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Hampton Roads Queer Community Icon, Ma’am Karen, Dies At 63

Karen Kay Klaas, “Ma’am Karen,” age 63, Chesapeake, Virginia, passed away unexpectedly on Saturday January 15, 2022 in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Born August 14, 1958, in Julesburg, Colorado, Karen was the daughter of loving parents Richard and Helen Klaas. Karen is survived by her husband Lewis Simon and life partner Bumper, her sister Kathy Gauthier, nieces Brittany Caton, Melissa Ausby and husband Derrion Ausby, great-nephew DJ Ausby, and nephew Tony Gauthier.

Karen spent most of her childhood in Lincoln, Nebraska before moving to Crofton, Maryland, where she spent her teenage years. From there the family moved to Virginia Beach, where Karen graduated from Kempsville High School and then went on to complete her Bachelors Degree in Interior Design at Virginia Tech.

In 1999 she met and then a year later married Lewis Simon on November 11, 2000. A “pity date” that lasted for 21 years of love, partnership, and friendship. She always joked how Lewis would make her laugh, “sometimes on purpose”. Karen later met Bumper in 2013, who quickly became part of her little “wacky trio”. They shared a special bond that was deep on so many levels. Karen was their sunshine and Bumper was her penguin… African penguin to be specific. Karen, Lewis and Bumper bought a home together in 2014, and this was what she called her forever home. She was so proud of this home and what the 3 of them built for a life together in it. You could not walk in this home and not feel her love and presence everywhere. This little “wacky trio” had many adventures, so many laughs, and shared so much love. Karen was the head of this family and will never, nor could ever, be replaced.

Karen retired from the floral business but went back to work about 4 years ago for Tidewater Sew Vac as an educator and sewing instructor. She had so much joy in sewing, quilting and for all her students. She made magic happen with her thread and her fabric.

Karen’s joys were in the kitchen, baking amazing goodies for those she loved and taking care of the home by decorating and gardening, making the house a “home” filled with love and joy. She also loved quilting and embroidery, service to her community and music. More importantly she loved her chosen family probably more than they even realize, John, Jenn, Nikki, Tee, Cody, Michelle, Leigh and Blue.

Karen was also an avid traveler whether it was up and down the East Coast for events, across the country, or overseas for pleasure. Karen was always looking for an adventure.

Karen was a volunteer with Free Mom Hugs, TAP Virginia (Transgender Assistance Program), Treasurer for the Leather Heart Foundation, Treasurer for Virginia Leatherwomen United, Co-Founder and Co-Leader of Crossroads and Co-Producer for Mx Virginia.

Karen was full of life, she loved hard and fierce and was a force to be reckoned with. She hugged people with food, had a huge heart and never hesitated to give or help people, and she had a wicked sense of humor. She was a beacon of light for those who really took the time to get to know her. Her memories and presence will definitely be felt in all the lives she touched.

Celebration of Life will take place on Saturday January 29th 2022 at 11:00am. Family Choice Funerals and Crematorium. 5401 Indian River Rd, Virginia Beach, Va 23464. Reception to follow at the residence of Lewis and Bumper. Karen loved flowers and they are very much welcomed but she also loved the community. Donations can be made to TAP Virginia, an organization dear to her heart. Tapvirginia.org.

Karen was loved by so many and she will be dearly missed. Rest in peace.

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