Karen Kristine McKinnon, age 81, passed away in Albuquerque, on Wednesday, June 24, 2020, of natural causes. Karen is survived by her two children, Barbara McKinnon of Albuquerque, Daniel Ian McKinnon and wife, Sonnet of Tiburon, CA; sister, Gretchen Garnand of Santa Fe; grandchildren, William Angus McKinnon and Ashley Love McKinnon of Tiburon; and many other loving cousins, nephews, and nieces. Her first husband, Daniel Angus McKinnon III, predeceased her as did her second husband, Richard Albert Stibolt.
Karen earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of New Mexico where she taught creative writing through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. She also has endowed prizes for poetry written by undergraduates in the UNM English Department. A voracious reader, Karen was always surrounded by the many books she was reading simultaneously, and she would often purposefully moderate the pace at which she read in order to savor the words and not finish too quickly.
Karen was a poet of significant acclaim, having published five books of poetry. Her most recent book, By Heart, was published in 2018 and was dedicated to her grandchildren. David Johnson, Emeritus Professor of UNM, memorably noted that there was “nothing coy or tentative” about the poems in By Heart, observing that the individual poems produced “a kind of joy in creating a journey through the magic of metaphor and the consolation of nature and memory.”
By Heart features Karen’s most famous poem, Moving My Mother, which chronicles her mother’s heartbreaking descent into the dehumanizing agony of Alzheimer’s. This poem has struck such a universal chord that the New Mexico Philharmonic, which Karen loved and treasured, decided to honor her by creating an original symphonic movement to the poem. The performance is currently scheduled for February 2021, and her family is absolutely certain that she will be watching from above with ineffable joy.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Memorial Services are not going to be held at this time. Instead, the family plans a comprehensive Celebration of Life for Karen in Albuquerque when it is safe for everyone to attend and to share in person the beauty of her life. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the New Mexico Philharmonic in her name.
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