Karen Friedman affected many lives. She was a passionate teacher, a concerned co-worker, a loyal friend, a loving mother, and a devoted wife.
A graduate of King George High School and a product of James Madison University (where she graduated cum laude), Karen returned to King George to begin her teaching career in May 1977. Initially a third grade teacher, Karen spent the majority of her career at the second grade level. When she could no longer teach full-time because of her illness, Karen remained active in the school system by serving on a plethora of committees and as the second-grade chairperson.
A tireless worker, Karen often spent evenings waitressing at the Captain’s Club in Dahlgren. She met her husband, Gary Friedman, while waiting tables. Karen and Gary had one son, Joey, who still resides in the King George area to this day.
Karen’s love for children started at a young age. As a teenager, she babysat. She took great pride in that job, and especially enjoyed reading bedtime stories to the children she assisted. Her passion was that she liked to make learning fun. If her classes were reading something about pickles she and her students would make and eat pickles.
Another of Karen’s passions was her hometown, King George County. Her and Gary were members of the King George Environmental Association. She would organize local speakers to come to the school and speak to the students, expanding their historical knowledge of King George. She wanted students to take pride in where they came from. She also had her students write letters to the elderly. She even chaperoned her class on a field trip to meet the recipients of those letters at Heritage Hall Nursing Home in King George.
As much as she wanted to teach her students the importance of where they came from, she also wanted to provide perspective. She did this by contacting a teacher in Hawaii to set up a pen-pal system. Her students were then able to communicate with children on a completely different side of the country.
Karen always went above and beyond what is expected of a teacher. She thought of her classes as her extended family. She even invited all of her students to her wedding. She once drove over an hour to the hospital to visit one of her students who was hospitalized with appendicitis. She only lived to see one of her classes graduate college. Whether her former students ultimately became social workers, design engineers or lawyers -- some of the occupations of that first graduating class -- she was very proud of all of the young people she taught.
During her final year teaching, amid countless chemotherapy treatments and ongoing operations, Karen maintained a positive attitude. She wasn’t just teaching her students academics, she was also providing an example of what it meant to be a good, caring citizen in the community. She Inspired her students to be positive and influential people who chose to live happy and upbeat lives.
Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer soon after the birth of her son Joey. While she initially beat the diagnosis, the cancer returned. Karen’s fight against breast cancer ended on March 21, 1992. She was 36.
Karen lived like she taught. With determination, humor, and an endless amount of compassion. As she once said, “To know you have made a difference in someone’s life is a truly wonderful thing”. While cancer may have ended her life way too soon, the Karen Friedman Memorial Scholarship ensures that her legacy of impacting lives still continues today. She is still making a difference in the lives of young people in and around King George County.