Karen’s birthday: 8th May 2023 (born 1921)

Karen’s birthday: 8th May 2023 (born 1921)
May 8, 2023 • By Katrina Finch0 comments
Karen blowing out the candles at her 90th birthday party at the Packford Hotel in Woodford Green

It is five years since Karen died on 15 April 2018 but we still miss her powerful presence. In that sense what we wrote when she died:

“We shall forever miss the extraordinary person Karen was, whose smile and enthusiasm for life shone a radiant glow over even the most mundane”.

remains true. We try to live our lives as she did – that seems to be the best way of showing our enduring love.

Her apartment in our house remains very much as she left it, with her books, box files of writings and subject papers, journal collections, textile and slide collections and correspondence files still in place.

We consult her box files frequently and wish that others could enjoy the rich mix of material which so well reflect her diverse interests and her ability to make unique connections.

Once again we extend our invitation to anyone who would like to consult her archive with us while it remains in our house.

At the moment Dr Philip Sykas is cataloguing the textile collection which my mother assessed as being above all a teaching resource.

Some of Karen’s friends and colleagues have remained in contact, which is just wonderful for us, and I know Karen would have felt very grateful for that. Sadly old friends have died in the intervening period, the loss of Madeleine Ginsburg and Anne Thomas from our lives is keenly felt. The loss of Karen’s youngest brother, Steen, who died recently in Australia, has left a sad gap in the family.

In May 2021 we celebrated Karen’s centenary with many contributions to the website from a variety of people who knew Karen.

We continue republishing Karen’s writings on her website. We are slowly publishing the series of lectures she gave to her students each year. Karen’s lectures included a great many slides. She loved the visual side of her lectures and we have enjoyed the quirkiness of some of those selected.

We are also grateful for other contributions which keep the website a living repository and not just an archive. We hope they will keep on coming.

In the future we aim to draw together what Karen wrote and spoke about regarding her experiences in the Second World War in Copenhagen. Her very close friend, Peder Mørup, shared those years with her and his life story will be included. He was in the police force as well as in the Resistance and survived incarceration in the Buchenwald concentration camp.

We believe these experiences informed Karen’s life in significant ways.

Katrina Finch

Karen’s birthday on May 8th is shared with mine, although there was never any doubt about whose celebration took precedence. For example, her 80th birthday was staged on a river cruise between Hammersmith and Hampton Court Palace. Karen was wearing a small crown and my job was limited to providing a keyboard accompaniment to her grandson’s rap comparing her to one of the Three Norns, or weavers of fate, of Viking myth. I complained at the time about this inequality, and vowed that when I had my 80th birthday, Karen’s 109th would be a very low-key affair. Unfortunately, Karen only made it to 96, but even though she has now joined the Norns in the Norse pantheon, I can’t help feeling that, with a website dedicating to honouring her birthdays, she is still putting me in the shade.

Alan Cohen