In Memory of Karen

This blog is dedicated to Karen, a wonderful person and long-time volunteer at Rotary Botanical Gardens who passed away this past Saturday.  Karen, as seen in these photos, tirelessly worked in the Japanese garden over many years.  I first met her in my early years here at the gardens when her second husband Tom brought her down and she quickly joined the ranks of our excellent volunteers maintaining the beautiful Japanese garden.  She was dedicated and hard working which would be no surprise to anyone that knew Karen.  More importantly, she was a human being of the highest quality and always had a kind word for everyone and a perpetual smile on her face.  Karen and I traveled together about six years ago to a conference at the Chicago Botanic Garden for the North American Japanese Garden Association (of which RBG is an institutional member).  We had such a great chat and I’ve always enjoyed every interaction I’ve had with Karen over the years.  She would appear and disappear at the gardens like a ninja as she would usually enter the gardens from the main building.  She also formed a strong bond with the other veteran volunteers in that garden (Jim, Stan, Dr. Neeno, Kristin, Little Jerry, Cheryl P. and many more).  Her attention to detail was second to none and neither was her generous spirit.  Karen will be missed but I can truly say that those that had the chance in life to even meet her were enriched and those that were able to get to know her, understand exactly what I’m saying when I describe Karen as “exceptionally awesome”!


Karen Goelzer-McKaig, age 77, of Janesville, died Saturday, March 11, 2017, at Mercy Hospital. She was born on March 1, 1940, in Spooner, WI, the daughter of Norman and Ellen (Norton) Chase. Karen married John W. Goelzer in 1964, he died on August 3, 1980. She later married Thomas E. McKaig on August 12, 1995, he died November 9, 2003. Karen started her teaching career in the Janesville School System, and taught public summer school for a number of years. She was the owner/director of Goelzer’s First Step Nursery School in Janesville for 27 years. She was also a Mary Kay Consultant. Karen was an active member of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, where she had taught Sunday school, organized the church’s participation in the CROP Walk and designed and maintained the church’s memorial garden. Karen was very active in the community participating in Rotary Gardens, Rock County Historical Society, AARP, Wilson School Breakfast Club, Meals on Wheels, ECHO and received the YWCA Women of Distinction Award in 1999.

She is survived by two children, Eric (Cathy) Goelzer of Middleton, WI and Curt (Felicia) Goelzer of Monroe, MI; grandchildren: John, Matthew, Alsacia and Kazia; stepchildren, Kimberly (Brook) Schmitt and Keri (William) Griffin; step-grandchildren: Chandler, Lauren, Emma, Madelynne and Adam; a sister, Linda (Jim) Ely of Neenah, WI; a sister-in-law, Ann Koppelmeyer; a brother-in-law, Donald Schieve; and her extended Scottish family. She was preceded in death by her husbands, a daughter-in-law, Marilyn Goelzer, and a sister-in-law, Mary Jane Schieve.

Lasting Memorials may be made to Rotary Gardens. For online condolences and registry: