As a teenager, Karen Sonja Marie Sheppard soon realized it was futile trying to get people to pronounce her first name correctly and settled for "Karn." The Danish pronunciation is actually two syllables with a broad "a."
To her many friends, she's always been Karn. To most of her nieces and nephews, she was Aunt Karn and to some, including her two grandsons and several great nieces and nephews, Nannie.
"Mother was a natural 'nannie' because of her interest and devotion to kids," said son, Lawrence Angle said.
Karen was born in her mother's native Denmark, but the family moved to Hagerstown in 1925 when she was a baby.
Her father had gotten on a ship in Baltimore bound for Denmark at the age of 12 or 13, settled there and in time, married. The couple had three children.
After returning to the United States for more work opportunities, three more children were born. Karen was the last survivor of her siblings.
Both of Karen's parents worked at Fairchild Aircraft, and her father also worked for M.P. Moller Inc., as did Karen.
Karen met Gene Angle, who was from Greencastle, Pa., in the summer of 1941 at the Palace Restaurant on Greencastle's square. She had been ice skating in Waynesboro, Pa., with her younger brother and it was a classmate of Gene's who drove the skating party that evening.
Gene, who had enlisted in a National Guard cavalry unit in Chambersburg, Pa., in his junior year of high school, was home on furlough from Camp Shelby, Miss., when he stopped at the popular restaurant.
The couple hit it off and about a year later, with Gene stationed in North Carolina, Karen and her sister, Ing, traveled by bus to York, S.C., to meet him. Karen and Gene eloped on Sept. 7, 1942, marrying in South Carolina because that state did not have a 24-hour waiting period.
It was the beginning of a long, happy marriage that spanned almost 69 years.
After they wed, Karen returned home to Hagerstown, but visited Gene as military passes allowed.
Lawrence was born about a year later, but didn't meet his father until he was about 2 1/2, because Gene was sent overseas during World War II.
Karen worked for Hagerstown Shoe Co. before beginning a 41-year-career as a school crossing guard. Gene retired from the Western Maryland Railway after more than 40 years of service.
"World War II was a major influence in their lives, their era, their careers," said Lawrence, who added that his father served during the entire war and that all of Lawrence's uncles served voluntarily.
Lawrence, who was an only child, said his parents raised a niece and nephew from his mother's side of the family in their two-bedroom home on Salem Avenue. They took the children in when they were very young.
Terry Young, now deceased, was seven years younger than Lawrence and Kimberly Sheppard, now Lushbaugh, was 14 years younger. Lawrence was away at prep school, then college, for much of that time, but said his cousins were like siblings.
Kimberly wrote in a tribute on the funeral home website how blessed she was to have Karen in her life, as did many others.
"You taught me so many great and good things in my life and you were always there for me," Kimberly wrote.
Former neighbor Virginia Bartles said her youngest daughter and Kimberly were inseparable, which is how she got to know Karen.
"Both of us were active in the PTA. Those five years, we thoroughly enjoyed our time there. She was just the nicest person, industrious and kind. I have really fond memories," Virginia said.
Legendary baking skills
In addition to Karen's caring nature toward children, it was also her baking skills that drew them to her house.
"There were just kids in our yard and in and out of our house all the time, most unrelated. I didn't feel like an only child," Lawrence said.
Lawrence said she baked pies, cakes, cookies and Danish pastries and that her fastnachts were sought after. Gene was especially fond of his wife's apple pies and mincemeat pies.
"She made I don't know how many kinds of cookies. We ate them right out of the oven. Her cookie jar was an attraction," Lawrence said.
Preserving produce from their victory garden and grape arbor, growing and arranging flowers, continuing Danish traditions in her home and collecting dolls and Danish Mother's Day plates were other interests of Karen's.
Lois Rodeffer said she became friends with Karen in the 1980s. They enjoyed antique shopping and going out to lunch and dinner together. The Angles, Rodeffers and another couple would go out for dinner together on Fridays.
"I just remember her being a really good friend, being there, her kindness . . . just good times," Lois said.
Karen was also remembered for some of her sayings. When Gene would drive a different route than intended, Karen would say "You're going around Hooligan's barn again."
Longtime crossing guard
"Mrs. Angle" was a school crossing guard in the West End from 1963 to 2004, primarily for Salem Avenue Elementary School and Western Heights Middle School, with a stint at Winter Street Elementary, before her retirement at age 80.
"She was a natural for the job, because of her respect and concern for kids," Lawrence said.
She worked the morning, lunch and after-school shift, and Lawrence remembers her leaving her crossing guard uniform on all day most days.
"I told her, 'It's not like the Supreme Court. You don't have to stay on for life,'" Lawrence said.
Her family encouraged Karen to retire sooner than she did, but she enjoyed her job and most likely would have continued working had it not been for an accident that almost left her bedridden. In December 2004, Karen was knocked down by boys playing ball while she was at her crossing guard post.
Her back was fractured, and surgery in January 2005 was unsuccessful, causing her to live with chronic pain. That injury was compounded by a long progressive disease.
She harbored no ill feelings toward the boys who knocked her down, realizing it was an accident, Lawrence said. Gene was her sole caregiver in their Bryan Place home for more than six years.
She had two brief hospitalizations, then stayed at Reeder's Nursing Home, with Gene at her bedside every day.
"My father has been a remarkable caregiver. He did everything. All along he preserved her dignity while she no longer could," Lawrence said of his 87-year-old father.
"He wouldn't have it any other way, to be with her to the end."
Karen had been a member of St. Matthew's United Methodist Church since 1939 and was involved in many local auxiliaries.
Her favorite hymns "How Great Thou Art" and "Amazing Grace" will be sung at her memorial service, which will be held Saturday, March 12, at 3 p.m. at St. Matthew's United Methodist Church, Hagerstown.
"She was raised with a sense of community and helping others. She was just a warm, genuine, decent person who cared for a lot of people," Lawrence said.