Kareen Burns liked to call herself a “gracefully evolving woman of eclectic good cheer”, and she was, but it didn’t begin to describe her indomitable spirit, her dedication to promoting the local arts community, her passion and compassion, and her remarkable ability to befriend seemingly everyone she met.
The outpouring of comments on the days before and day of her death on June 2 reflected how much she had touched those who knew her.
Last fall, she hosted a deeply personal art show, The Tiffany Stones: Portraits of Rugged Individuals, which featured photographs of people holding stones that Kareen had gifted to them “for love, support, admiration, and respect.” She had collected the stones from the shores of her homeland of Scotland.
Hunters Bay Radio founder Jeff Carter said that Kareen was the first volunteer to take on a show for the station in early 2010, and had done more than 350 shows.
“We got to know each other quite well. I felt like she was an older sister to me,” said Jeff. “She was determined that her show would carry on without interruption – that’s how dedicated she was. She loved HBR and loved the people. I don’t know quite what we are going to do without her. The community has lost a very special person.”
At her request, HBR played Kareen’s myTunes broadcast instead of her regular show on June 2, which was taped several weeks prior to her death, and which she called “Kareen’s Death Music”. It was filled with the songs that were important to her.
“I had the sense when I met her yesterday that she had this all planned out,” said Jeff. “It was a very emotional broadcast for us. It was magic. It was what she wanted.”
About the music, Kareen said during the recorded broadcast, “I like what I like, and I wanted people to know this is what I liked.This is me… These are the special songs. It’s my life music, yes… Life is a journey to death. Who knows what happens after that.”
She’d survived cancer before, she told listeners, and added that “death is not a scary word for me anymore. It’s going to happen to us all.”
The songs she played were an eclectic mix true to her personality, including “Love is Like a Red Red Rose” which is attributed to Scottish poet Rabbie Burns, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “A House or Maybe a Boat” by local musician Hawksley Workman, and a rendition of “A Garden in the Rain” by Diana Krall. She finished the show with “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. “You look back and you say, well maybe if I’d done this or done that, but I did it my way… There are dark times, I’m not denying that… I keep saying the glass is half full, but it is half full and you have to try so hard. You never know what’s going to happen the next day.”
Kareen was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1945. She died at Hospice Huntsville on June 2, 2017, surrounded by family and friends, as she listened to her own recorded broadcast during the song “Love is Like a Red Red Rose”. Just before it played, she told listeners it is “just such a beautiful, beautiful song and it makes me feel very proud and very Scottish.”
You can hear a rebroadcast of the show on Hunters Bay Radio on Saturday, June 3 at 5 p.m.
There will be a Celebration of Life at On the Docks Pub on Tuesday, June 6 from 6-9 p.m.:
Kareen and her daughter Meghan and family would like all her friends and fellow lovers of the arts to join them for a celebration of her life. We will share our fond memories of Kareen, enjoying the many stories and celebrating with a ‘wee dram’. Should you wish, you can make a donation in Kareen’s memory to the Algonquin Grace Hospice in appreciation of their incredible care, compassion and loving support.
Don’t miss out on Doppler! Sign up for our free newsletter here.