Karen DeCenzo of Hopkinton, originally from Hudson, passed away on the morning of Dec. 18 after a long and courageous battle with sarcoidosis.
Karen came into this world on Aug. 4, 1963, the 10th of 12 children born to Peter and Rose Marie (Tanner) DeCenzo. Karen was born with an intellectual disability, but that did not stop her from thriving and interacting with so many in the community. Growing up, she loved being out in the neighborhood, riding her bike and going to visit the neighbors, including her dear friend Miss Sue, who nicknamed her “Ren.” Karen made strong bonds and was included in many activities with the friends she made along the way. She was a social butterfly of the humblest kind.
Karen is survived by her 10 siblings, David, John (and Carol) Toth, Kathleen, Patricia (and Scott) Szymkiewicz, Rosemary, Kevin, Jeanne, Anne (and Robert) Connoni, Maureen (and John) Fulghum, and Nancy (and Rocky) Zina, along with many adored nieces and nephews, cousins and dear friends. She is predeceased by a brother, James, and her parents, Peter and Rose Marie.
Karen kept active throughout the years, attending Sunshine Camp in the summers and Hudson High School. She went on to graduate from the Assabet Valley Vocational School culinary arts program in 1985. On holidays, she was always called upon for her kitchen skills to prepare the carrots and potatoes.
Karen participated in the Greater Marlboro Programs, was an avid bowler and swam for several years in the Special Olympics. She always looked forward to the weekends away at Boston University for the Special Olympics events, and was so proud of all the medals she earned.
For the past 20 years she was an important part of a close-knit community in the day program at the Michael Lisnow Respite Center. Located in Hopkinton, this organization supports children and adults with disabilities in many aspects of their lives. In this latest chapter of Karen’s life, Sharon Lisnow, Mary McSweeney and the dedicated staff at the Respite Center created a second family for Karen. For the past 18 years, Karen lived in a shared home sponsored by the Respite Center, enjoying her time with her three roommates, Kathy, Jenny, and John, along with the staff who took care of their every need.
Karen was loved by all who had the joy of meeting her, asking their story and happy to share her own as well. Karen always had a smile on her face, content to be with people. She had a knack for dates and ensured that everyone in the family knew when a birthday or anniversary was coming up. Oh, and yes, there were phone calls and FaceTimes, not just about the special dates, but calls to family and friends daily to say hello and see how they were doing.
Karen could be seen regularly in her New England Sports apparel. She was an avid fan of the Patriots, Red Sox, Bruins and Celtics, and would remind her family and friends of every upcoming game and call to chat about the outcome. She never missed her weekly pigskin pick-em and even won several times. When Karen was out somewhere, you’d more often than not hear a “Hey Karen” because she knew everyone and everyone knew her.
The family would like to extend their deep gratitude and love to all at the Respite Center for showing Karen so much compassion and care and filling her life with respect, joy and love.
A funeral Mass will be held at Saint Matthew’s Church in Southborough on Thursday, Dec. 22, at 11:00 a.m.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Michael Lisnow Respite Center.
A celebration of Karen’s life will be held in the spring so we can all come together and share memories of Karen and her life well-lived.
The Tighe Hamilton Regional Funeral Home of Hudson assisted with arrangements.
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