B.A. in Nursing from Metropolitan State College and her Masters in Nursing from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center — all the while working part-time as a critical care nurse and starting a family. A professor once commented to Karen that with her sharp acumen and tenacity, perhaps she’d be better suited as a medical doctor. With two young kids at this point in her life, Karen matter of factly told the professor, “I have children to raise.”

Karen went on to pursue a career in teaching other aspiring nurses affording her the summer off with her kids. In 1989, she and her husband purchased a small log home in Gunnison, Colo., where the family still gathers every summer and around Christmastime. Simply put, Karen was in her happy place in Gunnison.

Over the years, Karen had been heavily recruited by a mentor to take a leading administrative position within Bonfils Blood Center. With her kids now older, she jumped in and fully immersed herself into a very significant and consuming role. During this time, Karen was a professional mentor to many and became a well-respected figure among her colleagues. Never wanting to miss the opportunity to share her passion and work ethic with others, her children worked at Bonfils part-time during their own educational pursuits.

She served passionately at Bonfils for many years and finally settled back into her role as a nursing instructor of which she ultimately retired.

In addition to being a woman devoted to her children, career, and faith, Karen was an avid learner, walker and reader. Mystery thrillers consumed her nights and early mornings, and she often finished off the latest Mary Higgins Clark novel in one or two sittings. In her final years, she and her husband moved from Aurora to an “active older adult” community in Broomfield where Karen walked the biking paths bare. When not visiting kids and grandkids nearby and in Kansas City or making the trek to Gunnison, they enjoyed many adventures to places old and new.

Karen will be missed by her husband Donald (Craig) McBreen, son Ryan Foster McBreen (Jayme) daughter Kathleen Alison (Katie) McGurk (John) and beloved grandchildren Bryson Foster McBreen (13), Kayleigh Jayne McBreen (10), Sawyer Robert McBreen (6), John Paul (Jack) McGurk, Jr. (7), and Finnegan Foster (Finn) McGurk (5).

With a spirit that never failed even in her last days on earth, Karen fought a courageous battle with early on-set Alzheimer’s and made the decision to donate her brain to science — a fitting capstone to a life that centered around a quest for knowledge and helping others.

So we may all carry on her fight and in lieu of flowers, we hope you’ll consider a gift in her name to the CU Foundation, for the benefit of the Alzheimer’s and Cognition Center at University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. You may give online via giving.cu.edu/KarenMcBreen, by phone at 303.541.1290, or by check payable to the CU Foundation (P.O. Box 17126, Denver CO 80217-9155). Please indicate in the check memo line that the gift is for the “Karen L. McBreen Memorial Fund.”

The family would also like to thank the unsung heroes — the amazing caregivers that have tirelessly and selflessly devoted themselves to caring for those who remain with us in body but slowly leave us in mind.

“O Jesus, I have promised to serve thee to the end, be thou forever near me, my Master and my Friend: I shall not fear the battle if thou art by my side, nor wander from the pathway if thou wilt be my guide.” 1968 Class Hymn, Brooklyn Methodist Hospital.