RIP, Karen


Longtime Waukesha resident and world traveler Karen Celeste (Emrick) Bartel, 61, found eternal peace on April 5, 2021.

Karen was born on Jan. 3, 1960, to Charles and Dorothy Emrick, of Middletown, Ohio. She graduated from Madison High School and soon began a lifetime of travel adventures by moving to Key West, Florida. Before she was done, Karen had visited four continents and 37 states.

Her journeys included living in a tepee in Wyoming, collecting ash from the Mount St. Helens eruption, basking in the Caribbean, walking the Great Wall of China, visiting London and traversing through Germany and Poland.

She loved the beach vacations Chuck and Dot planned when she was a child and later for the entire growing family, but her favorite trips were to Australia to visit her granddaughters.

Karen married Roger Bartel in Monroe, Ohio, on Sept. 26, 1981, and the family grew to include three sons. She dedicated her life to her boys, volunteering with organizations such as the Blair School PTA and Boy Scouts, chauffeuring them to band lessons, sports practices and orthodontist appointments, and testing her new recipes on them. They were her greatest joy, and she was proud of the men they became.

She was an expert pool player and greatly enjoyed trips to tournaments with her teammates. She also enjoyed tending to her flowers, gardening, home decorating, cooking and canning, reading and making lists, and was always planning a book. She supported the Waukesha Civic Theatre and appreciated an opportunity to try her hand at directing someone besides her kids. She liked being right and would celebrate with her “I’m So Smart” dance.

She enjoyed time spent with her grand-doggie Dobby in Florida, though she was less enthused about raising her boys’ ill-fated rabbits and chasing after Lucky, the paranoid black cat.

Karen owned and operated the Sky Blue Arrangements flower shop and floral design/decorating business in downtown Waukesha for several years and was a Master Gardener. She wore many hats in her life, including the last 34 years in Waukesha, and worked as an executive director, administrative assistant, waitress, bartender “with a license and a cellphone,” salesperson, typesetter, UPS tracker and more. Somehow, she found time to earn a degree in business/marketing from Ottawa University and utilized her skills with multiple business start-ups.

She is survived by her mother, Dorothy, of Middletown; three sons, Joseph (Kelly), of Townsville, Australia, Justin (Amy), of Altamonte Springs, Florida, and Jordan, of Madison, Wisconsin; granddaughters, Lorelai and Morgan, of Townsville; sister, Kim (Doyle) Williams, of Pendleton, Indiana; sister-in-law, Michelle, of Morehead,Kentucky; nephews and nieces, Devin and Drew Williams, Rachel Emrick, Christopher Bartel and Amy (Bartel) Pollatz; ex-husband, Roger, of Princeton, Wisconsin; cousins, other relatives and countless friends.

Karen was preceded in death by her father, Charles, and her brother, Kip.

Visitation will be from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, April 16, 2021, at Church and Chapel Funeral Home, 380 Bluemound Road, Waukesha. A memorial service will begin following the visitation.

Karen’s sons ask that guests wear masks for the safety of others.

Karen with eyes of
cornflower blue,

A gypsy in her heart
but a love that’s true
She has touched the wind
from sea to sea
As a windmill turning
her spirit is free.

– Love, Aunt Margaret (1981)


The girl I met in Key West in 1980. We worked at the Key West Citizen, and Capt. Tony’s was our favorite hangout. It was my first job as editor of a daily newspaper, and Karen was a typesetter and pasteup artist.


  1. This Karen’s cousin Suzanne, Sam and Pat’s daughter. I just heard last night. I did an internet search for her name and it led me to this site and your comment. I’m so sorry to hear this. She was a very nice lady. My deep sympathy to you and your boys and grandchildren. And of course Aunt Dot and Kim.

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