Murrysville singer, teacher shared her passion for music
There's a good chance that most Western Pennsylvania residents, one way or another, have heard Karen Wilson sing.
She performed with American musical icon Fred Waring; sang the National Anthem at Steelers, Penguins and Pirates games; taught music for 34 years in the Burrell School District; and performed countless times throughout the region with jazz combos, show choirs and more.
“She gave of her time and gifts to relatives, to friends and to anyone she met,” said her brother, Tom Mitchell.
Karen K. Wilson of Murrysville died Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, of natural causes. She was 58.
Mrs. Wilson was born Dec. 30, 1958, in Akron, Ohio, the daughter of the late James Rex and Doris King Mitchell. She graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with bachelor's and master's degrees in music education.
“She was very outgoing and energetic,” said her husband, Richard Wilson, who met his wife when the two attended music school at Clarion University in 1977. “She was always willing to do anything she could to help someone else.”
Mitchell said if his sister had a goal, she would reach it. “She was passionate about what was important to her,” he said.
Largely, that was music.
During more than three decades at Burrell, Mrs. Wilson was a member of the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, a past president of the Westmoreland County Music Educators Association, a recipient of the PSEA's Creative Teacher Award and a host or attendee at numerous honors choral festivals.
Mitchell said the time he spent with his sister, brother-in-law and their father experiencing music was most precious.
“Whether it was concerts, gigs, all kinds of things, we spent countless hours at musical events,” he said. “I can't possibly put a value on what time meant.”
As an educator, Mrs. Wilson never stopped learning.
“When the Russian hockey team came to the U.S., Karen learned and sang the Russian national anthem,” Mitchell said. “They were pretty surprised.”
Family was very important to Mrs. Wilson, who had 15 nieces and nephews and 22 great-nieces and great-nephews.
“She faithfully mailed birthday cards to each one of them every year,” Mitchell said, adding that for Mrs. Wilson, “family” extended to her students.
“A girl I never met found me on Facebook and sent a message saying she would never forget the influence Karen had on her,” he said. “She's a music teacher today, and she just wanted us to know that through her, Karen's legacy will live on.”
Mrs. Wilson is survived by her husband, Richard Eugene Wilson; three sisters, Kathy Stewart of Columbiana, Ohio, and Kerry Stroup and Kelly Mitchell Flockerzi, both of Oil City; and brother Tom Mitchell of Mechanicsburg.
The family will receive friends from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Kelly Corridoni Funeral Home, 1916 Moore Ave., North Apollo. An 11 a.m. service will be held Friday at the funeral home, with interment to follow at Greenwood Memorial Park in Lower Burrell.
Memorial contributions can be made to the Oil City Boat Club, P.O. Box 218, Oil City, PA 16301 or the Sewickley Township Public Library, 201 Highland Ave., Herminie, PA 15637.