Karen Sjostrom Hedger

COREA and THE VILLAGES, FLA. — Karen Sjostrom Hedger, 54, of Corea and The Villages, Fla., died Feb. 19, 2011, in The Villages, Fla., after a lifelong battle with diabetes.

She was born in Anchorage, Alaska, and grew up in Auburn. She graduated from Edward Little High School in 1974 and the University of Maine at Orono in 1978. She made Downeast Maine her home since attending UMO and recently began wintering in The Villages, Fla. Karen spent her adult life as a speech/language pathologist. Her passion was to offer integrated services to children and their families empowering children through communication and encouraging families to be teachers, advocates and supporters of their children. In 1994, she started Downeast Therapy Associates with her good friend Sara Pierce, providing speech pathology, physical therapy and occupational therapy services to hundreds of underserved children in Downeast Maine. In 2002, she helped co-found Children, Families and Communities Inc. and its programs: DTA Center for Learning & Growing, Lodestar, and Good Ideas. Karen was a lifetime learner. She knew from the experiences of her life there is a strong mind body connection regarding true health. She immersed herself in learning more traditional and nontraditional modalities. She sought to integrate these traditional and alternative health practices to the people she served and helped. She had been an active member of the Twin City Council of the United Commercial Travelers with her husband, Robert Hedger, and her brother, Michael Sjostrom, following in the footsteps of her dearly departed parents, Dave and Peggy Sjostrom, until declining health precluded her active participation. Life was never easy for Karen. Diabetes and all its complications exacted a toll that would have caused most people to give up years ago, but not Karen! She possessed an incredibly indomitable spirit and energy that was infectious to all she encountered. She was the most positive person anyone lucky enough to call her a friend, sibling, wife, aunt, stepmother, grandmother, practitioner, patient family member, health care worker, fellow dialysis patient, and even casual acquaintances could ever hope to find. She inspired everyone she met with her warmth, wisdom, vitality and a completely unflappable zest for life. She possessed the gift of being truly thankful for each day she woke up. Words are too small to the task of describing how much she will be missed by all who know and love her. Comfort, however, can be given to those she touched by the memories we all hold in our hearts and minds. Her passing is but a sad chapter in what was nothing short of a blessed life. There is comfort also in the image of her soaring the heavens untethered by the constraints of the illness that took her far too early from all she touched.

Karen is survived by her husband of 22 years, Robert Hedger, of Corea and The Villages, Fla.; her brother, Mike Sjostrom of Corea and The Villages, Fla.; and her three sisters, Mary Ellen Sjostrom of Lewiston, Vicki Sjostrom of Auburn, Tina Manley of North Yarmouth; four stepsons, Matthew Hedger of Cheyenne, Wyo., Adam Hedger of Orlando, Fla., Douglas Hedger of Northport, N.Y., Stephen Hedger of Washington, D.C.; a stepdaughter, Sarah Jane English of Hyde Park, N.Y.; five grandchildren, and countless nieces, nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews; and her beloved dog, Charlie.

There will be a celebration of Karen’s life at The Fireside Inn, Auburn on April 9, 2011, at 2 p.m. Please come share your remembrances, photos, laughter, tears, and hugs with some of the many people that Karen’s brilliant, but alas too short life, touched so deeply. There will be an internment service, and a celebration of Karen’s life in Downeast Maine at an undetermined date early this summer.

Know when to pay your respects.