Karen Marie McClure McKibbin passed away on Sunday morning, July 18, 2021 at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center from complications of cancer. Born on a beautiful spring morning in 1950, she was the first born of three children to William and Ruth McClure in South Bend, IN. While attending Adams High School in her senior year, she noticed the boy sitting next to her in homeroom and, although he was a tad goofy, he made her laugh steadily enough every morning despite some serious talks about the war in Viet Nam, Civil Rights, and all other important topics of the day. Scott and Karen attended their senior prom together and saw each other all through the summer of 1968. When fall arrived, Scott went off to Hanover College and Karen moved to Terre Haute to attend Indiana State University.
Scott’s strategy was that Karen should be free to date all the boys she wanted. And, per Scott’s plan, by the spring of 1969 she realized what she REALLY wanted, as Scott had hoped, and they began to move together through the stages of romance of the day. Karen wore Scott’s Phi Delta Theta lavaliere, then she wore his fraternity pin, and finally, a teeny tiny diamond ring that she would truly cherish her entire life. They were married in a snowstorm in St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in South Bend over Christmas vacation in 1971. They enjoyed the final semester of Scott’s Hanover career in the ancient apartment house owned by Mrs. Brown. Karen did her student teaching nearby, and they graduated on the same day, although three hours from each other.
In the fall of 1972, Karen began her teaching career in South Bend at LaSalle High School where she remained for the next thirty years and loved every minute of it, her students, and her esteemed colleagues. Told by a rather dim-witted high school counselor at Adams that she probably wasn’t really teacher material, he suggested she consider becoming a hairdresser. She was, in fact, a born teacher, both in and out of the classroom. Someone once suggested she could teach a horse how to bowl. Karen taught several subjects but became a first-class chemistry teacher and was famous to her students for her ability to erase the blackboard with her right hand as she simultaneously wrote formulae with her left. Sometimes she fell off her platform shoes in the 70’s; other times she got her fingers caught in the sprockets of the 16 mm projectors.
Heartbroken when Lasalle was closed as a high school, she moved to Clay High School and then closed her career with eight years at Niles High School for a total of forty-one years as an educator.
A lifelong learner, she received her master’s degree in education in 1977 and continued with additional classwork, until she was just short of a second masters. Karen was honored as an IUSB Distinguished Education Alumnus in 1988. This was followed by her being chosen as Indiana’s statewide Teacher of the Year that same year. Karen was named the YWCA’s Woman of the Year in 1988 as well. Governor Robert D. Orr awarded her the highest honor he could bestow – the Sagamore of the Wabash – and received an honorary doctorate from the University of Notre Dame during their graduation ceremony in 1989. Newly elected President George Bush, Sr., invited all of America’s Teachers of the Year to his inauguration and particularly the Inaugural Ball, where she made some lifelong friends including TOYS (Teachers of the Year) that included another Adams High School graduate, Ed McKinney!
Karen continued to share her knowledge, skills, and experiences with other educators through the Hoosier Association of Science Teachers, Inc, I-ACT (Indiana Alliance of Chemistry Teachers) lecture series, and Chem Ed conferences. For a year or two, she taught other teachers at IUSB about science teaching methods, pedagogy, and shared real-life classroom experiences.
She was a busy and mighty girl.
Karen was a lifelong member of St Peter’s United Church of Christ beginning with Sunday school weekly during her entire childhood and then as a deacon, an elder, president of the congregation, choir member, Sunday School teacher (of course), leader of confirmation classes and as a lay liturgist. She even prepared meals for more than a hundred people at a time, when the church decided to open a wedding and party venue called The Hall at St. Peter’s. And, oh yes, she was the quiz master at Friday night trivia contests, having researched and written the trivia questions herself most of the time.
Active in retirement, Karen learned yoga, tai chi, and the Japanese form of poetry called haiku. She also became an enthusiastic reader of fiction, having spent most of her life reading science books. Scott and Karen enjoyed traveling together whether a day trip to antique stores and flea markets to purchase cool stuff they really didn’t need but loved anyway, and journeying to Hawaii for nearly a month. They spent three weeks in Puerto Vallarta at the home of beloved friend, Lois Keith Flores, and took many trips to the Caribbean, drawing on their experiences before retirement in France and Spain and Leon, Mexico, hometown of their goddaughter’s mother, Aida Atkinson.
Scott spent much of his life panting and coughing in efforts to keep up with Karen. She was so energetic, vital, and zippy. To say she was tireless would be entirely too understated. But yes, she was tireless.
Her surviving family members include her siblings, Patricia (Ramero) Jasso of Elkhart and Mark (Rebecca) McClure of Phoenix; also, two nephews, Christopher (Courtney) Rhoades and Nicholas McClure; and two beautiful nieces, April Lee and Jennifer (Steven) Fielder. Also surviving is Scott and Karen’s beloved goddaughter, Amelia Atkinson and her fiancée, Zachery Lopez. Also, very, very special to Karen are her stepsister, Judy Gilman and Judy’s sister, Deborah (Mike) Schwartz, and stepmother, Cyrille McClure. We also sort of picture Karen waiting in Heaven with a canoe paddle in her hands, waiting for her lifelong pal since college, Dolores Matzat of North Judson to join her for another blast down a wild river. Together they won a trophy in the North Judson Mint Festival canoe race, in, I think it was, 1834! Pam Martinov and Dean Abbott, both friends since high school, were also special to her, along with her Covid-era park pal girlfriends. Two of Karen’s favorite people in the world are Gary Stephenson and Carl Kozlowski, Scott and Karen’s go-to choice for dinner companions. Carl is responsible for designing the gorgeous flower arrangement atop her casket. Karen had so many friends and so many people who loved her. At the top of the list is her husband, Scott, who adored her, and annually presented her with a Comedienne of the Year award.
If people wish to make a donation in her honor, after Scott, St. Peter’s was her favorite charitable organization. Please address contributions to St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, 915 N. Ironwood Drive, South Bend, IN 46615.
Funeral services will be held on Friday, July 23, 2021 at 11:00 AM at Palmer Funeral Home—Hickey Chapel, 17131 Cleveland Rd, South Bend, IN. A light brunch to continue sharing memories and stories will follow the service at (where else?) St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, 915 N Ironwood Drive, South Bend. Friends may visit with the family from 4:00-7:00 PM on Thursday, July 22, 2021 at the funeral home.
Please come prepared to be amused by stories of Miss Karen’s many foibles, mishaps, and loving teaching moments.
Online condolences may be left for the family at www.palmerfuneralhomes.com.
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St. Peter's United Church of Christ
915 N. Ironwood Drive, South Bend, IN 46615,